Throughout this postseason and many before it, the Boston Bruins have taken pride in the fact that they can roll four forward lines regardless of the situation.
Often, you’ll see teams shorten their benches the deeper they travel into the NHL Playoffs, making sure their top lines get the most time on ice.
This is hardly practiced in Boston as fourth-liners Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Danielle Paille all see significant minutes. Don’t expect the case to change as they head into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, to roll four lines is one thing. To have four capable lines is another beast and one that’s currently giving the Bruins fits.
Boston’s third line, that of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin, still seems stuck at the starting line of this year’s postseason. More specifically, Kelly and Peverley are two Bruins who just aren’t getting anything going for them.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Both have been very reliable on the faceoff dot for Boston, but other than that, it’s a whole lot of nothing for these two.
Stats don’t lie; other than one goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Peverley has been a ghost. And Kelly? I suggest you not eat anything before reading his line for this year’s playoffs. He currently has no goals, no assists and is posting a miserable -6 in the plus/minus category.
Unfortunately, their woes go beyond their own stats. The third line originally included hired gun Jaromir Jagr to start off the postseason. However, after watching Jagr lose all the faith in the world when it comes to his linemates and trying to do it all himself, he was swapped with Seguin.
This, believe it or not, hasn’t amounted to a revitalization.
It’s actually becoming a concern for the players who have to skate alongside Kelly and Peverley. Jagr made it incredibly apparent that he trusted the two grinders as far as he could throw them, so how can Seguin shake himself out of his funk if he’s stuck with two guys playing even worse?
The spotlight is even brighter since both third liners signed contract extensions recently. The current verdict states they’re hardly earning the new dollars, and the Bruins can ill-afford having these two drag down anyone who’s placed on their line.
Coach Claude Julien doesn’t have a ton of options available to get this line going again. Current healthy scratches Kaspars Daugavins and Carl Soderberg don’t bring enough in terms of playoff experience to merit being swapped in, and one would hope pigs fly before we see Jay Pandolfo put back on the ice.
Nobody is expecting Kelly or Peverley to go on a scoring tear. That’s just not the kind of players they are, so don’t hold your breath.
However, they need to do more than take up space on a stat sheet.
Pittsburgh is going to throw out so many talented lines it’ll make Boston’s collective heads spin. The only way to counter is to make sure each Bruins line is doing their part.
For the third line, this means it’s time for Kelly and Peverley to start legitimizing those new contracts.