In today’s NHL, many teams are forced to throw together make-shift lines just so they can complete a roster. As a result, those teams rely heavily on their first line and, in some cases, their second line.
This is not the case for the 2011-12 Boston Bruins, arguably the most complete team in the NHL. Through free agency and trades – and despite a significant injury to their All-Star center Marc Savard – the Black and Gold managed to reassemble their roster into a perennial Cup contender.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien rotates the top three lines so often that they really have no established “first line.” Throw in some quality shifts from the fourth line and that makes for a very tough team to defend against.
The Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton line clicked for much of last season, up until when Horton was concussed in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. A line that consists of two power forwards and a play-making center is an ideal line for any team to have. Krejci has 8 goals and 17 assists thus far, while both Lucic and Horton are on pace to surpass the 20-goal mark.
After the retirement of Mark Recchi was announced shortly after the Stanley Cup victory, many speculated as to who would replace him on the line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. As the season approached, it became clear that the job was Tyler Seguin’s to lose, and thus far things have worked out beautifully. Bergeron leads the team with 21 assists, while Seguin and Marchand are currently tied for the team lead in goals with 15.
Looking at the “third” line, the acquisition of Benoit Pouliot has proven to be a great pick-up. Skating with veterans Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley has revived the career of the former fourth overall draft pick. Peverley recently signed a three-year contract extension worth close to $10 million. Kelly is having a career year thus far (12 goals, 10 assists, plus-20) and many people assume it is just a matter of time before he gets a contract extension.
The Bruins “energy line” is perhaps the best in the league. The trio of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton have earned the respect and trust of coach Julien for him send that line out in crucial situations.
Julien has had a history of taking a liking towards hard-nosed, tough players, which are qualities that exist in all three of those players. Paille, Campbell, and Thornton all have contracts that will expire at the end of this season.
Why should Bruins management not try and re-sign the entire fourth line? Even though all three player’s salaries give the team a cap hit close to $3 million (a total that is somewhat high for fourth-line players), it would be money well spent. For the Bruins’ depth is a key reason why they have a great shot to repeat as Cup champions.