It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins third line has struggled to start the 2012-2013 season. Formally a key to Boston’s success, most notably during the 2011 Cup run when the likes of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, and former Bruin Michael Ryder scored key goals in what was a magical season, the line has struggled to find its mojo early on.
People are quick to blame newcomer Chris Bourque, but that cant be easily justified- his line-mates haven’t exactly produced. Peverley has only registered three points this season, and the line’s centermen, Kelly, only has four. The minimal production could be merely a result of the lockout, but Bruins fans are losing their patience.
Thursday night two of the hottest teams in the NHL, the Bruins and the Senators, squared off at TD Garden. Rookie goaltender Robin Lehner made his first start of the season, opposing Tuukka Rask in net. The Senators have suffered key injuries, losing both Jason Spezza and Erik Karlsson for the entire season, and goaltender Craig Anderson for the foreseeable future; yet, they continue to string together wins.
The first shift of the game was a positive one for the third line, as Bourque and Peverley pressured the puck to force a turnover, but failed to do anything with the opportunity. Peverley then went off for tripping minutes later, giving the Senators the game’s first power play. The Bruins PK came up big again, as they killed off their 25th penalty in a row.
In the final minutes of the period, Bourque made a great play corralling the puck in the neutral zone, and feeding it to Bruins captain Zdeno Chara at the blue line; he eventually redirected a Chara shot, but Lehner once again made the save.
The Bruins got on the board first when Nathan Horton scored his seventh goal of the season. He didn’t get everything on his shot, but he and rookie defensemen Dougie Hamilton, who read the play perfectly, worked an efficient give-and-go to produce the goal. Hamilton showed tremendous hockey intelligence by joining the rush, and giving up his shot to Horton, who was in better position to score a goal. The Bruins led 1-0 at that point.
Bourque, who misplayed the puck at the blue line on a Bruins man-advantage, then took an interference penalty, his second infraction of the game. Line-mates Kelly and Peverley were once again tremendous on the PK, as the Bruins killed off their 27th penalty in a row. While the third line hasn’t been generating much offense, Peverley and Kelly have been outstanding on the PK this season, making smart, simple plays to help out the league’s number one PK unit.
The Senators finally got on the board when Jim O’Brien scored a goal on their fourth power play of the game. The Bruins failed to clear the puck from the crease, allowing O’Brien to chip it past Rask after multiple attempts. The goal halted the Bruins flawless PK streak at 27 straight kills.
The Bruins had a key power play chance five minutes into the third period, but continued to struggle with the man-advantage. Bourque made some clever plays manning the point throughout this game, but he forced a lot of errant passes, and had some mishandlings too. It seems as though for every good play he makes he negates it with a bad one, which not a good trend.
The game went to overtime and Patrice Bergeron won it for the Bruins. The goal was reviewed, but the puck ultimately crossed the goal line.
Overall, it was another unimpressive effort from the Bruins third line. PK success is one thing, but this line needs to start producing to take some pressure off the top two lines. It isn’t time to panic, yet, but we are getting there soon.
The Bruins came away with a victory in a night where they didn’t have their legs, or their best effort.
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