After a less than impressive 2011-2012 campaign, the Bruins fourth line has rebounded in a big way. From a potential “Seventh Player Award” winner to a new second line centerman, the trio has adopted greater responsibilities and thrived under the circumstances.
Daniel Paille has been arguably the Bruins most consistent forward since the season’s start on January 19. Greg Campbell has four points in the past two games playing in place of the injured Patrice Bergeron. Alongside Bruins fourth liner Shawn Thornton, Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron have both seen a rise in their game.
Whether you support the TOI numbers or not, there is no denying the positive effect these guys have had on the team. In the most crucial point of the regular season, when the injury bug has taken its mighty toll, each player has stepped up in hopes of igniting another Stanley Cup run.
In the second night of back-to-back games, now facing the playoff-seeded New York Islanders, the Bruins got off to a surprisingly good start outshooting their opponent 10-2 midway through the first period. Campbell looked strong once again, this time centering Jaromir Jagr and Milan Lucic, the Bruins most productive first period line.
The Islanders got a late goal from Josh Bailey who ripped a shot from above the left circle past goaltender Tuukka Rask. It was a snipe by Bailey, but Rask looked screened on the play by Bruins defensemen Adam McQuaid who was making his return from a shoulder injury.
Early in the second period, Brad Boyes was whistled for a delay of game penalty and the Bruins went on a power play. On the man-advantage, Jagr found Campbell with an impressive spin-around pass, and Campbell then centered the puck to Tyler Seguin who roofed it for the goal.
Bailey added another late goal on a wrister that trickled through Rask. It was a savable shot, but the Islanders absolutely dominated the period outshooting the Bruins 19-6 with plenty of legit scoring chances. If it wasn’t for Rask’s play, an unfortunate reoccurring theme, the Bruins could have been down by two or three goals at that point.
“Tired legs” caught up with the Bruins, who couldn’t net a third period goal and were defeated 2-1 on home ice- only their third home regulation loss of the season.
Throughout the entire game both Paille and Campbell were consistent with their play and it was easily noticeable. They kept things simple, maintained a strong defensive presence, but also contributed to many scoring chances.
After the game, Campbell discussed what its like trying to replace players like Bergeron and Brad Marchand. “What can you say? Marchy [Brad Marchand] and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] are a big part of the team, but there’s a lot of good players in the room,” he said.
“We’re doing our best to find chemistry with different people in different lines, things like that, and realize that when they come back we’re going to have a pretty good team. Like I said, it’s just part of the game. We’ve been very fortunate so far this year to have a fairly healthy lineup. We’re picking up points. We’re still winning games and we’re still gaining some ground. It hasn’t been perfect, but I don’t know if there’s really any panic.”
“Soupy” Campbell also discussed what the Bruins must do to regain their dominance before playoff time: “As a team I think you can resort to games along the way. Everyone knows this team is built on a defensive game—defensive team, a checking team that can score. I think it’s about really limiting the chances against and playing from the defensive zone out. We’re giving up a lot of chances lately and I think we want to get to the point where we’re a little bit more stingy defensively, but also playing strong offensively. “
While the injuries to Bergeron and Marchand hinder the offensive firepower upfront, and are certainly cause for the concern, the focus should now be on defense for the Bruins.
They’re still giving up way too many shots, and even more worrisome are the troubles getting the puck out of their own end. Often, when struggling with breakouts and the opposing forecheck, easy goals are scored against. This theme has to end come playoff time or the expected lengthy run could last no more than one series.
The return of McQuaid (and eventually Bergeron) should help, but this has been a month-long occurrence that simply cannot continue. With a weakened lineup up front, now is the time for the Bruins to correct things in their own end- slow down the game, regain identity, and master that bruising black and gold style that’s primed for postseason success.
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