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Third Line the X-Factor in Bruins Taking Series Lead

Back in the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup run, it was the line of Michael Ryder, Rich Peverley, and Chris Kelly that was the X-factor in helping the Bruins grind down teams and score key goals when the team needed them to step up.

The 2014 Bruins are now one win away from their third trip to the Eastern Conference Final in four seasons, and, once again, it’s thanks to strong play from the third line.

Over the past two games against the Canadiens, the line of Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson, and Matt Fraser have scored three of the team’s five goals and totaled eight points.

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“We’re playing really good,” Eriksson said after the game. “We’re playing smart and simple and making good plays and we’re getting some really good chances out there. So, it definitely feels good. We have to keep doing that.

“Since [Fraser] came in and he scored the game winner last game and it seems like he is fitting in pretty well with our line,” Soderberg said. “Loui and I, I think we have played good the whole playoffs but we haven’t scored, so it is a good both of us scored today.”

Fraser was the hero in Game 4, as his first ever NHL playoff goal was the game-winner in overtime, and Soderberg and Eriksson were the story in Game 5. Soderberg had a goal and two assists, while Eriksson had a goal and an assist of his own. Both players finished Game 5 with a plus/minus of +2.

All three members of the line tallied points on Eriksson’s third period goal that gave the Bruins a 4-1 lead with 5:48 to play.

“It’s amazing what a little confidence can do with a line, and they’re fun guys to play with,” Fraser said. “They work well with the puck, and I just try and kind of read off them and find the open areas.

“Everyone in this dressing room is so talented; it’s hard not to click… As a guy being inserted in a line you just want to make that transition easy for them and find the open areas.”

In the Bruins’ playoff run last season, the third line was always the question mark heading into a game or series, with the team now knowing what they were going to get from a seemingly endless switching of players to try and get the right fit. Nothing worked.

This year, the third line has been strong for the team down the stretch, and been a strong contributor to the Bruins finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL who can clinch their second round series Monday in Montreal.

“With [Chris] Kelly we had before, it took like 10 games, 15 games to get the chemistry together but then it was all set,” Soderberg said. “Loui and I had that chemistry for a long time and now we have changed the third guy in our line and, I don’t know. It seems like [Fraser] is a pretty good option there.”

“We’ve been battling really good here and we were down 2-1 and now we’re up 3-2,” Eriksson said. “It’s definitely a much better feeling. But still, we know it’s going to be a tough game, the next game here. So we have to be ready and focus for that.”