By Tim Rosenthal, Bruins Daily
The Boston Bruins' fourth line has been a work in progress throughout the 2014-15 season.
When Shawn Thornton departed for South Florida in the off-season, the Bruins were looking to transition from a grinding Merlot Line to a fourth line that displayed more speed, energy and offense. With Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille returning, the transition was never going to come immediately.
Seventy-nine games into the season, Paille and Campbell (for the first time in his Bruins career) were healthy scratches against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. They were replaced by Chris Kelly and the two trade deadline additions, Brett Connolly and Max Talbot.
One game into their tenure as a trio, the Kelly-Talbot-Connolly line provided a fresh perspective that the B’s fourth line has been missing all season long.
It’s also providing competition from within.
“[It’s] more a rotation,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said about the fourth line’s status. “Listen, I think Soupy’s [Gregory Campbell] one of our great faceoff guys and he’s a good penalty killer. At the same time, I feel we’ve got a lot of players that can go in and out right now. That’s one of the reasons, but at the same time I’m trying to create a little bit of competition here; I don’t want anybody comfortable, knowing that they’re automatics game in and game out.”
Julien’s line shuffling can pay dividends, but he can get too comfortable sticking with struggling trios.
Perhaps the Kelly-Talbot-Connolly trio will only be a one time thing, particularly after Connolly saw extended time on the power play with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson -- filling in for a struggling Reilly Smith -- late in the third period. At the same time, there’s no denying that this “new fourth line” brought speed, energy and tenacity.
“We had some pretty good chances,” Kelly said following the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout win over the Leafs in their final home game of the 2014-15 regular season. “Our feet were moving and we weren’t [defending] in our end too often, so it was good.”
This new look wouldn’t have been possible if Connolly had not recovered from an injury that sidelined him a couple of days after the Bruins acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the first two games with the Black and Gold, Connolly has two assists -- both coming in his first game against the Red Wings -- and has been used often in late-game situations.
“It was great obviously, I was really looking forward to a fresh start with a new team.” Connolly said about returning from a broken hand that he suffered on a Dennis Seidenberg shot during one of his first practices in Boston.
“Obviously [it’s] disappointing coming in and getting hurt and all that. But, again, I’m very excited to be out there and get a couple of wins here in the first two games and being able to contribute and help the team win. Again, the team is playing well lately so it’s been a lot of fun to just step in and be a part of it.”
From new additions making an impact, to rolling four lines, things are looking a little brighter in the Hub of Hockey. But as the old adage says, a win is a win. With three games left, wins are all that matters for the Boston Bruins.