MONTREAL – Chris Bourque is clearly hoping he and his third line teammates can build off the game-winning goal they scored against the Maple Leafs last weekend.
It was Bourque’s first goal of the season and the first meaningful contribution that Bourque, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have made to the Bruins’ young season after a sluggish start. Peverley and Kelly had been slowly building to that over the previous few games, and Bourque made his splash after returning from a one-game sentence as a healthy scratch.
The trio is obviously hoping to keep the offensive train moving forward, but they’ll also inherit some defensive responsibilities against a Montreal team that boasts more depth than they have in quite some time. The emergence of rookies Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher on the Habs’ third line along with rugged big body Brandon Prust gives Montreal some Bruins-like depth up front.
Galchenyuk leads all Montreal forwards with six assists and Gallagher is a team-best plus-six on the season, and they’ve given Montreal an infusion of youth and excitement similar to the ones Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton have provided over the last few years.
That’s the kind of defensive challenge the B’s third line will meet if it develops as it did against the forward line of Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin and Leo Komarov in slim victory over the Leafs. Granted names like Prust and Galchenyuk automatically make the Montreal line a little more lethal, but Bourque and Co. have their minds right in the confidence department heading into the battle for first place.
“Last game we went up against a pretty hot line with the [Nazem] Kadri line in Toronto and we did a solid job against them,” said Bourque. “We should be able to do the same against these guys. They’re putting up some good numbers and they’ve had some early success, so hopefully we can keep it in their end and play offense.”
“They’ve got a lot of small, crafty forwards with good speed, so we need to back-check to slow them down a little bit.”
The match-up illustrated one very tangible side effect of the fourth-line injuries to Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille: The B’s third line has to shoulder a bigger burden at both ends of the ice with a trio of unproven rookies on the fourth line unlikely to garner much more than 5-10 minutes of ice time at the most.
That means the third line performances could go a long way toward determining the winner and loser on rivalry night at the Bell Centre.