B's fourth line provides needed spark

608304.jpg

B's fourth line provides needed spark

BOSTON -- The Bruins made a conscious effort to exert a full team-wide push in an important Saturday game Saturday afternoon against the Nashville Predators.

The Bs fourth line had a little bit of good and bad in a 4-3 shootout win over the Preds at TD Garden, but was undoubtedly a factor in the needed victory with their infusion of energy. While the Bruins call their fourth line the energy line, but its also essentially a barometer for the physical commitment and energy level exhibited by the Black and Gold.

A Daniel Paille goal and oodles of energy from the fourth line forwards set the tone for the rest of the Bs, and left them with the kind of success through depth and hard work thats also the organizations founding philosophy. They finished with five shots on net as a trio and gave every last ounce of energy in their 14 shifts.

But Shawn Thornton doesnt pull many punches, and also admitted he wasnt too high about the goal scored because they gave it right back early in the third period on a Patric Holmqvist goal.

We were happy to score but then we got scored against so I guess it kind of washes out right? said Thornton. I think everyone showed up to play. There were a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them, but I think the effort was there from everyone. I think everyone was trying to buy into the game plan, which was good.

Adam McQuaid was hauled down near the Nashville net, and then fell far behind the Predators transition game into the offensive zone. Shawn Thornton stepped up into McQuaids spot to cover the net, but Gregory Campbell lagged behind with back pressure creating a 3-on-2 in front of the net.

It was a mental error, to be sure, but it didnt wipe out the earlier play to give the Bs a temporary lead. Shawn Thornton had his back to the front of the net as he cycled behind the Predators cage, but heard Daniel Paille calling for the puck as he cut to the net.

Thornton flipped a pass backhanded to the front of the net and Paille finished the play off by raising a backhanded shot over Pekka Rinne.

That leaves Paille one goal short of double-digits this season, and gave the Bs fourth line plenty to build on with some important games on the horizon.

You need that fourth line production no matter what. I think thats Pailles ninth goal. For a guy who plays on the fourth line were certainly happy with his production this year, said Claude Julien. He did exactly what we had talked about. We saw that if we could beat their guy that was pursuing us, it was important that we take it to the net. They played a bit of a man-on-man type of defense, so it was important for us. You saw us tonight go behind the net, trying to jam it coming out the other side. Rinne was obviously standing tall for them, but we had a lot of opportunities that way. We did that in the first, and then again in the third by taking it from the corner and taking it to the net. That was a big goal for us.

The fourth lines contributions were so important that Milan Lucic immediately referenced their days work on Saturday afternoon when asked about his game-tying goal with 1:07 to go in the third period. Thats a sign the Bruins are all in it together at this point in the season, and that production from all four lines will be needed headed into the teeth of a nasty second-half schedule.

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

Sources: Bruins engaged in trade talks involving Ryan Spooner

This probably won’t come as a complete shock to those watching the way things have played out with him this season, but the Bruins have engaged in discussions with multiple teams about a Ryan Spooner trade, per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. 

The 23-year-old Spooner was mentioned casually a few months ago as possible fodder in a Jacob Trouba deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but that deal never really materialized prior to the Jets signing their young, frontline D-man to a two-year deal. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks have all expressed interest in Spooner, per one hockey source, as it appears that things simply aren’t going to work out for him in Boston. 

It’s been a challenging year for Spooner with pedestrian numbers of three goals and eight points in 24 games, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances behind the slow start. Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Trade talks have increased the past few weeks because A) the situation has worsened recently with Spooner’s prolonged stint as a miscast fourth line winger and B) the speedy, skilled forward will most likely be a man without a spot when 22-year-old left winger Frank Vatrano returns sometime around the mid-December range. 

According to one source, the Bruins are asking for a “top six forward” in exchange for a package including Spooner, and it’s a lead pipe certainty they’re looking for some goal-scoring given their 24th ranked offense this season. That represents a bit of an organizational sea change after the Bruins searched low and high for a top-4 defenseman in trade over the summer. The emergence of 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, and the Boston defense’s performance across the board, has lowered the Black and Gold’s priority list need to trade for a D-man. 

The Bruins have scored two goals or fewer in 18 of their 25 games this season and badly need somebody that can put the puck in the net from one of the wing positions. Unfortunately for the Bruins, there aren’t a lot of top-6 forwards readily available that could make an immediate impact. It’s highly doubtful any team is going to fork one over for an asset like Spooner that’s been downgraded due to the way he’s been utilized by the Bruins this season. He hasn't played with the same creativity or confidence this season after posting 13 goals and 49 points as their third line center last season. 

So it remains to be seen what the Bruins will get for Spooner after they offered him and a draft pick to Buffalo for rental forward Chris Stewart a couple of years ago. That was a deal Sabres GM Tim Murray turned down before trading Stewart for considerably less at the trade deadline.

The bottom line: the Bruins are working the phones discussing possible Spooner deals, and it feels like there is some motivation from B’s management to move a player that doesn’t seem like he'll ever be a proper fit in Julien’s system. 

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Sunday Dec. 4: Zacha adjusting to life in the NHL

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at the Bruins setting a franchise record this season for fewest practices in a regular season. Thanks compacted schedule due to the World Cup!

*Pavel Zacha is adjusting to life as a rookie in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, and things are getting better as they go along.

*Manitoba Moose players relive their favorite Star Wars moments prior to the team holding their Star Wars Night.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Friedman sits down with new Florida Panthers head coach Tom Rowe to discuss the massive changes in that organization with the firing of Gerard Gallant.

*Good for Anders Nilson putting a rainbow decal on the back of his goalie to mask to support some gay friends that have faced public resistance in their lives.

*Bruce Garrioch has his weekly NHL notes with several players, including Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald, potentially on the trade block if anybody wants them.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson suffering a broken leg that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

*There was no blood for the Vancouver Canucks fans, but there was still plenty of drama in a win over the Maple Leafs.

*For something completely different: The World Baseball Classic works for everybody except for Major League Baseball, and that would appear to be a problem.