B's hope third-line reunion steps up vs. Leafs

B's hope third-line reunion steps up vs. Leafs
May 4, 2013, 3:00 pm
Share This Post

It’s not exactly a secret the Bruins third line never got a chance to get things untracked in the regular season.

Chris Kelly slumped offensively and defensively, and then broke a bone in his leg. Rich Peverley was healthy all season, but finished with just six goals and a team-worst minus-9 in 47 games. It got so bad that Peverley was scratched on a road trip through Canada in the month of March, and was lifted out of the lineup again for Game 1 of the series against the Leafs.

That duo has played on the same line together for each of the last three seasons, but had greater success with Michael Ryder or Benoit Pouliot skating on their right side. A revolving door of Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron and Kaspars Daugavins never really allowed the third line to become the offensively dangerous, defensively responsible unit they were in Boston’s Stanley Cup run.

It’s easy for the other three lines to get to their level because they’re basically the same forward line combos that won the Cup aside from trading out Mark Recchi for Tyler Seguin on the wing. The Krejci line, Bergeron line and Campbell line feature eight of the nine forwards from the Cup team, but the third line has been auditioning new wingers all season, and now it’s Jaromir Jagr paired with Peverley and Kelly.

“You’ve got to remember that is the one line that hasn’t been together forever, so certainly I’m going to cut them some slack,” said Claude Julien. “We had some pretty good players on that line [the Cup] year that were playing well. As you can see Michael Ryder is a guy that’s going to score a lot of goals every year.

“He’s also always been a playoff performer as well. Rich Peverley came to us and played very well, as well. So there was a lot of chemistry there that season, and with Kelly in the middle they were the biggest reason we got by Montreal.”

Peverley has been admittedly searching for his game. But the shifty forward also ended the regular season with points in each of his last two games after performing as one of Boston’s best players during last year’s postseason series with Washington. The speed, the quick wrist shot and the ability to play all zones are things that Peverley should be ready to bring to the table.

“I tried to end the year on a good note and felt confident. I’m just hoping to build on it and get better,” said Peverley. “I just felt like I was out there skating last year against Washington. It was a gritty series and a hard series. It should be like that every series, so hopefully I can just play my best.”

He’s been filling in for injured players such as Nathan Horton, or serving as a center on the fourth line as Julien mixed and matched his lineup. Still, it’s fair to say the Jagr/Kelly/Peverley combo could give the Bruins some offensive production that would make things a lot easier for the Black and Gold. The Bruins are 7-3-1 this season when either Kelly, Peverley or Jagr scores this season, and Boston has lost only one game since the 2011 Stanley Cup run when Kelly nets a goal.

So secondary scoring is obviously a key for the B’s, and might be on tap now that the third line is healthy, together again and ready for their playoff close-up.

“Obviously, Rich and I have been playing together for a while now. We know what Rich can do, and we have that familiarity,” said Kelly. “In order to have success we need to have all four lines playing well and contributing, and it takes a lot of pressure off the top two lines if the bottom six guys are contributing offensively. It makes us very dangerous to play against, especially when playing the match-ups.”

If the Bruins’ third line reunion can turn them dangerous in the series against Toronto, then Boston could prove to be unstoppable in their first-round playoff series. The trio of Peverley, Kelly and Jagr will need to show it like they never did in the regular season, and that starts with Game 2 on Saturday night.