Haggerty: B's fourth line needs to bring more energy

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Haggerty: B's fourth line needs to bring more energy

The barometer for the Bruins, on so many levels, is the energy, effectiveness and wrecking-ball nature of their fourth line.

When things are going well in the land of Black and Gold, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille are breathing hot fire on the ice, pounding other teams with a relentless, punishing forecheck and reversing the momentum in games when things arent going well.

The fourth line was an unrelenting key to Bostons success last year, and never was that more obvious than Bostons Game 7 triumph over Vancouver. The trio of Thornton, Paille and Campbell set the emotional and physical tone in the first period with shift after shift of tone-setting energy that the more skilled Bs players followed to victory.

Its become a part of Boston sports radio shtick to chide the Bs coaching staff for his fourth-line adoration, but the proof was in the winning last season.

We always use Game 7 of the Finals as an example of their importance, said Claude Julien of his fourth line importance. In the first period they got us going when we put those guys out there, and we hemmed Vancouver in their own end. They did such a great job of forechecking and gave us all kinds of energy.

Thats the kind of role theyve played for us since theyve come together and we need them to continue to do that.

But those energy-altering shifts havent come with the same kind of regularity for the Bruins this season. The Merlot Line has been far from that this season along with the rest of a Bs team finding it difficult to get their motor started. Campbell, Paille and Thornton have accounted for one point in the first eight games, and have a combined for an aggregate minus-10 as a line.

Julien sees a group of skaters that are perhaps a tad too jumpy with their shots in the early going of the season. They need to take a breath, remember their positioning with and without the puck and start creating better scoring chances off the cycle.

The one thing they do so well for us is hold the puck in the offensive zone. It seems like theyre looking to shoot right away when they can hang onto it and make better plays, said Julien. Its about getting back into those good habits and cycling the puck well, and it seemed like last year when they shot the puck there was somebody around the net to jump on the rebound. Right now they just want to throw it right at the net, and thats not always the right choice.

They know they need to be better.

The Bruins simply need them to be better if theyre going to again develop that wave-after-wave attack rolling all four lines that typified their run to the Cup last season. The fourth line isnt going to completely lift the Bruins out of the offensive doldrums that have them scoring almost a full goal less per game than last season through the first few weeks.

But the fourth line can help bring some much-needed energy to once and for all help eradicate the hangover haze thats been hanging over the hockey team in October. Campbell was unceremoniously frank when asked if the fourth line is on the right track eight games into the new season.

Not really. I think we still have some work to do," said Campbell, who is scoreless with 5 shots on net and a minus-3 in eight games "Regardless of whether or not were scoring, its creating chances and having that puck possession time thats important for our line. The goals will come if we get the chances. We put a lot pressure on ourselves as a line, and its important for us to contribute.

When things arent going well you need everybody to step up and contribute. Ill be the first to say that we need more from me. Its a matter of owning the puck and creating chances for ourselves, and being smarter with the puck. Were always going to work hard, but it comes to working smarter to create chances for ourselves.

Judging by Campbells unflinching assessment of himself and the team, the Bs fourth line is acutely aware they need to be better.

Thornton admitted the trio conducted a little meeting amongst themselves prior to Thursday nights game against the Maple Leafs to get on the same page. They knew they needed to be more effective and got back to basics against the Leafs.

Thornton dropped the gloves in two straight games that helped his team tap into the emotional component, and their puck possession has been better in the offensive zone over the last several games. But it takes more than a couple of games to truly change the momentum tide, and they know theyre not there yet.

Thornton knows theres more potential to be mined out of the chemistry between the three forwards, and there have been some promising signs in a win over the Leafs and a near miss against the Sharks.

The last few games I think weve been in their zone a little more, said Thornton. Campbell hit a crossbar and I just nicked the top of Niemis glove. Were right there. It just hasnt expletive gone in. We talked about it a few days ago before the Toronto game, and weve gotten better.

But its obviously not good enough because were a minus-10 or whatever the hell it is. The first couple of games we were trying to get our chemistry back and werent hanging onto the puck as much. We just need to keep doing what makes us successful. We were working hard. Theres no doubt about that. But I think we were just a little too focused on only getting pucks to the net.

The line has fired off 24 shots on net in the first eight games, but its back to basics for the Bs pivotal fourth line.

Its time for Paille, Thornton and Campbell to help spark up the emotional fire thats become such an important part of Bostons success, and once again become the best fourth line in the NHL that they were all of last season. The Bs fourth line created expectations when they provided such a jolt of energy and attitude last season, but theyve embraced that challenge.

Its obvious the Bruins simply arent the same without them.

Haggerty's Morning Skate: Former Boston College hockey star dealing with drug addiction

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Haggerty's Morning Skate: Former Boston College hockey star dealing with drug addiction

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like I was watching the Heart of a Champion in that Golden State/Oklahoma City game last night. That Klay Thompson is something else.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien wonders what the next step is for Troy Brouwer now that he’s ready to hit free agency, and the ride has finally come to an for the Blues this season.

 

*Excellent piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Paul Dupont on the sad story of Kevin Stevens, and the drug addiction demons that have had him in their clutches for a long time. I’ve known about Stevens troubles for a while, and it’s too bad because he really is a gregarious guy when you get to know him.

 

*Allan Muir speculates on the future of Steve Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning now that the offseason has begun for both of them.

 

*P.K. Subban doesn’t sound like he’s got any hard feelings about being left off Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey, and said he’ll still be rooting them along.

 

*Pat Hickey mentions the Subban snub, but is incredulous that Habs center Alex Galchenyuk was left off Team North America.

 

*Larry Brooks breaks down how exactly former Bruins head coach and New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan was able to emerge from John Tortorella’s shadow some 10 years later.

 

*For something completely different: sad story all around in Cincinnati where they had to had to shoot an endangered gorilla dead when a four year old child fell into his enclosure.

Saturday, May 28: Frustating season for Predators' Rinne

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Saturday, May 28: Frustating season for Predators' Rinne

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering how much of a dark cloud Slava Voynov’s presence is going to bring to the World Cup of Hockey.

*PHT’s Joey Alfieri tracks the ups and downs of Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who had a frustrating season.

*Jonathan Drouin says that he “definitely wants to be” part of the Tampa Bay Lightning after a very rocky year with a happy ending for all.

*Speaking of the World Cup of Hockey, Taylor Hall was one of a number of deserving Canadian players – including P.K. Subban -- left off the roster.

*The San Jose Sharks have come a long way from their inaugural season in the league.

*Ottawa Senators senior advisor Bryan Murray is still getting used to a new role after a change in the Sens front office structure.

*Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has plenty of reasons to be proud after a very good year running hockey ops for the Penguins.

*For something completely different: this January Rolling Stone magazine piece on Stevie Nicks was an excellent retrospective.