Haggerty: Rock solid third line readying for postseason run

Haggerty: Rock solid third line readying for postseason run
March 26, 2012, 5:59 am
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ANAHEIM, Calif. With Rich Peverley returning to action Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Bruins coach Claude Julien had to take one unfortunate forward out of the lineup.

That forward ended up being Daniel Paille for a couple of different reasons: He hasnt been burning the world up offensively and the Bs coaching staff felt more comfortable playing Jordan Caron up on a top-six line if Peverley needed to be spelled for a shift or two.

One thing Julien wasnt going to touch was the incendiary third line, and the red-hot pieces comprising it. Once again the trio of Brian Rolston, Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot showed legs and skills as it produced a pair of goals in Bostons 3-2 win over the Ducks at the Honda Center.

Pouliot and Rolston provided the goals, with the 39-year-old former-and-current Bruins skater notching the game-winner, and theyve been seemingly doing that for the last two weeks. There was no way Julien was going to tamper with a forward combination that has put up 26 points and was a plus-23 over the last six games, and he loves what Rolston has brought to the table.

In fact, its looking more and more as if this will be Bostons third line when the Stanley Cup dance begins in mid-April.

That line I wasnt going to break up with Peverley coming back, said Julien. Rolston certainly doesnt look his age and he doesnt play like his age. Hes always had good speed and a good shot. Right now he seems to be excited being with the team and playing here for us.

That line has been outstanding for us. Its pretty hard to break up a line thats been scoring for you every night. Those guys are building some very good chemistry right now.

While the more heralded top lines were busy getting used to their new combinations with Peverley fitting up with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, while Tyler Seguin skated with former linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic it was once again Bostons depth that proved to be the difference.

Its the same story as last years run to the Stanley Cup, but its the names that are different with Pouliot and Rolston coupled with the old standby in Kelly. The two-way center was at the heart of both scoring plays as he was moving the puck up the ice in transition and carrying it into the offensive zone.

On the first, Kelly slid a drop-back pass to Pouliot and the wiry winger buried a wrist-shot to the blocker-side while Kelly formed a screen in front of him. On the game-winner, Pouliot made a strong play along the wall and moved the puck up to a speeding Kelly in transition, with Kelly then feeding Rolston for a smoking one-timer. If the casual hockey observer didnt know any better, it would looks if the third line was actually Bostons top line ringing up points and scoring opportunities.

We had a pretty strong game," Rolston said. "Were getting opportunities and burying them and really enjoying some good chemistry right now. Kelly made two great plays on Pouliots goal and my goal. Then Pouliot made another great play on my goal.

We have tremendous depth . . . tremendous depth, were getting great goaltending and guys are holding each other accountable inside the dressing room in the right way. They care about each other tremendously and thats an important part of a winning hockey team. I recognized that quality right away.

For Rolston, the chance with Kelly and Pouliot has given him a chance to prove there is still something left in the tank, and thats pretty obvious while watching him glide and rifle one-timers past a world-class goaltender like Jonas Hiller. He had to play his way into shape after sitting on the shelf for the New York Islanders much of the season, but hes been a big-time catalyst for the Bruins since getting into the swing of things.

I had no question in my mind that I could contribute on a regular basis, but its about opportunity and getting the confidence, said Rolston, who has (3 goals, 8 assists) 11 points in his last six games. The coaching staff has shown a lot of confidence in me and that gives you confidence as a player, plain and simple. Ive produced in this league before and Im not over the hill yet.

It was once thought Peverley might just snap onto the third line when healthy, and perhaps Pouliot might be the odd-man out given his inconsistent performance throughout the season. But with only seven games left and players carving out their space in the playoff lineup, it looks like Bostons third line will stay as its currently constituted providing it can continue producing and protecting the puck.

It appears that once again as it was last season the Bruins third line is going to be a big contributing factor for them down the stretch and potentially into an anticipated long and productive playoff run.