Haggerty: Third line announces presence

Haggerty: Third line announces presence
March 9, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Once again the Boston Bruins illustrated just how important secondary scoring is to their overall success, and it arrived not a moment too soon.

Chris Kelly potted his second goal of the season in the first period as part of a three goal outburst within 2:18 of each other, and helped pave the way for a tidy 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. The win gives the Bruins eight wins in their last 10 games, and was one of the more encouraging performances in the key areas of scoring depth and lockdown team defense.

The fourth line also accounted for the last of the three goal barrage, and marked the first time since a February 26, 4-1 win over the New York Islanders that three out of the four Boston lines factored into the scoresheet.

That’s how top heavy the Black and Gold offense has been, and just how much they needed the third line to suddenly become an opportunistic offensive factor once again. It also just so happened to take place with 22-year-old Jordan Caron back in the mix for his first game on the wing with Kelly and Rich Peverley after being called up from AHL Providence on Friday.  

But it was Kelly, the 20 goal scorer from last year, who finished the play and lit the lamp before giving an emotional celebration chop with both arms. The B’s alternate captain has admitted feeling pressure with only one goal in his first 20 games this season, and fattening up his goal total certainly alleviates some of the burden.

“There’s been no mistake about it, that our top two lines have been generating all the scoring for us,” said Kelly. “It was nice to contribute—my line and Soupy’s [Greg Campbell] line—to not necessarily give them a night off, but relieve some of the pressure. We can’t rely on them each and every night to produce.  

“To start the game I think we only had one shot in the first 10 minutes, but I didn’t think we were playing poorly. The shots aren’t always there. We seemed to get rolling after that. I thought we played a pretty consistent game tonight.”

That’s always been a good sign for the Black and Gold since his arrival two years ago in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. In Boston’s last 26 games (both regular season and playoffs) the Bruins are a ridiculous 26-0-0 when Kelly scores a goal in an undefeated streak that dates back to the 2011 run to the Stanley Cup.

That’s simply a stat that can’t be ignored.  

If it doesn’t illustrate what forward depth and secondary scoring do for the Bruins, then perhaps nothing ever will. Boston simply doesn’t lose when the third line contributes to an offense that’s already ranked among the NHL’s top 10 while averaging just under three goals per game without much help from them this season.

“He called for that shot. It was in the right spot, and he asked for it and took a pretty good shot five hole,” said Caron, describing the scoring play. “[Kelly] probably was pretty happy. I’m pretty happy for him as well. He scored a lot of goals last year. He’s a really good player. I think he’s going to get a lot more.”

It appeared as if this was coming when Kelly, Peverley and Jay Pandolfo very nearly struck for a goal against the Leafs on Thursday night, but Kelly smacked a post and Peverley couldn’t settle a lively puck in front of the net. This time Caron took possession in the corner with his 6-foot-2, 202-pound frame and zipped a pass to Kelly as the third man high in the slot, and the two-way center beat Ilya Bryzgalov between his pads.

Tyler Seguin started the scoring tear with a pretty power play goal, and Daniel Paille ended with a quick strike in front of the net. But it was the Kelly line that kept the boot to Philadelphia’s throats with their goal earned through a hard-working shift.  

All along it has appeared that the B’s third line needed a little size and strength in the puck possession and cycle game, and that plays right into Caron’s strengths as a forward. The results were there in the first time out for Caron as they were in the last couple of months of last season, but it was all of the line’s elements coming together that allowed them to have success.  

“I think that’s Caron’s strength. I think it’s his strength to go to those areas. But the way we play the game, if the puck’s on the one side and he happens to be along the wall, somebody else has to go to the front. It’s about sharing all of those duties,” said Claude Julien. “He just brought an element today. Personally, I thought he had a real good game and so did [his line].

“Let’s not overlook the fact that Caron didn’t make that line all of a sudden be better. All three guys were really good today. I thought [Peverley] was skating well and was good, was stronger with the puck and so was [Kelly]. Probably that whole line was better today as a threesome.”

Clearly the Kelly, Peverley and Caron troika factored into the win, but they also managed to hold strong in the defensive end in a game that was long on defensive battles.

Aside from the first period outburst there wasn’t a lot of open space out on the ice, and it was two heavy Eastern Conference teams slugging it out. That’s where a group of players might be exposed if they’re not playing an airtight game in their own end, but the third line did a solid job of holding their end of the bargain defensively as well.

Now it’s up to Kelly and Co. to continue building on Saturday afternoon’s solid performance with important back-to-back games on the road in Ottawa and Pittsburgh next week. They had appeared to turn the corner a couple of times this season already, but couldn’t build on an encouraging single game.

Now is the time for the Bruins third line to build on a solid Saturday’s work, and turn the B’s back into the deep, dangerous unit that can overwhelm opponents with their sheer numbers. Just like they did in 2011 all the way to a Stanley Cup championship with a third line featuring Kelly and Peverley as one of the key elements along the way.