Bruins third line more than just "reliable"

Bruins third line more than just "reliable"
October 6, 2013, 12:00 am
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BOSTON -- Being reliable is good. It's just not good enough, if you want to remain in the everyday Bruins lineup.

That was Claude Julien's message to Jordan Caron before the regular season began.

And with two regular-season games under their belt, and now with two wins, after Saturday night's 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins once again look like the dominant team that went to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

The one question in Boston's everyday lineup comes on the third line. With Carl Soderberg getting closer to a return from an ankle sprain, who watches from upstairs, and who remains on a line with Chris Kelly?

Caron, Reilly Smith, and Soderberg are the three candidates. Obviously, only two can win the battle. And with Soderberg injured for the first two games, Caron and Smith have certainly been more than reliable while on a line with Kelly.

Caron's situation is different than Smith's, mainly because Caron has been in the organization for several years now. More than anything, thew spotlight was on him to show the Bruins more than just reliability.

"Jordan's been with us long enough that he knows how we play, he knows how he's expected to play," said Julien. "And I think he's just gone out there and played his game.

"What I've liked about Jordan, when I talked to him before we started the regular season, it was about what more can you bring besides being reliable. You've got to start taking pucks to the net, you've got to try to create some stuff down low. And he has. He's responded well.

"I think that's the biggest thing that we wanted him to do, to bring a little bit more to the table," added Julien. "At the end of the night, as a player, you've got to tell yourself, 'What am I bringing to the team?' If it's just being reliable and that's about it, that's not good enough for us."

Caron scored his first "official" goal of the season on Saturday night. He scored one on Thursday, but an unnecessarily early whistle by the ref wrongly called it back.

Against the Red Wings, Caron scored on a one-timer from the right circle, after receiving an unselfish pass from Smith, who could have easily let one rip from the slot. Instead, he dished it to Caron, and Caron finished it off to put the Bruins up 3-1 eight minutes into the second period.

"It was a great pass," said Caron after the win. "[Smith] really took his time there. He could have shot it himself, and he made a really smart play just to slide it back door. It was a great pass."

Boston's third line of Caron, Kelly, and Smith is going to make the Bruins' decision on what to do with Soderberg a tough one.

"When there's opportunities to be had, you want to capitalize on them," said Kelly. "And [Caron] is doing a great job of that. He's playing really well. I think you want to make management and coaches have to make tough decisions. As a player, I know I always like to make them make tough decisions, and I think that's what makes a good hockey team."

Julien said it's too early to make that decision. But he never denied it would be a difficult one.

"I think it's premature to talk about those things," said the Bruins coach after Saturday's win. "When the time comes, I'll deal with it.

"I'm certainly not about to make that decision now."

Smith seemingly won a spot on the third line straight out of training camp. Caron has only been in the lineup -- and on the third line -- for the first two games because Soderberg is injured. So if the Bruins' "tough decision" comes down to Caron or Soderberg, Caron is trying to make it clear, through those first two games, that he doesn't want to be the odd-man out.

"I want to keep that spot," said Caron after Saturday's win. "Just keep playing and get the ice time that goes with it. And hopefully it's going to keep going that same way."