Bruins' top line is slowly coming back to life

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Bruins' top line is slowly coming back to life

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. There were several things the Bruins needed to achieve before victory could be theirs this postseason, and they've finally begun hitting their marks.

Tim Thomas owned the third period, the Bs shut down the vauntedCanadien power play, and most importantly the Black and Gold finally jumped out in front with an early lead. It was a bit of a white-knuckle grip down the stretch in a 4-2 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre in Game 3 Monday night, but there were a bevyof positive developments.

Among those happy story lines in the Boston victory were goals scored by Nathan Horton and David Krejci from the Bs top line after a pair of quiet games to start things off. Milan Lucic was still shut off from the scoresheet for the third straight game, but as a line the trio combined for five shots on net and a pair of goals in the pivotal victory.

It was Hortons first NHL playoff goal -- and the first postseason dividend for a right wing who entered the series with a lot of hope and expectations -- and Krejcis 8th goal and 22nd point in 30 career postseason games for the Bruins. The Krejci score was a skill play all the way with a one-time snap to the top corner off a great Bergeron pass, but the Horton strike was a bit more of a playoff-style strike.Horton collected a wide shot off the back boards, and found a path to squirt the puck through Carey Price's pads and backside in a heads up play. More often than not it's the ugly, unexpected goals that make the difference in the postseason, and Horton is getting that as his playoff experience grows.

Claude Julien noted theproduction out of his No. 1 line in Boston's third playoff game, and hopes strides by Krejci and Horton can kickstart Lucics game.

He was better last night, Julien said of Lucic. If his linemates are starting to roll then he follows up, or vice versa. Usually the other guys catch up to him. I expect him to be better, and we need him to be better if were going to win this series.

But Lucic was shut out when Carey Price closed up the five-hole between his pads on a breakaway in the second period, and it was a turning point in the game as Andrei Kostitsyn immediately returned the threat with Montreals first goal. The Lucic breakaway was the kind of goal that could spark an emotion-based player like the young B's forward, but he's still looking for it.

The combination of offensive playmaking and brutish physicality to create someimpact in the offensive end is the hallmark of Lucic's game, and it hasnt taken place thus far against the Habs.

We obviously felt like we did not get enough done the first two games. You look at our scoring chances in the first game I think we only had one chance as a line and the second I think again we only had one scoring chance as a line, said Lucic. We were able to generate more, but still I think we are going to have to keep working and working hard and working smart.

One thing that could help Lucic to get his game back on track: focusing on the pounding physical play that always helps him regain his offensive mojo, and shortening his shifts a bit so hes not skating himself into an exhausted shell. It appears thatLucicdoesn't have the energy left in the tank to remove players from the puck or finish off great opportunities when he gets them at the tail end of marathon shifts.

Lucic has wandered pretty far away from his blue-collar physical image at timesthis season while potting a team-high 30 goals, and now his line is being threatened for top status as Patrice Bergeron's No. 2 forward group continues to play well. Bergeron has been Bostons bestplayer on the ice during the postseason as his nine shots on net and three points (1 goal, 2 assists) would attest.

With jobs -- specifically, Julien's and perhaps even GM Peter Chiarelli's -- potentially on the line, it was key for the Bruins not to panic. They didn't Monday, thanks in large part to Horton's and Krejci's resurrection, and they're back in the series.

Now the goal is to get Lucic back on top of his game, as well.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.

 

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

Bruins sign restricted free agent Acciari to two-year deal

The Bruins have locked up a potential fourth-line piece for next season at a bargain basement price.

The B's signed Rhode Island native and Providence College alum Noel Acciari, a restricted free agent, to a two-year deal worth $1.45 million, a contract that breaks down to a very affordable $725,000 cap hit for each of the next two seasons. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound bowling ball of a forward finished with two goals and five points in 29 games for the Bruins last season, and has appeared in 48 games at the NHL level over the last two seasons in Boston. It was also encouraging that Acciari seemed to be tapping a bit more into his offense toward the end of the season, and was building some confidence for whatever modest offense he’ll end up bringing to the NHL table once he’s reached his potential ceiling as a player.

Clearly the two-year, one-way deal portends that Acciari, 25, will be counted on as a high energy, hard-hitting fourth-line player who does a good job of aggravating opponents while playing at full tilt. The real question is whether his body can hold up with his maximum effort style of playing, and whether he can avoid serious injuries with some of the car-crash level of violence he puts in his hitting.

Acciari has battled several different injuries over the last couple of seasons, but managed to be healthy enough to log time in the playoffs for both Boston and the P-Bruins.

Either way it’s a low-risk, affordable contract for the Bruins for a young player who, if healthy, will be a large piece on their fourth line as a diligent worker and excellent teammate. So that’s a good proactive signing for Don Sweeney as he continues to work on a more complicated contract for a higher profile player like David Pastrnak.