B’s Beat: Bruins’ Merlot Line Struggling
The Boston Bruins lean heavily on all four of their offensive lines in games. Each of these lines has a specific job to do, and typically they all do them extremely well. For the B’s “Merlot” line; that job is to provide energy by fore-checking hard, hitting, and producing the occasional goal. The Bruins’ fourth line has generally been considered among the league’s best ever since their assembly in 2010-11.
This season has been a bit of a different story though, as it seems to me like they are struggling to capture the same intensity that has made them great over the last three seasons.
A line in the NHL starts and ends with the center, and Gregory Campbell is arguably the league’s best 4th line center. Unfortunately he has a lingering issue with his leg, which he broke during the Eastern Conference finals last season. While it was an inspirational, albeit fool hardy attempt to stay on the ice, Campbell’s broken leg was a testament to the dedication he has to this team. Unfortunately, the injury has had its toll on him, and he is clearly still a little maligned by it five months afterwards.
It is hard to be down on Soupy for this alone, but his inability to play at 100% is clear and effecting the line’s overall effectiveness. His faceoff percentage is a brutal 41.8%, and he has only managed 1 assist in 17 games thus far.
Shawn Thornton has also struggled mightily this season. He has only managed one goal in 17 games, and has dropped the gloves 4 times. This is a contract year for Thornton, and one has to wonder if this is the last season we will see of the fan favorite enforcer in a Bruins’ sweater. Perhaps time has finally caught up with 36 year old left wing.
The last piece to the Merlot puzzle is none other than Daniel Paille. Paille was outstanding last season, scoring 10 goals, 7 assists, and a +3 in 46 regular season games. While his regular season was good, it was his great playoff run that impressed me. He scored 4 goals, 5 assists, and a +4 in 22 playoff games with the Bruins. Three of the four goals he scored were game winners. He was so solid last season, he actually got promoted to the third line during the playoffs.
Paille was robbed of the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award last season, which the pink hats awarded to Dougie Hamilton. He has been the only player on this line that has stood out to me so far, and is playing well despite the overall struggles of the entire line. He has 2 goals, 1 assist, and an even rating in 17 games.
The B’s need this line to produce better than it has. I don’t necessarily mean goals here, but the energy a prototypical NHL fourth line should. They have been pretty flat in the early going and it is troubling. The Bruins rely on all four lines, and for the team to be successful, these guys simply have to better.
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