Kelly Line Wants to Contribute
TORONTO, ON - The Bruins' success in recent years has come from being able to roll out a strong four-line effort.
When all 12 forwards are consistently bringing strong two-play and carrying the momentum from shift to shift, the Bruins are at their best - and quite often, unstoppable.
The lines centered by David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron know each other well. The 'Merlot Line' of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton served a key role in 2011, and has set the tone for the Bruins with their mix of speed, toughness and battling that even allows them to play against opponents' top lines.
Through the first two games of the first-round series with Toronto, the tempo has been there for Boston, but still, Coach Julien is looking for chemistry to be generated with his trio of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Jaromir Jagr.
Starting with the puck wasn't a problem in Game 2, with Peverley back alongside his familiar linemate in Chris Kelly, and the duo combining to win 16 of 21 faceoffs. With two faceoff men on the ice, they have the advantage of Kelly, being a left shot, taking the left-side draws, and Peverley, a right shot, taking faceoffs on his strong side. Kelly had won only two of nine draws in Game 1, alongside Jagr and winger Kaspars Daugavins.
"That's extremely nice to have Pevs taking all of those draws on the right side," said Kelly following the Bruins' optional skate Monday morning at the Air Canada Centre, prior to Game 3. "We've played together for a while now, we know what one another's strengths are, how to work with one another. Hopefully that continues."
For the duo, and all of the Bruins' centermen, they take a lot of pride in their faceoff ability, which has been first in the NHL for the past two seasons, and often grab for the stat sheets at the end of games to see their percentages on the dot.
Starting with the puck helps, but it's the decision-making and sustained O-zone pressure that comes as a result that the B's, particularly the Kelly line, is focusing on for Game 3.
"We did win a lot of draws, we were getting some chances off the draws, that's what you want to do," said Peverley of their Game 2 effort. "Like I said, we have to be better offensively. That's the goal."
The Peverley-Kelly-Jagr line combined for just three shots on Saturday night in Game 2, with Kelly finishing the night a minus-1 and Jagr a minus-2.
"I think, obviously, it would be nice to have a little more in-zone time," said Kelly. "I think we have done a lot of good things in the first two games. Communication is extremely important, especially with forwards."
With the other three lines knowing each other so well, Coach Julien is offering a little leeway for the line to adjust to each other and mesh with Jagr's puck control game. But he's hoping it happens sooner rather than later, with the series tied at 1-1 and shifting to Toronto for Games 3 and 4.
"I think there’s a lot of things that come into play here," Coach Julien told media on Sunday after practice, prior to traveling to Toronto. "Number one, he came, as you know, at the trade deadline, he missed the last couple of games, he’s never had the same linemates. To his defense, it’s important to have some cohesion with your linemates."
"Our first two lines have been together for a long time. They’re playing well, they’re generating [chances], so right now it’s about trying to build some chemistry with some players and we keep trying to find players to complement him," Coach added, on integrating Jagr into the lineup.
Injuries and slowed production down the stretch didn't help, either, with Jagr rotating through different linemates like Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and members of the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line at points in his 11 regular-season games with the B's. Despite that, he put up nine points with two goals and seven assists.
"At the same time, he battled a pretty tough flu there a week ago," said Coach, on the flu-like symptoms that kept Jagr out of the B's final two regular season games after the winger's steady offensive output. "I know that he’s not feeling 100 percent yet, but we’re certainly counting on him."
It's not only been an adjustment for Jagr, coming with such limited time left in the season, and finding quick chemistry, but his linemates have had to adapt to his strong puck management style as well.
"Sometimes there's instant chemistry with guys, some it takes time," said Peverley, on playing with Jagr. "I'm confident the next game that I'll do better, I want to be better."
"Kells and I have played together a long time. I think Jags is such a great player. For myself, I've just got to play my game and use my speed, take pucks to the net, that's when I'm at my best. If I'm doing that, hopefully everything else will work with the other guys."
Peverley and Kelly know how important their trio can be to success in the postseason, and are hoping to ramp up their offensive game.
"I think all three of us would like to be better, especially offensively, control the offensive zone a little bit more," said Kelly. "There's no reason why we can't do that, we're all very capable players."
And the importance of getting all four lines rolling is not lost on Peverley.
"You have to if you want to win," he said. "I want to be better, our line definitely wants to be better."