BOSTON, MA - Before Sunday afternoon's 5-2 win over the New York Rangers, Merlot liner Shawn Thornton was feeling pretty good about his line's effort through the first round of the playoffs and Game One of the series.
Thornton, along with Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell, had put up a combined 26 shots in the postseason heading into Game Two. But besides Paille's shorthanded goal against Toronto, they hadn't found the back of the net as a line yet.
"We're pretty deep, I think, as far as the lines go. Still waiting for us to try and chip in. We've talked about it, we've been close, we've had a ton of chances, but we're not putting them in right now," said Thornton, as he spoke to media prior to the game.
"It would be nice if we could take the pressure off some of the big boys with a couple of goals from our line."
In a foreshadowing that Thornton will surely take credit for, just 2:24 into the second period, Campbell found the back of the net, giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Hard forechecking from Thornton and Paille got the puck to Campbell, who quickly pushed it up to Adam McQuaid at the point. While Torey Krug was receiving McQuaid's pass and driving it at the net, Campbell hustled to the front and was the first to get his stick to the loose puck, punching it right up under the crossbar. It was his first of the playoffs, and only the second postseason goal of his career.
"It’s a really good feeling," said Campbell, wearing the Bruins "Player of the Game" Army Rangers jacket at the press conference podium following the win.
In addition to his goal, the centerman also contributed three hits, helped the penalty kill go a perfect 5-for-5 in the game, and dropped the gloves with Derek Dorsett.
"It’s a lot of pressure for those top guys. [David] Krejci’s line, and [Patrice Bergeron’s] line of late have been relied upon heavily to produce. Those guys are filled with talent and the ability to score goals at big times, but it’s a tough job, especially when you’re playing against a real sound defensive team, and a real good goaltender, to really rely on those guys every night."
Krejci leads the NHL in playoff scoring with 16 points (5 goals, 11 assists), while his linemates Milan Lucic (3-7=10) Nathan Horton (4-5=9) aren't too far behind. The line carried much of the offensive load for the Bruins in the first round. Now with Bergeron's line finding the back of the net, blueliners chipping in, and offensive contributions from players like Campbell, the Bruins are showcasing the more well-rounded team that they know they are.
"Our line put some pressure on ourselves to help out in that aspect," added Campbell. "As I said, it’s not our main job, but it helps out in games, and as we get further into the playoffs, teams get better defensively, and games get closer. Sometimes it’s not the usual suspects that chip in, and it has to be the other guys."
The trio, of course, called the "Merlot Line" because of the color of their practice jerseys, has made the Bruins' four-line roll-out a constant threat for opposing teams. The depth lends way for different Bruins to be stepping up in games.
"It’s important to get contributions from everybody, and depth. You really have to rely on your depth in the playoffs," said Campbell. "I guess going back two years ago when we had that good run, we really had to rely on everybody, and even last year, you saw [Los Angeles] with how successful they were, and they used four lines and six [defensemen], and everybody really comes into play."
"Different games, there’s different guys that step up. I guess it’s our responsibility as a fourth line to provide energy, and be responsible, and change the momentum of games sometimes. But to chip in offensively is a huge bonus for our line, and helps out the guys that are relied upon to do that night-in and night-out."
Like with many "fourth lines" in the NHL, the Merlot trio is relied upon to provide energy and employ a strong forechecking game, but their unique ability to play against the opponent's top lines sets them apart.
"It’s important for the coaching staff to have confidence in us, and it goes a long way," said Campbell. "Obviously, he reads the game, and it’s up to him whether or not he wants to put us out there against different lines."
"It’s nice for him to show that confidence in us, and I guess it gives us a little boost to be able to play against top guys. They’re a dangerous team; they have the ability to score pretty quickly, so we have to be on our toes."
Coach Julien appreciates their defensive abilities - but also realizes their ability to create scoring chances. They may not always find the back of the net, but the hustle is there.
"They created a lot of chances. They’re not afraid to throw pucks at the net, they always have somebody there, and there’s loose pucks that they bang away," said Julien of Paille, Campbell and Thornton. "Their goals aren’t necessarily highlight goals, but they’re important goals as you saw tonight. And Soupy [Gregory Campbell] did a great job there off the rebound and putting that in. So that line continues to give us some important minutes in the game."
"And you know, as a coaching staff we trust that line a lot, and we put them in different situations where we know they’re going to get the job done."
The Bergeron and Krejci lines did find the back of the net in the 5-2 win, with Marchand and Lucic tallying a goal apiece, and setting up Krug and Boychuk for two more, but the commanding win saw contributions from everyone on the ice, including Campbell.
"It's kind of been a thing the last few years," Thornton had said pregame. "When we've been successful, we've had different people chipping in at different times. That needs to continue to happen for us to have success."
"It's nice to get contributions from players that are not always putting numbers on the board. Gregory [Campbell] scored a goal. [Torey] Krug scored a goal. Johnny [Boychuk] got a goal, so we have different people stepping up," said Captain Zdeno Chara postgame.
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