Grading Each Boston Bruins Line in Round 2 of the 2013 NHL Playoffs
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Bruins will take on a tremendously deep Pittsburgh Penguins squad that can score in bunches all the way down the roster. If they hope to claim the Prince of Wales Trophy for the second time in three years, the Bruins will have to be even deeper.
In Round 2, the Bruins' ability to roll four lines gave John Tortorella's New York Rangers fits, with the fourth line proving to be as important and effective as the first.
With the dust settled on the Rangers series, it's time to hand out grades to each of the Bruins' four offensive lines.
After a stellar opening round series, the trio of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton kept rolling against the Rangers. The trio combined for 10 points in five games against New York, and the three forwards continue to hold the top three spots in the league's postseason plus/minus table.
David Krejci, who leads the NHL with 17 points in just 12 playoff games, cooled off slightly after opening the postseason on a legendary scoring pace. However, he still managed to put up four assists in Round 2.
Nathan Horton maintained his point-per-game pace with five points in the series. Soon to be a free agent, Horton is playing his best hockey since the 2011 playoffs when he made his mark by scoring two Game 7 winners.
The only blemish on the first line's series might be Milan Lucic's failure to post more than one point, but after a nine-point series against Toronto in Round 1, Lucic has earned a little bit of leeway. The sometimes dominant power forward finally seems to be skating his hardest for the first time in two years, which is an encouraging sign. His physicality will be pivotal if he shares the ice with Sidney Crosby in Round 2, and if he can chip in a few points he will be a difference-maker.
So far the Bruins first line has been the most efficient in the NHL playoffs, but they'll need to keep their point totals up to match the Penguins' star-studded attack in the Conference Finals. The Bruins No. 1 line's unique combination of pace, skill and especially power should go a long way towards that goal.
After swapping Tyler Seguin for Jaromir Jagr early in the playoffs, some growing pains might have been expected from the Bruins' second line, but the Patrice Bergeron-led trio has impressed nonetheless.
After manufacturing a miracle in Round 1, Bergeron was back at it in Game 1 against New York. As he so often is, Brad Marchand was the beneficiary of a beautiful Bergeron centering pass to give the Bruins a 1-0 series lead with an overtime goal.
Two days later Marchand experienced deja vu as he scored on a nearly identical play, once again with the help of Bergeron. Marchand would go on to lead the Bruins in points for the series with two goals and four assists in five games.
Bergeron himself enjoyed a fine series on the scoresheet with three points, but he made an even bigger impact at the faceoff dot winning 71 of 110 draws, helping the Bruins dominate possession throughout the series.
A frustrated Jaromir Jagr endured a difficult five games, failing to register a point. Despite his inability to produce, the NHL's active playoff points leader deserved better. He hounded former teammate Henrik Lundqvist in every game, but some how could not find the net.
Jagr still needs to adjust his game, which currently relies on a little too much puck-hogging and not enough distributing, but the grey-bearded veteran has been a major asset on the forecheck with his ability to secure the puck down low.
Jagr will return to Pittsburgh next week, more than two decades after winning two championships with the Penguins. If he can start to find the back of the net and make better use of his linemates, the Bruins second line could become an even more serious threat.
Another disappointing series for the recently demoted Tyler Seguin headlined an abysmal stretch for Boston's third line. Seguin finally scored his first goal of the playoffs in a devastating Game 4 overtime loss, but his elite talent should be leading to more points.
Despite his struggles, Seguin continued to fire the puck at the net throughout the series, testing Henrik Lundqvist 16 times. He also has three points in his last two games which could suggest the arrival of some long-awaited confidence for the youngster who has the ability to break a game open.
If he can fire on all cylinders against Pittsburgh, a return to the second line likely awaits, but he has plenty to prove before that happens. Until then he will be stuck with the completely invisible duo of Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.
Neither player put up a point in the series, and they've combined for just one point in the entire postseason.
One year after scoring 20 goals, Kelly is hardly making a contribution at the moment, and the once valued Peverley has also done little to inspire confidence from Claude Julien.
Having been effectively demoted to fourth line duty, Seguin, Peverley and Kelly need to make drastic changes. If they can't contribute against Pittsburgh, it will likely be a short series capped off with a Penguins victory.
The so-called Merlot Line was simply sensational against the New York Rangers. The perennial unsung heroes of the Boston Bruins have finally stepped into the spotlight, carrying more than their fair share of the load.
The trio of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton matched the first line with a combined 10 points in five games against the Rangers, and they manufactured a number of clutch goals.
Former first-round pick Daniel Paille, who finished the series with three points, scored the Game 3 winner, with the help of Shawn Thornton who also assisted on Johnny Boychuk's game-tying goal earlier in the third period.
Gregory Campbell, who scored in Game 2, knocked out the Rangers with a go-ahead goal in the third period of Game 5 and added an exclamation point with an empty-netter in garbage time.
Fourth lines simply don't combine for a plus-13 rating over five games in the National Hockey League. The physical trio has not only provided energy but has also made a major offensive contribution. If they can keep up the good work, they could create severe matchup problems for the Pittsburgh Penguins.