Deep, Balanced Offense Keys Boston Bruins to Season-High 5-Game Win Streak

Al DanielCorrespondent IIMarch 10, 2014

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 9: Carl Soderberg #34 of the Boston Bruins is congratulated by teammates including Loui Eriksson #21 and Reilly Smith #18 after scoring a second period goal against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 9, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins cemented their first five-game winning streak of the 2013-14 NHL season Sunday evening with a 5-2 road victory over the Florida Panthers.

Before anyone submits to temptation and dismisses the new height as an anti-shocker against a plebeian adversary, consider the Boston head coach’s response. Beat writer Joe Haggerty of singled out Claude Julien’s comment by quoting the bench boss as follows: “We could have looked like a tired team, but I saw a really determined team in the third period…Playing a second game 20 hours later and the pace we were able to play at, I was impressed with our team.”

Julien was referring to a one-sleep, travel-day turnaround between Saturday’s 4-3 triumph in Tampa and Sunday’s success in Sunrise. One element that enabled those results, besides resistance to complacency, was the depth chart’s top-to-bottom balance, which has permitted rotating droves to fuel these five successive wins.

When a team is not leaning on a limited selection of forward lines, everyone is going to conserve physical and mental energy. Those who produce in a given game are going to retain conviction while the rest will harbor a healthy mix of calmness and determination.

That team has been the Bruins for the past week-plus, which has seen them run up a cumulative 24-9 scoring differential. A dozen different forwards have combined to polish 16 of those 24 goals and claimed credit for 41 aggregate points. Seven of them have combined for nine multipoint performances, including three third- or fourth-liners.

Not so surprisingly, fourth-liner Shawn Thornton is the only member of the crew who has not made a quantifiable contribution since the team’s hot streak began. However, linemates Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille have mustered 3-1-4 and 1-1-2 scoring logs, respectively, in the same span.

Four Boston players have fostered a precise point-per-game pace dating back to last Sunday’s 6-3 romp over the New York Rangers. They are Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Carl Soderberg.

Eriksson is technically the only Spoked-B striker averaging more than a point per night in this streak. He had two assists against the Blueshirts, missed the March 4 game due to injury and rapidly returned to charge up a goal and two helpers, sprinkling one point apiece on each new entry in his game log.

While Eriksson was out, Jordan Caron came into the lineup and pitched in an assist as part of a 4-1 thumping of the visiting Panthers last Tuesday. Putting in his first appearance since Jan. 29, Caron split credit with Chris Kelly as the playmakers on Iginla’s eventual game-winner.

Caron was later on the ice with Krejci and Milan Lucic for another goal, ensuring a plus-two rating on the night. That play would be Part Two of Krejci’s hat trick, which he completed with an empty-netter, but he has not dented the point column since.

Campbell, Eriksson, Paille and Soderberg are an integral reason why Bruins buffs may not have noticed that Krejci is nursing a three-game scoreless skid. Three of them contributed to last Thursday’s 3-0 conquest of the Capitals, and all four spearheaded a comeback against the Lightning two nights later.

Those four bottom-six forwards, along with Kelly, made a misnomer of that label when they salvaged the streak on Saturday. They teamed up with defenseman Johnny Boychuk (goal, assist) as Boston’s point-getters, deleting 2-0 and 3-2 deficits en route to a 4-3 shootout decision.

Campbell, who can claim credit for two of Boston’s last five clinchers (Rangers and Capitals games), set Paille up to spark the rally. Paille’s backhand burial whittled the difference back down to one a mere two minutes and 45 seconds after the Bolts inserted their second strike.

It took all of 91 seconds thereafter for Soderberg to deposit Kelly’s long-range, neutral-zone feed for the first equalizer. He later worked with his Swedish countryman and fellow third-line winger, Eriksson, to set up Boychuk’s blast, ultimately ensuring a point in the standings and forcing the bonus round.

Lesser teams would have lamented the struggles of their top two lines and the evaporation of their preceding three-game win streak. Lesser teams would have lacked either the means or the will, or both, to hustle back from behind on Saturday and build on that against an ostensibly weaker adversary on Sunday.

Through their actions, the Bruins demonstrated gratitude for their depth and determination for a follow-up in their Florida journey.

Center Patrice Bergeron took his turn as the production pilot against the Panthers. His three-point effort gave him a hand in three unanswered goals, sharing credit with six different teammates, to upgrade a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead.

One of the six skaters and four forwards to collaborate with Bergeron was Reilly Smith, who teamed with his pivot to feed point-patrolling scorer Andrej Meszaros for the 1-1 equalizer. With that, Smith snapped his four-game production drought, another slump that, not unlike Krejci’s, his fellow Bruins generously obscured.

By night’s end, seven visiting forwards had factored into the four goals Boston tallied when Panthers backstop Roberto Luongo was in the cage. As the team’s first dose of insurance, Lucic set up Iginla for a homeward-bound snapper, halting each winger’s scoreless “skid” at two negligible games.

Those dry spells were negligible all the more because their third- and fourth-line allies have been anything but. The last five outings have forged a quintessential Bruins offensive vibe.

They are not a top-five strike force (fourth in the league with 3.16 goals per game) because of any specimens of flair in their prime. Rather, they are content with delving into the fourth quarter of the schedule with nine double-digit goal-getters, a group that will swell to 10 the next time Paille tunes the twine. Eriksson, too, can join that club with relative facility at seven strikes.

Retaining this trend will be crucial to accruing any measure of accomplishment this spring.


Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via and are through games of Sunday, March 9.