I'm sitting here right now in my dorm room with a severe case of insomnia. It's almost one in the morning over here on the east coast, but I just can't sleep, so I figured I'd give three guys a shoutout. Three guys who, I feel, really deserve it, and I've had a really bad case of writers block for the past couple of days, so let's hope this article makes up for the others.
The Boston Bruins have had their struggles as of late but are looking like their starting to turn it around and make their push to the top of the Eastern Conference. While the top forward lines have been producing decently, like they are supposed to, it's been the fourth line that has really stepped their game up when called upon.
The Bruins' fourth line this year consists of Steve Begin, Shawn Thornton, and Byron Bitz. This line has the perfect combination of veteran leadership and youth talent. To really know why these three guys have been so vital to the Bruins success, you have to get to know them first.
Shawn Thornton has never really been known as a goal scorer in this league. If anything, he would probably be classified as an enforcer, although he has more intangibles then most other enforcers in the NHL.
Thornton was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1997 but never actually played for them. He stayed down in their AHL affiliate until moving on the the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played one year for them. He won his first Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
He signed with the Bruins during the 2007 offseason and had a pretty good sized impact for the Bruins right from the start. While his impact wasn't on the scoreboard, it was felt by the opposing team. Thornton hits pretty much anything he sees which in turn causes turnovers in the offensive zone leading to Bruins goals.
The second piece of this line is Steve Begin. Begin is another veteran who has been in the league since 1996. He played for the Calgary Flames for his first few years in the league but really broke out when he moved to the Montreal Canadiens. Begin only averaged about six goals a year while in Montreal but was really known for his strong forechecking and his hustle.
The Bruins signed him in the offseason, and he has continued where he left off in Montreal. Begin has been quite the surprise on offense this year as he is second on the Bruins in assists with six. Still, his best quality has been his ability to put pressure on the opposing team, forcing untimely turnovers usually leading to Bruins scoring chances.
The final piece to this line is the young Byron Bitz. Of the three guys, he is the offensive threat. Now that doesn't mean that he is putting up 20 goals a year. Bitz is in just his second full season in the league but he is getting comparisons to another current Bruin, Milan Lucic. Bitz is able to combine his skill with his checking.
Now that you know these guys, you have some idea of why they have such an impact for the Bruins. This is why it comes to no surprise that Claude Julien usually begins and ends with these guys out on the ice.
By beginning the game with the fourth line, the Bruins are able to set a tone quick and early. They are able to put the pressure on the opposing team right from the drop of the puck and get the rest of the team energized.
When it comes to the end of the game, usually if the Bruins are leading these three guys are the ones who are out on the ice. There great forechecking constantly forces the other team to have to circle back and try to start another rush taking even more precious time off the clock.
So just remember the next time you are checking out the boxscore don't just look at who scored and who had assists. There's more to a hockey game than just that and this line is a perfect example of it.