Commentary

Bruins' team effort is paying off

Boston on verge of Eastern Conference finals thanks to contributions all around

Updated: May 6, 2011, 9:46 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins have proved to be a well-balanced team during the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.

After a first-round win over the Montreal Canadiens in a series that went the distance, the Bruins are leading the Eastern Conference semifinals 3-0 over the Philadelphia Flyers, with a chance to close it out in Game 4 on Friday at TD Garden.

[+] EnlargeBoston Bruins celebrate
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesContributions from everyone on the ice have led to the Bruins' 3-0 series lead against the Flyers.

Boston has been blessed with depth, health, goaltending and a little luck so far in the playoffs, and that usually equals success. Everyone is contributing in some fashion, and that's why the Bruins find themselves on the brink of the conference finals for the first time since 1992.

There aren't too many zeros on the Bruins' stat sheet this postseason.

With the exception of backup defenseman Shane Hnidy (two games) and Shawn Thornton (all 10 games), each player on the Bruins' roster has registered at least a point. Assistant captain Patrice Bergeron has been the team's best all-around player and has posted 12 points.

Bergeron and his linemates, Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand, have combined for 28 points. The Bruins' top line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton finally picked it up this series, but the relentless work of the Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder line, along with the energy line of Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Thornton, has been crucial for Boston's success.

"It's very important throughout the playoffs that you use all four lines," Bergeron said. "And there are guys who you don't see always on the ice, but you never question their work ethic. They always give you 100 percent and they are always creating some energy or something happening on the ice. So, it's so important, if you're going deep in the playoffs, to use all four lines. And everyone feels comfortable with that.

"There are times we are going to have to rely on different people and players. So we are happy where we are right now."

Sure, the fourth line's ice time has been a bit limited in the playoffs, but the players aren't too concerned with personal goals because it's all about winning the Stanley Cup, and this team believes it can do it with everyone chipping and chirping in.

"We're a team that right now is very comfortable with our lines," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We do have some options that we think we could certainly use if need be, but right now I don't see the need for [change]. There's a chemistry that's evolved with all our lines right now that guys are feeling comfortable playing with each other."

To focus on the importance of the Bruins' fourth line, all you have to do is look at the team's overtime record in the playoffs. Boston has four OT wins -- three against the Canadiens and one against the Flyers. In each case, the top-line players had enough left in the tank because the Bruins were able to roll out four lines during the game.

"It's a grind and the playoffs are taxing on the body, so we've been fortunate enough that, all year, that we've rolled four lines," Thornton said. "The coaching staff has shown confidence in everybody."

We're a team that right now is very comfortable with our lines. There's a chemistry that's evolved with all our lines right now that guys are feeling comfortable playing with each other.

-- Bruins coach Claude Julien

The energy line proved crucial in Game 3 on Wednesday. The Bruins were clinging to a two-goal lead when Paille scored at 13:39 of the second period to give Boston a 3-0 lead. That cushion gave the Bruins confidence en route to a 5-1 victory.

"It shows good signs for our whole team; it shows that we are a well-balanced team," Paille said after Game 3. "So, it is nice to see everyone contribute on a night like tonight. So, I think everyone was happy about the game today." After the win Wednesday, the players and coach were quick to praise the team's fourth line.

"Well, obviously, they were a good line for us," Julien said. "This is a line that we counted on all year. It's also a line that we think is one of the better fourth lines we've seen in the league. And when we need them, they are there for us."

Marchand began the season on the team's energy line before becoming an integral member of the Bergeron line. Marchand knows first-hand how important that unit is.

"Those guys did a great job stepping up [in Game 3]," Marchand said. "That was a huge goal for us, and they're playing a big role right now."

If the Bruins can finally finish off the Flyers in the semifinals, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be waiting with the Eastern Conference crown up for grabs -- but more importantly, a trip to the Stanley Cup finals. And if the Bruins are able to get there, it's going to take everyone's contributing.

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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