Campbell’s vintage play worth emulating for other Bruins

Campbell/By S. Bradley

When asked about his longevity in the NHL, Mark Recchi often credits his love of red wine.

Tonight the veteran winger, who scored the game-winning goal, and the Bruins benefited from an on-ice drop of “Merlot” from Gregory Campbell, who keyed the Bruins’ dramatic 4-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

Although he was separated from his “Merlot Line” mates in the dramatic closing minutes, Campbell recorded an empty-net goal, two assists and also helped screen Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Zdeno Chara’s goal, as Boston rallied from 2-0 down in the third period.

With the way Campbell played in the closing minutes tonight, and Brad Marchand’s recent effectiveness skating with Recchi and Patrice Bergeron, perhaps all the Bruins need is a splash some “Merlot” on all their lines to create a four-line, 60-minute effort in the near future.

Campbell has centered some combination of Shawn Thornton, Marchand and Daniel Paille on a line that wears Merlot-colored practice uniforms since Day One this season. The politically incorrect term for Campbell’s trio would be the fourth line — the trio that makes up for its lack of skill with hustle and grit. They prefer to be known as the “Merlot” or “Energy” line, and when you perform the way they do you get to pick your own nickname.

With the exception of maybe three games, Campbell’s line has been one of Boston’s most effective trios by getting the puck deep and keeping the heat on the opposition with a sustained attack. Campbell, Marchand and Thornton are all plus players, and Paille is just a minus-2 (in just 18 games), proving that in limited minutes they’re all as responsible as can be.

Maybe more importantly, their a resilient bunch. Campbell, Thornton and Paille were on the ice Saturday night in Montreal when the Canadiens tied the score late. Campbell lost the defensive draw and the Bruins failed to clear the zone before the equalizer. Most players hate to get scored on, but in the case of the “Merlot Line” a goal against is a reason to lose sleep because it could lead to a loss of ice time in the future.

Even if the “Merlot Line” was as quiet tonight through 40 minutes as Boston’s other triumvirates, Campbell found a way to grab a measure of redemption for Saturday’s troubles and make sure head coach Claude Julien, whose faith in the line rarely waivers, can continue to roll his grind line over the boards.

Campbell was at his vintage best on the goals he had a hand in. Doing the hard work down low to work the puck back to the point and then heading to the net for a screen on the Chara goal. Firing a shot on net on the rush to set up the Marchand tying goal. And then working his rear off on the forecheck to deny Pittsburgh a chance to go on the attack and instead knocking the puck into the Penguins’ empty net.

It was just another night at the office for one of Boston’s hardest workers, who doesn’t get enough credit for the skill he brings to a position that’s often filled, on other teams, by guys who do their best work with their body or fists. While Campbell could stand to bring up his faceoff percentage, his hands and vision have made sure Boston’s penalty kill has stayed a league-wide force and turned the fourth line into a scoring line.

There are certain catch phrases that get repeated in the Bruins’ locker room all the time, like ‘do the little things,’ ‘keep your feet moving’ and ‘outwork the other guys.’ Campbell and his linemates are the personification of those slogans on a club featuring plenty of players that don’t adhere to those guidelines often enough.

The rest of the Bruins would do well to follow Campbell’s approach going forward. They’re supposed to be so “hard to play against,” yet often are just hard to watch. A little Merlot is not recommended in the team’s Gatorade, but in the rest of the Bruins’ style of play it could help this club get better with age.

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