Bruins’ third line emerges as two-way force, causes match-up troubles

Ryder/By S. Bradley

BOSTON – The emergence of the trio of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder as an offensive force can be easily quantified by looking at the seven goals and 16 points the three have combined to produce through the Bruins’ first 10 postseason games.

However, that trio has also become effective enough at the other end of the ice that head coach Claude Julien doesn’t have to sweat about match-ups at home or on the road during the team’s Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia.

The Bruins are ahead, 3-0, in the series, and the Peverley line (PoRK Line?) has been a two-way force throughout the three games.

“Our third line, I’ve been able to play them against top lines of the other team because they have been reliable defensively as well,” Julien recently said. “When you’ve got a Chris Kelly who is such a good two-way player and the other two have played so well, it has really given us some flexibility and comfort. I know that we can play them in different situations.”

The third line has combined for a plus-12 in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Instead of Julien worrying about match-ups, opponents now have to decide which line to play its shutdown pair against and who to avoid with their top scoring trios.

“I think it kind of helps that Chris and I are very familiar with down low playing the center position. It’s whoever’s back first, basically, will play down low,” said Peverley. “So I think that if we can continue to do that – even ‘Rides’ is pretty good down there – so if we can use our speed, we can continue to try to get the puck back.”

Added Ryder: “Both of them take faceoffs at different spots. It’s pretty neat when you have that option, and [both] of them are pretty good at winning them. In our own end, we talk a lot. It seems to help when we talk and we don’t panic, we just relax and talk to each other and figure it out from there.”

While the 16 points it has produced is probably more than double what was expected when the playoffs started, the line still wants to contribute more to back up its solid defensive play. Kelly crashed the net and cashed in for his fourth postseason goal during Game 2 after Ryder made his presence felt in front of the Philadelphia goal. Ryder hasn’t scored since he lit the lamp twice in Game 4 against Montreal. Peverley’s lone goal came in Game 3 with the Habs. He hit the post in overtime the other night and fired just one shot on goal in the contest. Ryder had the only shot on net from the three players in the Game 3 win over Philly.

“I think it’s about shooting more,” said Peverley, who fired 17 shots on goal in the seven-game Montreal series. “I didn’t shoot as much as I think I could [in Game 2], trying to make plays a little bit. But I think that our line’s done a good job of creating chances.”

Those chances, even the ones that don’t result in goals, force opponents to work extra hard in their own and build momentum in the Bruins’ favor. Just as Chiarelli drew it up just a few months ago, Boston’s third line has become a match-up problem at both ends.

“We’re strong on the puck now. We’re getting the pucks in and we’re pretty responsible in our own end,” said Ryder. “When we protect the puck and we throw pucks as the net, good things seem to be happening.”

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