BOSTON – Gregory Campbell might be new to the NHL playoffs, but he knows that as a team advances it needs more and more assistance from its bottom six forwards in terms of producing and providing rest for its top six.
The Bruins fourth-line center also knows that as a checker and energy player, he has to win more than the 43 percent of the faceoffs he’s won through the first 11 Boston playoff games. Campbell will probably be called upon by head coach Claude Julien to take even more key draws while Patrice Bergeron is out with a mild concussion.
“Not good enough, to be honest with you,” said Campbell today when asked to assess his postseason faceoff work during media availability at the TD Garden. “I had one game there where I was good [Game 3 vs. Philadelphia he was 11-for-12], but the other games my percentage hasn’t been that good. I thankfully haven’t gotten in trouble. I don’t think there’s been any point-blank scoring chances or goals scored off of a faceoff loss. I think I’ve been fairly good in the defensive zone.
“Usually he puts me or [Chris Kelly] out there on our strong side, on the left-hand side. But from my point of view, I can be better. And now that Bergie’s down I expect to be better. It’s a big part of the game.”
Campbell has scored one goal and added two assists thus far in his first Stanley Cup playoffs run. Linemates Daniel Paille (2 goals, 1 assist) and Shawn Thornton (1 assist) have also chipped in a bit. Against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final series that starts Saturday in Boston, the Bruins’ fourth line could play an even more vital role.
Campbell and his linemates saw their minutes increase a bit from the Montreal series to the Philadelphia second-round showdown, partially because the scores were more lopsided and partly because the match-ups were better suited for them. Against rugged bottom-six players like Dominic Moore, Nate Thompson, Adam Hall and Steve Downie, the Bruins’ energy line will have its hands full defensively, but could also find some openings for scoring chances.
“I think it takes a load off our big lines, which have obviously been very good. We’ve gotten offensive contributions from line one to three,” said Campbell. “I think we did a pretty good job in that Philly series. We contributed here and there and we did what we needed to do – had big shifts and drew penalties.
“I think we have to do more of that. I’m not sure with [Lightning top-six winger Simon] Gagne being back what the ice time is, but from what I’ve seen they play those guys a lot, especially in shutdown situations, and obviously they contribute offensively , so they’re getting a lot of minutes right now. At this point in the playoffs, it’s key to use all four lines. You start using three, three lines, those guys get tired. For us to be able to help those guys out is going to be key moving forward.”
Even with his average ice time down a couple minutes from the regular season, Campbell could be forgiven if he was feeling a little worn out. After all, since entering the NHL in 2005-06 he never reached the playoffs, let alone made a run to the conference finals and mid-May hockey.
However, aside from the stitched up cut and shiner surrounding his right eye after a face smack into a Flyers defenseman’s helmet, Campbell says he’s holding up well.
“I feel good,” said Campbell, who pointed out that he played just 60 games last season and now is on the verge of 100 since the start of the exhibition season. “Coming off last series, our line got a little confidence. We played a little more and had a little bigger role. This time [between series] allows us to kind of freshen up a bit, regroup, refocus, rest up a little bit. But for me, it’s unchartered waters, no doubt.
“It’s enjoyable and I’m excited. It’s not something where there’s too much time to think about how you feel rather than just enjoy the moment and kind of feed off adrenaline.”
Campbell somewhat fondly recalls his days of watching the postseason on television every spring. Now he’s a part of it for the first time and he’s accounted for his skills well. The Bruins will need even more of that if they’re to get past the Lightning and be the last team standing come mid-June.