For some players, a demotion to the fourth line means something’s wrong and playing time will be scarce, especially when that player’s team is in the Eastern Conference Final.
But for Bruins forward Rich Peverley, his drop down the depth chart has only been sporadic because he’s been shifted throughout the lineup the last two games and continues to be a key contributor on special teams.
“You’ve just got to be prepared. When you’re on the fourth line, you don’t expect to get too much ice time,” said the veteran, who spent a number of shifts up on the third line during the Bruins’ 3-1 Game 5 win last night over Tampa Bay. “But I think you’ve got to be prepared, especially in the playoffs, because you can’t go in and have cold nights. You’ve got to be raring and ready.”
Previously, Peverley also skated on the second line late in Boston’s Game 4 loss, as head coach Claude Julien tried to find a winning combination. The return of Patrice Bergeron to health for Game 3 forced fourth-line winger Shawn Thornton to the sidelines and Peverley to the line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille, at least to start games.
With Peverley winning five of six faceoffs in Game 5 and also helping the penalty kill produce a perfect 4-for-4 performance (he was one of the quartet of players on the ice for almost an entire first-period kill), Peverley is proving to be Julien’s multi-talented weapon.
“I mean this is a guy who deserves the ice time he got tonight,” said Julien, who skated Peverley a personal series-high of 14 minutes in the win. “And late in the game, on that third line, they were starting to throw [Martin] St. Louis, they were starting to throw [Vincent] Lecavalier. They were trying to take advantage of maybe the lack of experience in Tyler [Seguin]. So I had to put Peverley out there at that point and make sure that we had some experience against some of those guys.
“But this is where Pevs becomes a real useful player. Because he did a great job on the penalty kill and he jumped in there on the third power play that we had. He was used for faceoffs that he was very good at tonight. And that’s what I mean, you can’t just put a guy like him basically on the fourth line and just give him a few minutes. You see him in different places and sometimes it’s for faceoffs, and he served us really well tonight. He played a real solid game.”
Peverley was also on the ice at the end of the game and sealed the victory with an empty-net goal. Chris Kelly and Bergeron were also part of an all-center, all two-way trio of forwards on the ice for Julien.
“One thing I wanted to do, I didn’t know if there would be an icing, which side the faceoff would be on,” explained Julien today. “We had two right centermen and the left, and I thought that was important. But at the same time, even more importantly was the fact that those guys have good speed. They were really, really good at putting pressure on Tampa so that they couldn’t get themselves going and getting in our own end as quick as they would have liked to.
“And I thought they did a great job at even the interchange for the neutral zone, when the one guy forechecked and moved to the other side, they did a great job of interchanging. And we kept the pressure on those guys. So I really liked the job they did at the end. I thought that was really important for us.”
Peverley has played wing and center. He even got into a fight in Game 4. There seems to be no end to what he can do to help the Bruins.
Who knows what he’ll have in store for Boston in Game 6 tomorrow night, as they Bruins go for the clinch and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.