For much of this season, the debate has raged as to whether the line centered by David Krejci or the one with Patrice Bergeron in the middle was the Bruins’ No. 1 line.
Well, over the last 10 days a third candidate has emerged. The line of Chris Kelly centering Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot is on fire, and that trio of forwards combined for six points in Boston’s 3-2 win Sunday night in Anaheim.
Pouliot scored his 13th goal of the season 5:59 into the second period on a feed by Chris Kelly. Rolston then cashed in on another Kelly feed at 13:06 of the third after Pouliot started a breakout while getting leveled by a Bobby Ryan hit. The Rolston goal proved to be the game-winner.
The numbers since this trio was assembled March 15 at Florida are astonishing. In the six games since then, Rolston has 3-8-11 totals and is on a six-game point streak. Kelly has 3-4-7 totals and is on a five-game point streak. Pouliot has put 3-5-8 totals.
If it wasn’t for the so-called “third line” the Bruins might be battling for one of those bottom Eastern Conference playoff berths rather than now being a little more comfortable perched atop the Northeast Division (with a five-point lead on Ottawa and a game in hand).
And to think, even Peter Chiarelli mentioned that Rolston was being brought in to provide depth. We never heard about him being an offensive volcano ready to erupt. Such much be the way it goes when you’re 39 and you’re emancipated from the bowels of Long Island and put into a championship-caliber lineup.
Meanwhile, Pouliot is starting to thrive the way the Bruins hoped when they signed him last summer. He’s never going to live up to being a No. 4 overall draft pick, but he’s learned to use his speed, take the body and – most importantly with the Bruins – take care of his own end first before thinking offense.
And what can you say about Kelly that hasn’t already been said? This is a guy whose strengths aren’t supposed to show up on the score sheet. Well he now has 19 goals, 18 assists and a plus-31 rating. That doesn’t come close to summing up Kelly, though, because he provides the Bruins with so much more in so many different areas. The only hope now is that he’s not pricing himself out of the Bruins’ price range next summer when he’s an unrestricted free agent. That’s in the far-off future, however, and for now Kelly’s salary drive is the Bruins’ gain.
If the Bruins’ other would-be top-two lines can thrust Kelly’s line back into its place, Boston could be catching offensive fire at just the right time of the season.
▪You can’t say enough about Marty Turco, who redeemed himself after the disaster that was his first Bruins start in Tampa a couple weeks ago. Turco stopped 25 of 27 shots and made several difficult saves. The win was his first since Feb. 1, 2011 when he was with Chicago against Columbus. For more on Turco and his victory’s effect on Tim Thomas, read my CBS Boston column.
▪Rich Peverley made his long-awaited return to the lineup after 19 games out with a knee sprain. He skated a regular shift with Bergeron and Brad Marchand and also worked on both special teams. He finished with two shots on net in 16:44 of ice time. His hands might’ve been a little rusty, but his wheels and instincts looked fine.
▪Defenseman Andrew Ference was felled by a Bobby Ryan shot early in the third period. He left the game and wasn’t putting weight on his left leg. But he returned and finished with 18:54 of ice time.
▪With his goal, Zdeno Chara has now scored in three of the Bruins’ last four games.
▪Boston’s penalty kill was 7-for-7 over its last three games and killed off Anaheim’s first chance before Teemu Selanne took over fourth place on the all-time power-play goal list with a score at 9:11 of the second period that cut the Bruins’ lead to 2-1.