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Insider

For Bruins, third line's the charm

6/19/2013

BOSTON -- When Jonathan Toews won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010, it wasn't an easy vote. He had been a force during much of the Blackhawks' title run, but his goal scoring tailed off in the Stanley Cup finals, and Chris Pronger was so good for the Flyers that he was in consideration, too.

If there were a way to give the award to an entire line, it might have been a no-brainer. The trio of Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg shifted every series in Chicago's favor. They terrorized Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau during the Western Conference finals and always seemed to change the course of games with a big hit, goal or defensively dominant performance.

Talking about that line brought a smile to Bolland's face on Tuesday.

"We clicked. We had a little bit of everything. Steeger had that skill and that shot and he was always just around the net," Bolland said. "Me and Laddy would battle down low, we were always in the corners getting those pucks. Those kinds of lines always come around. Those are the lines that help you win."

This year, the Blackhawks are seeing it on the other side of the ice. Ever since Bruins coach Claude Julien put the trio of Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille together in Game 2, the series has shifted in Boston's favor.

"They're well-built. They've done a good job there," an Eastern Conference scout said. "[Julien] has done a tremendous job putting guys in roles where they can succeed."

Here are five reasons why that Bruins line has been so successful.


1. They spend significant time in the offensive zone

This isn't your traditional third line that is focused on shutting down opposing forwards. These three use speed and a forecheck to force the Blackhawks to play defense, which is more physically and mentally taxing than going on the attack.

"You end up playing in your own zone a lot more than you wanted. In our series that was a huge thing," said an Eastern Conference defenseman who competed against the Bruins this spring. "When they're getting that forecheck going, affecting their transition game ... it's so much harder playing defense than playing offense. It really wears on you. It takes the wind out of your sails. By the end of the second period, your bench is dead when they get that forecheck and zone time."

And they're capable of getting that zone time against anyone. "You can play them against any line and they're never going to hurt you," the scout said. "You talk about a third line, it's not only shutting down teams, it's puck possession. The more puck possession you have, the better."


2. Chris Kelly's attention to detail and defense

Kelly is a coach's dream this time of year. He wins faceoffs (55.6 percent this postseason), is responsible defensively and is willing to go into every area of the ice to battle for a puck. "I think Kells brings some skill, too, especially with the way we've been playing so far," Paille said. "With him, he's also a great defensive center man for us and when you have me and [Seguin] going forward, up the ice, it's nice to have a center man like that."

When people talk about Kelly, they say he does the little things that win games. What does that mean exactly?

"For example, [his] play down low where he has positioning -- he doesn't give opponents a lot of time and space, where people might think he might not skate there, he's actually in perfect position," Bruins forward Kaspars Daugavins said. "[He] gets the puck deep. Blocks your shot. Gets his stick in the passing lane. Stuff like that. He's perfect with stuff like that."

Said the scout: "It's his hockey sense. He's very reliable. He rarely gets caught out of position and has a defensive mind first. He's not going to kill anybody but he finishes his check. When you talk about hard to play against, it's just space. He doesn't give any space. His gaps are very good."