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NHL coach on Bruins’ forward depth: “God bless them, but they have two fourth lines”

Apr 5, 2012, 2:33 PM EDT

Claude Julien, David Krejci Getty Images

In his latest installment of previews for playoff-bound teams, ESPN’s Craig Custance tackled the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Bruins hope to become the first repeat champion since Detroit won back-to-back Cups in 1997-98 but, as one NHL coach said, their title defense will be difficult given their lack of depth up front.

“They have two fourth lines,” the coach told Custance. “God bless them, but they have two fourth lines with the injuries they have. There’s not a lot of offensive depth.”

That quote might come as a surprise, given the Bruins sit third overall in the NHL with 254 goals. Boston also has six 20-goal scorers (Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly), so depth doesn’t appear to be a major issue.

But, digging a little deeper…

During their run to the Stanley Cup last spring, the Bruins got a combined 21 goals from Michael Ryder, Nathan Horton and Mark Recchi. Ryder is in Dallas. Recchi is retired and Horton isn’t close to returning from his second concussion in the last year. Adding a guy like Edmonton’s Ryan Smyth at the deadline would have been ideal, but he wasn’t available.

Brian Rolston has been a nice find for the Bruins with 14 points in 20 games since being traded to Boston by the Islanders, but his production has cooled and it’s asking a lot to expect Recchi-like production from Rolston in the postseason.

“There’s a reason [Roltson] was available,” said an NHL source. “Recchi was a really special player. Something special.”

Against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Bruins rolled Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rolston and Dan PailleGregory CampbellShawn Thornton as their third and fourth lines (or, two fourth lines.)

Jordan Caron also draws into that mix but after him, options are limited — especially compared to last postseason, when Boston had the luxury of platooning in the likes of Seguin (who didn’t play the first two rounds) and Thornton (who got parked after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, only to re-emerged for Game 3 of the Cup finals.)

  1. govtminion - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Hard to argue with the assessment… but playoff heroes sometimes come from the unlikeliest places.

  2. odj810 - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    rolston kelly and pouiliot is far from a fourth line. They’ve been on fire.

  3. 8man - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Yes, but it’s better than not having a viable fourth line at all. The boys will have to step it up. Yes, it would be fantastic to have Horton back in the lineup, for several reasons. If not, someone or someones will need to rise up and meet the challenge.

    It’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are no excuses. You give everything you have until there are no more games to play. Period.

    Go Bruins!

  4. travishenryskid - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Rangers, Flyers, penguins, Devils all look better. A healthy Sabres team is scarier too. Zero chance Boston repeats.

    • lolnowhy - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:34 PM

      >scoring depth


    • pepper2011 - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      Zero Chance?

      • cableguymike - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        Easy to forget how many bad goals he let in that series. They were lucky to get by Tampa. H/T to Greg’s dad for that one.

    • odj810 - Apr 6, 2012 at 10:01 AM

      a healthy sabres team. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (golf swing)

  5. drewsylvania - Apr 5, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    He must mean two THIRD lines.

    Was this Cunneyworth, by any chance?

    • ballistictrajectory - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Alors cet aurait été en français.

  6. pepper2011 - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Wow, really?- I think the Bruins players don’t get enough respect for their style of play. Even without Horton; Pouliot, Kelly and Caron are far from fourth liners. Ryder is the easiest example 25 goals in Boston 40 in Dallas(playing on our… 3rd line). They would rather win 3-1 than 5-4. “That fourth line” the one with Kelly and Pouliot; you know the guys who are +32 (kelly) and +19 (pouliot) also have 20 and 15 goals. Oh, and they have Chara and Thomas. Thanks for the bulletin board material

    • odj810 - Apr 5, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      facts are facts my friend. I guess people piss out 20 goal fourth liners? Let the haters hate. I didn’t believe they could win the cup but i’m starting to think they have a real shot at the repeat. As good as any other team in the league.

    • pastabelly - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      You hit the nail on the head. The Bruins scoring numbers are artificially lower because of the style of play. The Bergeron-Seguin-Marchand line led the league in plus/minus. They could have scored more goals. But they play the entire sheet of ice. The fourth line is actually a very good fourth line and they see a lot of ice team, even in the playoffs. That helps the others with the grind of the playoffs. I call BS on the unnamed GM/coach who believes the Bruins lack depth. They won a cup without Savard and Horton out for every win in the Finals. Comparing them to last year’s playoff team, Seguin of 2012 is much better than Recchi of 2011 on the second line.

      • pastabelly - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:16 PM

        edit – oops, it’s an ESPN guy. Those are the guys who really cover the NHL.

  7. sabatimus - Apr 5, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    6 20-goal scorers, with a couple almost at 30, and the B’s have no depth? Gimme a freaking break.

  8. mcmurphy22 - Apr 5, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Has he watched any games over the last month? Injuries have created lack of forward depth…so just Horty, Pevs is back and looks good. Hes completely ignoring how much seguin matured from last year, Carron is more like last years seguin than Tyler is. Just….no.

  9. bergeronforselke - Apr 5, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    Well, everyone has an opinion I guess

  10. davebabychreturns - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    By my math the Bruins scored 133 of their 254 goals before the Canucks/Bruins game – that’s about 3.24 goals per game.

    Since then they’ve produced 141 goals putting them at a rate of 2.81 per game. If you look only at teams that have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention the Bruins have put up 77 goals for 2.75 per game.

    Lots of teams should be afraid of the B’s and they have enough skill in their lineup to burn you, but there’s no question that right now their goal totals are padded by the ridiculous run they went on earlier, along with outings against teams like the Leafs and the Islanders.

    • cableguymike - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:49 PM

      Oops. Didn’t see this before I posted. This is EXACTLY what I was looking for. Nicely work.

  11. cableguymike - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    I’d be curious to know what the B’s players numbers are on the back half of the season when they weren’t consistently blowing out weaker teams like Toronto every other game.

  12. bagjr387 - Apr 5, 2012 at 5:51 PM

    as a sabres fan i think that half the team could retire and they would still be a good defensive team. i would assume at some point that Rask would be #1 and that would make cap room to sign some other guys..I like Zach Hamill and tyler seguin are. they are both very good players

  13. dolanster - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    #2 in goals scored, #1 in differential, top 5 individual players in +/-, 6 guys with 20 goals. Offense is not the Bruins’ problem. Maybe other teams should try the two fourth line approach.

  14. habsman - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Boston won the (Campbell) Cup last year because of one man, Tim Thomas. There is no way he can duplicate that “lights out” performance of last year. That was the best playoff goaltending in the past 10 years. You can debate where the goals are going to come from, but if Thomas doesn’t play up to last years standards, (or gets hurt) the B’s might be one and done.

    • cableguymike - Apr 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      If I’m the opponent I threaten him with big government and stealing his property. That should get him off his game.

    • groess - Apr 6, 2012 at 8:01 AM

      Kinda like the last two average Hab’s Cup teams that Patrick Roy won for you?

      • habsman - Apr 6, 2012 at 9:03 AM

        Those teams were very much above average with a couple of future hall of famers. But they wouldn’t have won without Roy. So yeah, you’re right to a certain extent.

        BTW, what current Bruin would you expect to be enshrined down the road?

    • homelanddefense - Apr 6, 2012 at 10:23 AM

      Habsman, one of the first logical Bruins comments you made in a long time but then you ruin it with the ridiculous Campbell Cup comment. But you are correct, without a similar performance by Thomas they wont win.

      As for future HOF I wouldnt be surrpised if Chara gets in. If Thomas can stick around the league for 3 or 4 more sold years he would have a shot, but I doubt it.

      • habsman - Apr 6, 2012 at 10:43 AM

        Couldn’t resist a little jab. Please don’t take it too seriously.

        Chara might be a long shot. Thomas I believe is too late to the show, but you never know.

      • homelanddefense - Apr 6, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        Yeah like I said, you are probably right about Thomas. Still think Chara gets in though.

  15. demons87 - Apr 6, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    Based on the fact that as of tonight, 22 of the 30 teams have three 20 goal scorers or less. The Bruins have six, Wouldn’t a better description be that the Bruins have 2 1st lines, a 2nd line, and a 4th line. Kelley (20 goals), and Pouliot (16) probably have more goals the half the teams 2nd lines. They also have Peverly who has only played 56 games sitting at 11 goals and a +22.

    By the way, “4th line” center is currently 3rd in the league in +/- (+33)

  16. hockeyflow33 - Apr 6, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    and that’s why no one turns to ESPN for hockey coverage

  17. homelanddefense - Apr 6, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    This really is a misguided article. Stupid comment by a coach that probably has an axe to grind with Boston, even worse that PHT is running it.

    The 3rd line is Pouliott, Kelly and Rolston. Kelly has 20 goals, Pouliott has 16, and Rolston has 14 points in 20 games with Boston. If Horton comes back (big if) Perverley will drop to the 3rd line, and he has 41 points and is +22 in only 56 games. Id say that line is on par with other 3rd lines on contenders, it not better.

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