BOSTON, MA – The Bruins are a team that rewards the overall team effort rather than the individual effort. That’s why last Saturday, March 1, when a goal that belonged to Gregory Campbell was awarded to linemate Shawn Thornton, Campbell was reluctant to even discuss it, since the team had just suffered a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
It was only fitting, then, that the next night Campbell scored two, en route to a 6-3 win over the Rangers.
The next day, he was officially credited with the deflection goal previously awarded to Thornton.
And on Thursday night, facing Washington for the second time in five days, Campbell struck again.
But in true Bruins' form, after the game, the centerman wasn’t too interested in talking about his recent hot streak, which has featured four goals in four games.
He was, however, willing to talk about the fact that the B’s have strung together three consecutive wins to build towards more consistency in their post-Olympic Break stretch that originally saw them lose two straight out of the gate and allowed nine goals against.
“I’m just trying to get our line going here,” Campbell said after Thursday’s 3-0 shutout of the Capitals at TD Garden. “I feel like we’ve been playing a lot better. We’re working hard, we’re working smart and trying to read off of each other and get back to playing with one another.”
“And you know, our lines are playing really well and have been contributing on a nightly basis, and everybody knows that to have four lines cruising into the playoffs is a good recipe.”
Campbell's "Merlot Line" with Thornton and Daniel Paille greatly adds to that recipe.
With the playoffs just over a month away, the B’s find themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference, just one point behind Pittsburgh.
They know that in order to replicate last year’s success, they’re going to have to tighten up defensively, and Thursday’s win – during which the Bruins avoided committing a single penalty and thereby prevented Washington’s red-hot power play from getting a single opportunity – was certainly a step in the right direction.
“That’s a pretty talented offensive team,” Campbell said. “We held them to 13, 14 shots, and not only that, but we were pretty responsible defensively. We were turning pucks over with hard work coming back, and their D like to join. So we were really conscious of having really good back-pressure.”
“Our offensive output has been really good lately, but it’s our defensive game that we’re trying to clean up. I mean, it’s a strength of ours, that’s why we win most games so that was a good showing.”
All four of the Bruins' lines are in sync right now, particularly Campbell’s Merlot line, which factored heavily into two of the B’s last three wins.
At New York on Sunday night, Campbell struck twice in the third period, with a shorthanded strike at nine minutes and then at even-strength with about six and a half minutes left.
Though Campbell is quick to deflect praise to his teammates – “It was a great play by Loui [Eriksson], it was a good change by Kells [Chris Kelly], for him to allow me to kind of get lost there,” he said of his shorthanded goal on Sunday -- Head Coach Claude Julien has taken notice of the strong play of his fourth line.
“Obviously, they have been much better,” Julien said after the 6-3 win over New York. “Because, number one, I think their line at one point was doing a lot of duplication. They’d end up with two guys as the first forechecker and they were a little bit all over the place and they didn’t get the results they wanted, and then spent a lot more time in our D zone than they should.”
“They got themselves back in sync. Gregory has kind of turned the page there, and it’s important for him to have a good finish. So it was important to start from scratch, and that line sort of looked at some video and talked about how they needed to play, and they have been a really good line for us."
"They’ve scored goals - not by fluke - but more by the way they’ve worked together and how hard they’ve worked and how hard they’ve been working at putting pucks at the net.”
It's imperative for all four lines to be firing on all cylinders during this final stretch, with 17 games in the month of March and a total of eight back-to-backs before the season’s end. While the first two games following the Olympic hiatus were a bit rocky, the B’s have settled into a groove – offensively and defensively – from the first line through the fourth.
And with that heightened compete level comes a reward for Campbell’s Merlot line: more time on the ice.
“The harder we work, we tend to get rewarded more with ice time, and the more responsible we are, the more confidence [Claude] has in us as a line,” Campbell said on Thursday. “He has no problem playing us if we’re playing well, and he can trust us. So we’re trying to gain that trust from the coaching staff, and we’ve done it time and time again."
"I think that we’re getting back to that point where we can be out there and contribute.”