BOSTON, MA – Much of what has made the Bruins so successful over the last several years is the gritty, tough, never-say-die attitude that symbolizes Boston to the fullest.
Nobody represents those qualities as well as the “Merlot Line." The B’s fourth line trio of wingers Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille, anchored by center Gregory Campbell, may not be the flashiest bunch, but they are the heart and soul of the Black & Gold. They are the ones who do the dirty work; whether it be grinding in the corners, sticking up for a teammate, endlessly crashing the net, or going hard on a forecheck, the energy that the line provides is invaluable.
Campbell, along with Thornton, scored their first goals of the season Friday night in a 4-2 win over New York. The B’s and Islanders had been tied 2-2 heading into the final period – the goals coming from Campbell and Thornton - before they could pull away with goals from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron.
“They’ve always taken pride in doing that for our team in the past," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "And again, tonight they’re the ones that were doing the right things. And both goals that they scored they had somebody in front of the net.
“So things that our others lines weren’t doing for two periods – and you know once we got ourselves going we were a lot better. They set the example I guess for the rest of the team for the third period.”
Besides the scoring, the more traditional aspects of the fourth line’s game were on display later in the period after Paille leveled the Islanders’ Brian Strait along the boards. The Islanders were not pleased and Thornton tried to drop the gloves with Matt Martin, but the referees broke up the confrontation before any punches could be thrown. Thornton was given a 10-minute misconduct, while Paille was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“Everyone is used to seeing that from Thorty,” said Campbell, who was named the game's Second Star. “He has a tough job, and everyone in here respects him tremendously. I think it goes without saying, on this team, to have each others' backs. On Paille, it was a clean hit. I guess it’s part of the game. Team toughness is an important aspect of a hockey team.”
Campbell showed his own toughness just last week, in the B's home opener, when he dropped the gloves with Stu Bickel, just three seconds after Thornton had squared off with Mike Rupp, and not long after the Rangers had gotten on the board. Never shying away from a fight, Campbell - who is still sporting a black eye from the well-fought bout - has gotten into it before with Bickel (the last time coming on March 4, 2012 at Madison Square Garden), who has 10 pounds and four inches on him.
"We’ve all talked about that line. That’s a line that gets us going," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron had said following the home opener. "We’ve seen that in the past years and again tonight and it’s the same thing again. It’s about getting momentum."
Not only can Campbell help bring momentum swings to the Bruins with tough, physical play, but the all-around gritty player has also shown the offensive spark he can contribute.
Campbell’s goal Friday night against the Islanders tied the game at two at 13:42 of the second period, and led to the B's third-period surge. David Krejci walked up the boards, turned, and fired a shot towards the net. The puck hit off the skate of Joe Finley and deflected right to a wide-open Campbell, who deposited it into the net. A tally that was scored by "Soupy" crashing the net like he and the B's do best.
The goal gave Campbell three points on the year, tying him for the team lead.
“I mean, it is what it is. I am just trying to contribute,” the humble Campbell remarked on leading the team in scoring. “I felt like I worked hard in the lockout in the last four months and I feel good right now. As I said, I am just trying to contribute, whether it’s goals or assists, it doesn’t really matter.
“It’s just helping the team win.”
Campbell credits the extended time the line has spent together as the main reason for its continued success and say the role they play is one they cherish.
“We have been playing together for the last two years [before this season], which is a rare thing in hockey,” explained the center. “We get along off the ice, which is good because it transfers on the ice. We accept our role and know our role. Sometimes it is not an easy job, but we are willing to help the team. It’s a role we take pride in.”