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Bruins' blue line has become great source of offense

by Matt Kalman /

BOSTON -- It started the way most storms do, with a couple faint drops that hint at an upcoming downpour.

Defenseman Wade Redden scored the Boston Bruins' first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs late in the first period of Game 1 of the club's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Johnny Boychuk
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 6
SOG: 46 | +/-: 3
By the time the Bruins had won that game, Johnny Boychuk had also scored. Then the drops just kept on coming. Boychuk scored again in Game 2, Adam McQuaid scored in Game 3. The Bruins won that series in seven games, then the eye of the storm hit during the second round against the New York Rangers.

Torey Krug, just up from Providence of the American Hockey League, scored four goals as the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in five games. The deluge kept coming during the Eastern Conference Final, capped by McQuaid scoring the only goal in the Bruins' sweep-clinching win.

As they get ready to face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, which starts Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) at United Center, the Bruins hope the offense from their defensemen continues to rain on the Windy City.

Through 16 playoff games, Bruins defensemen have accounted for 15 of the team's 50 goals (30 percent). They've registered 35 of the team's 138 points (25.4 percent). In the regular season, the Bruins' blueliners scored 23 goals, 18 percent of the Bruins' 127.

"Again, I think everyone preaches that they want their D to get up when they can," McQuaid said after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden on Monday. "I'm not sure, I don't know if we've necessarily changed anything as much as at times guys are doing a good job of working it back to the point and getting to the net for rebounds and opportunities and stuff.

"It's important for us when we get it back there to try to make a good play. The shot's not always there, but when you can, you try to get your shot through because you never know what can happen when you get a shot through on net. And you never know which shot, in the playoffs, could make a difference."

McQuaid scored one goal in the regular season and has two in the playoffs. Boychuk's five postseason goals, the most by any Boston blueliner, are five times as many as his total from the regular season. Neither Krug nor Matt Bartkowski (one playoff goal) had scored an NHL goal before the playoffs started.

While the Bruins' defensemen are making a concerted effort to contribute, they might also have luck on their side.

"I don't know. … I think that guys try to get involved and obviously find the opportunities to make the smart offensive chances happen. Obviously Torey coming in and getting his goals gives a big shot of offense in that Rangers series," defenseman Andrew Ference said. "Sometimes they go in. Sometimes they don't. I think it's as simple as that sometimes."

The Bruins have still gotten plenty of scoring from their forwards. Center David Krejci leads all playoff scorers with nine goals and 21 points. Nathan Horton has 17 points (seven goals), and Brad Marchand has emerged from a first-round slump to pour in 13 points, including four goals.

"It's great," Marchand said about the offensive support from the defensemen. "It really takes a lot of pressure off the forwards. I mean, having to go out there and score goals every night, it's tough sometimes. And I mean when the Ds step up the way they have in the playoffs so far, it's great for us. It adds another element to our game and it opens up things for us down low because guys have to respect our defensemen. It creates more room out there."

In the regular season, when the Bruins ranked 13th at 2.65 goals per game, they could've used some help from their defensemen. It took a while, but now the team is drenched in offense from the blue line.

"I think we'd rather it be this time of year as opposed to not," McQuaid said.

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