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Third line has been key to Bruins' success

by Ben Raby /

WASHINGTON -- The bad news for the Boston Bruins is that of their League-high six 20-goal scorers during the regular-season, only Chris Kelly has found the back of the net through three games of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Washington Capitals.

The good news for Boston is that despite Tyler Seguin (29 goals), Brad Marchand (28), Milan Lucic (26), David Krejci (23) and Patrice Bergeron (22) having combined for just one assist, the Bruins own a 2-1 series lead entering Game 4 Thursday at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"I think everybody understands that your best lines have to play against their best defensive players and vice versa, especially when you don't get the last change," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

Julien then pointed to the success of Boston's third line -- Kelly, Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder -- during their Stanley Cup run last spring.

"They [the opposition] were focusing on our first two lines -- they were doing the damage -- and when they focused on them the other lines stepped up, and that's what you need," Julien said. "You need depth. You need to make sure scoring goes around, and no matter who scores in the series, we've still scored one more goal than them."

Three games into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Bruins again are benefiting from the offensive contributions of their third line, which currently consists of Kelly, Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston.

Kelly currently has a three-game point-scoring streak and the trio has combined for three goals and eight points through three games.


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"We're playing simple," Rolston said of Boston's third line. "In playoff hockey there's no room for cute plays. Guys are too sharp, guys are ready, teams are playing defensively strong all the time, so it's basically about playing a simple game. There's no rocket science behind it."

Despite the success of Boston's third line, Julien said he's still looking for more production out of his top-six forwards. In an effort to shake things up, Julien flipped first- and second-line centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron before Game 3, and he is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 4.

"I don't think it changes much," said Krejci, who now is centering Boston's second line, flanked by Marchand and Seguin. "I think both lines feel that we can contribute a little bit more than we have so far, so we have to just go out there and each guy do his best and not think too much about it. We're up in the series, everything is fine, so we just have to go out there and do our best every shift."

With Krejci on the second line, Bergeron moves onto the top line, between Lucic and Rich Peverley.

"It doesn't matter who you play with on a team like this right now," Bergeron said. "I'm comfortable with whoever it is, and right now it's about creating a strong forecheck. Obviously [Lucic] is a big a body, he gets in there, he’s very good at creating turnovers and getting the puck back and creating some offense out of it. So it's about doing that and being open because they're great passers, as well."

Seguin has been held without a point against the Capitals despite being tied with Alex Ovechkin with a series-high 10 shots on goal. Dating to March 22, Boston's regular-season scoring leader has just three goals and three assists in his last 13 games.

"He's a 20-year-old that doesn't have the experience of the other guys that we're talking about playing well," Julien said. "He's also playing against some of the best defensive players, and he needs to gain that experience. He needs to fight through it, and I thought last game he competed a lot harder in the areas we talked about. So I'm not disappointed in him. There are other guys on our team that are good goal scorers that don't have the points. I don't see any reason to look at him more than anybody else."

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