Yesterday, Loui Eriksson was cleared for contact, which is phenomenal. Happy he's back. But, with him back and Shawn Thornton coming off suspension (and hopefully the return of Chris Kelly soon as well), the Bruins forward lineup is going to look different coming up. So, we took a poll of the Chowder Staff and here's what we all thought. Here are the unanimous decisions:
1st line: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Jarome Iginla
Don't mess with a working formula. Expect this line to stay together. What, are you going to tell Lucic, BoneKrejcer, or Iginla that they can't keep playing together? Good luck, tiger.
2nd line: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Everyone among staff who responded went with this setup. Reilly Smith is shooting way above his head right now, but whatever. As Kristian Limas wrote:
Smith has benefitted mightily on Bergeron's wing, and despite the high sh% his willingness to shoot more than Loui might make for a better line. That's not saying Loui doesn't belong there bit I like the idea of him feasting off weaker competition for a bit. Worse comes to worse they switch back and Smith takes advantage of the weak competition like he has all season.
3rd line: Loui Eriksson - Ryan Spooner - Carl Soderberg
Everyone also answered this, though somebody (not naming names) had a 4-person 3rd line, adding Kelly to this group. Representing the hive mind, prospects expert Sean Hathaway weighs in:
Putting Eriksson and Spooner on the third line with Soderberg offers the Bruins a third line more than capable of putting up points. When the Bruins won in '11, they did so with a strong third line of Peverley-Kelly-Ryder. The third line's been a black hole since then. Spooner and Eriksson are also responsible defensively enough to satisfy the needs of Claude Julien.
4th line: Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - ?
This is where the questions really start to get going. Paille is a lock there - he's been playing well recently and has filled in up a line or two in the past and done well. He's a good player, even if he has trouble scoring on breakaways. Still like that he's getting those breakaways, though. Kelly gets demoted to the 4th line when he returns, and the 12th man is a toss-up between Matt Fraser (2 votes), Gregory Campbell (2 votes), and Justin Florek. Here's Gus Booth about the 4th line:
Greg Campbell stinks. Chris Kelly, at least, has tangible defensive talent, as a useful PK and FO guy, despite his offensive limitations. He is miscast as offensive center, and third line has become an offensive line. Therefore, Kelly gets the nod for the fourth line, aimed at taking some tough shifts away from Bergeron or Krejci, along with Paille, who can also kill penalties. Fraser is my other wing, but that's not set in stone -- the Bruins should pick whoever they feel is the best remaining two-way wing on the Providence shuttle, and use the Kelly fourth line to take on the occasional tough assignment.
These guys didn't get any votes to get playing time in the top 12 forwards: Shawn Thornton, Jordan Caron, Nick Johnson, Craig Cunningham.
What do you think? Fire Claude and hire Chowder? Or are we all insane?