The Bruins’ fourth line has showed its grit in recent games. But at this point in the season, with the trade deadline gone and the Tampa Bay Lightning gaining speed, the Bs’ bottom forwards need to produce AT LEAST occasionally.
The Bruins were active to find a winger for either David Krejci or Charlie Coyle with the addition of Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie in the past few days. We’ll see soon how the two will work into the lineup and the effect it will have with moving wingers around. But let’s say the fourth line stays the same through all of this. That line will need to bring both the physicality needed to wear teams down during this final stretch along with creating offense and more importantly, putting bounces in which they’ve struggled with.
Chris Wagner has had strong nights, both on and off the puck. He’s played the body and knocked offense out of the slot. But Wagner was snake-bitten since Jan. 7 up until Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s tallied two points in his last 20 games, going 18 games between the first and last point without so much as an assist. That’s the equivalent of doing nothing for about 22% of the regular season. The last time he was on a two-game point streak was the beginning of December.
In Joakim Nordstrom’s past 15 games, he’s registered 3 points on 1 goal and two assists. With Sean Kuraly and Nordstrom, the three have combined for 13 goals this season. Kuraly, who’s now consistently back on the fourth line, is the most productive of the three.
The drop off in numbers from Patrice Bergeron’s line is staggering. It’s not a fair comparison, but our first line has just shy of 100 goals thus far. I’d be happier if our “bottom” line’s numbers were in the 10’s-20’s total range at this point in the season. Maybe a better comparison is to Charlie Coyle’s line, which has 31 goals - pre-Danton Heinen trade.
Kuraly’s line’s plus/minus is average. Games with a -1 are what worry me the most. At 0, you’re not doing anything either good or bad to be responsible for a goal scored or being scored on. Particularly Nordstrom has a lot of -1 games recently.
My point with all this is the Bruins are a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. When they won in 2011, the dubbed “Merlot” 4th line, consisting of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton, was instrumental in the playoffs and throughout the push leading up to it. They brought that physical aspect that everyone loved...but also did their best to generate scoring. That line in the 2010-11 regular season had 29 goals.
I think Anton Blidh getting more playing time on this line could spark a little fire under Nordstrom and Wagner looking to stay relevant for playoffs. Blidh has been in the lineup the last two games instead of Nordstrom so who knows going forward if he’ll see more playing time than Nordstrom.
The fourth line just needs to get more pucks to the net. In the game against the New York Rangers on Jan. 16, no one on the line got a shot on net. It’s pretty easy to say, you’re not going to boost scoring for your line if you don’t get some shots off during the game. There have been games that Wagner or Kuraly have 3-7 shots...and it shows. Last game Wagner had 4 shots and one was a goal. So pretty simple- good things happen when you shoot...but they need to keep shooting.
What are your thoughts? How much scoring do you think they should be producing by now or am I crazy to want more from them? Thoughts on shaking up this line? Who do you think compliments each other’s playing styles to keep together or move around?