BOSTON (CBS) — Do the Bruins finally have a third line?
Well, if the gradual improvement the line of Carl Soderberg, Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr made from Saturday to Sunday is any indication, Bruins coach Claude Julien might finally have a solution he’s been trying find all season long.
Kelly set up Jagr’s first-period goal Sunday in the Bruins’ 3-0 slump-busting victory against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. The Bruins had been winless in their last four (0-3-1).
Soderberg also earned an assist on the goal for his first NHL point in just his second NHL game. During the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Kelly’s new trio skated for the first time and looked like a line of three guys making their first venture into an NHL game. At one point, Soderberg even took the puck off Jagr’s stick during a rush.
Things were a bit more comfortable for Kelly’s line against the Panthers, with Soderberg switching to center and Kelly making the move out to left wing.
“It’s always nice when you can score on the first shift. It feels good, and that was a great shot by [Jagr],” Kelly said. “I think it was something that we could build on for the rest of the game. And we had some pretty good offensive time, controlled the play, and we weren’t in our own end too much. It was good.”
With this Bruins pop-gun offense that’s barely scored two goals a night over the last five weeks, it’s hard to call any line with the future Hall-of-Fame inductee Jagr on it a “third line.” But on paper at least, Kelly’s the third-line center. When healthy, he’s been trying to click with the lines of Rich Peverley, Daniel Paille and the since-demoted Chris Bourque all season to little avail.
Any sign that Kelly could center a productive line is welcome, even if you have to consider the opponent Sunday – a Panthers team that’s last in the league in goals allowed and has now lost six in a row. You also have to remember that there’s still work to be done before Soderberg, Kelly and Jagr can claim they’re completely on the same page, as they looked a little out of sync on several breakout opportunities.
There are several factors (injuries, rest) to consider entering the final four games of the regular season. But maybe Julien can keep Kelly’s line together and they can blossom into a playoff weapon. Anything that can be done to squeeze some offense out of this bunch will be welcome when the second season begins.
“That’s what you’re going to need going into the playoffs, to be able to have all lines score goals,” Jagr said. “That way other teams can’t just shut down one line, there are other lines that can score goals and I think that’s pretty important to have that going into the playoffs.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.