By: Dan Cellucci | Follow Me @Cellucci_Dan14
When critics gauge the offensive talent of a team, they tend to look at the top line or even the top-six forwards. Those that score 20-plus goals are the ones that draw the big bucks and are highlighted on the pre-game shows. For the Boston Bruins, the key to contending for Lord Stanley’s Cup is not in the top three, top six, or even in the top three lines. The key for the Boston Bruins is the fourth line. The last thought, the veteran minimums, the entry-level guys. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a trip back to 2011 and examine the epic fourth line of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Combining for a total cap hit of $2.9 million, the fourth line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Cambell, and Daniel Paille was nicknamed the “Merlot Line” in honor of their Merlot-colored practice jerseys. While a fourth line’s success is not calculated by their total goals or points, the “Merlot Line” finished the 2010-2011 regular season with 29 goals, 62 total points, a plus-22 rating, and 284 total hits.
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One could argue that their style of play was not that of a typical fourth line. They played a physical and aggressive game but also killed penalties, blocked shots, and most importantly, they swung the momentum of any given game in the direction the Bruins needed it to go. Without this fourth-line combination, it is with absolute certainty that the Bruins do not win the Stanley Cup.
For those that are hoping for a carbon copy going into the 2022 playoffs, I am sorry. The chances of this league being graced with the presence of another “Merlot Line” are slim to none. Throughout the 2021-2022 season, the fourth line of the Bruins has had a variety of combinations. The most common are Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, and Curtis Lazar. All three of these players have one standout characteristic that can play a crucial role in the Bruins path to the Cup.
Tomas Nosek has the stick checking and the two-way ability to be a poor man’s, Patrice Bergeron. Nick Foligno is a former captain in the National Hockey League and brings leadership and determination that rubs off on younger players. The “do anything to win” mentality is a must for a player with two goals and 13 points in 62 regular-season games.
Last but not least, Curtis Lazar plays the role that most similarly reflects that of the “Merlot Line.” His shot-blocking, penalty killing, and momentum-swinging play gives the Bruins a boost when the top forward lines are on the bench. Oh, and don’t forget that the former first-round draft pick is having the best offensive season of his career with eight goals and 16 points through 68 games.