Bruins’ fourth line playing mighty fine

Published On May 23, 2013 | By Alice Cook

Skating on the fourth line in hockey is usually no man’s land. Coaches will stick in a rag-tag ensemble and hope for the best.

That’s not the way it is for the Bruins, though, and it’s certainly not true of the fourth line in these 2013 playoffs.

The fourth line combo of Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton are the Bruin’s rendition of the Three Musketeers — sword yielding swashbucklers who are all for one and one for all. Fourth lines many times are reserved for the underachievers and enforcers.  In this series Campbell, Paille and Thornton have overachieved to the status of game changers.

If it weren’t for the Bruins’ talented roster, players like Campbell and Paille would be solid third line players on teams with less depth.

Keeping with the “all for one and one for all” attitude, each of these fourth liners have not only accepted their fourth line status, they have embraced it.  They play hard, create chances, and bring energy to the ice every shift.

Oh yeah, they even score now and then too.

In Game 3 against the Rangers, this fourth line lunch-pail gang factored into both Bruins goals in the team’s 2-1 win.

The forte of this line is the time they spend in the offensive zone, a direct result of their relentless forechecking. They don’t spit up the puck either, which can lead to some bad stuff at the other end of the ice.

“When you look at the forecheck, how they rotate through it, is pretty amazing,” said coach Claude Julien. “That’s why they spend a lot more time in the offensive zone than a lot of lines will at different times in the game.”

The Bruins fourth liners are typically on the ice to wear the other guys down. When they chip in offensively, it’s becomes a bonus. The special synergy they bring to the table every night would not have been possible without a certain amount of pride swallowing.

“We don’t take a lot of stake in what we are labeled,” Campbell said. “We just want to help the team in any way we can out there.  Just filling the role the coaching staff wants us to fill. We take pride in our job. We want to be the best we can.”

While it’s true that Paille and Campbell would have loftier status on many other teams, Thornton knows his case is different. He is a fourth line brawler, and his willingness to drop the gloves has made him a fan favorite. When fighting becomes a non-factor in the playoffs, Thornton’s other attributes come to light.

“He’s not a high end skill player,” Julien said.  “But he still has enough so you can use him and play him.”  That’s the thing as a coach I have always liked about our enforcer.  He is one of those guys who can settle things down if they get out of hand, but he can play.”

Even without the fisticuff factor, Thornton can intimidate. Did anyone notice what happened when the Ranger’s Derek Dorsett tried to play the instigator with Brad Marchand on a faceoff in Game 3?  Marchand refused to retaliate. Then Julien put Thornton on the ice, and Thornton got right into Dorsett’s face. Dorsett skated away; he wanted no part of Shawn Thornton.

And to think it was Dorsett who called Marchand a pansy.

All for one and one for all, the Bruin’s fourth line is getting it done.

Goal scorers and goaltenders get all the props, but I say let’s hear it for the grinders: Paille, Campbell, and Thornton.

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About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.