WILMINGTON — When the Bruins eliminated the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last Saturday night, general manager Peter Chiarelli met with the media the next day to discuss the series.
The highlights were numerous. There was the emergence of cult hero Torey Krug, who scored four goals in five games against Henrik Lundqvist; the yeoman’s effort submitted by a trio of young defensemen — Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton, who filled in for injured veterans Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, and Wade Redden; and the contributions of Boston’s fourth line, centered by Gregory Campbell, who scored the last two goals of the series clincher.
Asked what made the most positive impression upon him, Chiarelli singled out one aspect of his club’s play.
“I liked the consistent surges in this series,’’ said Chiarelli, noting how all four lines maintained constant puck pressure on Lundqvist in Game 5, particularly in the second period when the Bruins peppered him with 15 shots and tied the game on Krug’s power-play tally at 3:48 and went ahead on Campbell’s goal at 13:41.
“I really liked the push, the sustained push,’’ Chiarelli said. “I said it last time, you can’t have it for the full 60 minutes, but when we had to, we had real good collective pushes by the lines.’’
To a man, the Bruins realize they will need more of the same when they travel to Pittsburgh to face the top-seeded Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night.
“The surges, the ability to maintain it line to line, I saw it all series,’’ Chiarelli said. “So I would anticipate that it will be there for the next series.’’
The Penguins roll four explosive lines, which will require the Bruins to respond in kind.
“We want to make sure that every line that goes out there does their job,’’ said Brad Marchand, a member of the second line with Jaromir Jagr and Patrice Bergeron. The trio have combined for 20 points, including five goals, in the playoffs. “Every time you step on the ice, your job is to be better than the line you’re up against.’’
It is with that sense of purpose that each line rolls over the boards. When its shift is complete, the baton is handed off to the next trio of skaters in a seamless transition not unlike that of a relay team.
“Perfect way to put it,’’ said Chris Kelly, who centers Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the third line, which has 2-3—5 totals in the postseason. “The relay is always the most exciting thing, I think, at the Olympics. You need four guys running at their best in order to win.
“We kind of needed that [against the Rangers]. We needed four lines, playing well, in order to have success. I think our consistency level was much better in the Rangers series compared to the Toronto series.’’
Kelly acknowledged that the top line of Davd Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton was responsible for carrying the play against the Maple Leafs.
“Other guys scored big goals,’’ Kelly said. “But for the most part, a lot of us jumped on that line’s back, where in the Rangers series I thought all four lines played well.
“Obviously, our line, it would be nice to contribute a little bit more, but I thought we did a great job of doing our role in that relay race and sustaining pressure and sustaining momentum throughout the course of the game.’’
Said Seguin, “We want to be better. We’re a four-line team. You see the way our fourth line’s been playing. We want to step up and contribute as much as we can. I don’t think we’ve had great results so far. But we’re working hard and we’re building chemistry.’’
In the playoffs, it has become a point of pride for each line to maintain that level of energy on the ice.
“You don’t want to be the individual or be the line that’s dragging the team down,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “That’s what you hear all the time about accountability. When you’ve got 20 guys dressed, everybody at this stage of the season can’t afford to be a weak link. It’s about pride.
“When we get into those situations like we did in the third period [of Game 5 against the Rangers], I thought it was important to play all four lines because all four were doing a good job,’’ Julien said. “To maintain that energy and that attack and forecheck that we wanted to get, I thought it was important not to shorten the bench.
“There’s going to be games where you may not have that choice. As long as you have that choice, and as long as your players are going, you utilize them.’’
Boston’s energetic fourth line, which earned some notoriety when it was described by NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire as “a bad rash — they just won’t go away,’’ proved to be a nuisance indeed for the Rangers, who were unable to match up.
It was that depth that proved to be a difference in the semifinals and could prove pivotal against Pittsburgh.
“We’re more successful, when it’s line after line and wave after wave,’’ said Shawn Thornton, who skates with Campbell and Daniel Paille on the Poison Ivy Line. “Part of our identity on our line is to try and create that. So if we’re following up somebody with a good shift, we definitely want to continue that trend.
“It’s not always easy. It’s going to be a new series and they’re a pretty good team over there. They get that puck moving the other way real quick. They’ve got some mobile defensemen and hard defensemen to play against.
“It’ll be a more difficult series and we’ll have to bring our best.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.