It’s no secret that the Bruins’ third line is downright awful, and visibly so. The numbers paint an even grimmer picture of the massive, three-man chink in the team’s armor. Rich Peverley, Chris Bourque, and Chris Kelly occupy the bottom three spots in plus/minus (-6, -4, -4, respectively). They combine for 15 points, compared to Seguin-Bergeron-Marchand’s 45 and Lucic-Krejci-Horton’s 37. The Merlot Line has racked up 12. But as we often forget here in Boston, Thornton-Paille-Campbell is, in fact, a fourth line.
While Kelly, a defensive forward, is a crucial part of the team’s suffocating penalty kill — and his one goal this year did come on the power play — he registers a paltry 3.8% shooting percentage. Peverley, fresh off a fat contract extension, will deliver gems like the one we saw against Tampa Bay last weekend.
But even beauties like these are adrift in a sea of errant shots ringing off the high glass.
For a while there, I stood behind Chris Bourque. I thought much of the criticism slung his way was undeserved, and fans’ expectations were far too high given his pedigree and stellar AHL career. But Bourque is just that — an AHL forward, and nothing more. While I still refuse to cry nepotism, I was scratching my head in last Thursday’s game against Ottawa. Two stupid penalties. Sloppy puckhandling. Half-assed passes. Careless turnovers. It makes one wonder what Ryan Spooner — or even Jay Pandolfo, for that matter — could do in his place.
Even worse, the third line isn’t just a problem; it’s an expensive one. The line’s cost per point ratios (CPP) aren’t pretty. It costs $137,500 to coax a point out of Bourque. A point from Pevs will set you back $541,667. As for Kelly, each point costs the B’s $600,000. Yes, I understand Kelly is a presence on special teams. But compare the line’s CPPs to the red-hot Marchand ($147,059). Sure, he may be outplaying his contract. But then Peverley is certainly underplaying his.
The third line doesn’t need grit; Kelly supplies an ample amount. It needs offensive power, and cheap, or at least cheaper than what it has now. Keep in mind, the Bruins will be paying out the remainder of Peverley’s $9,750,000 contract over the next two years. This may just make Pevs the leading candidate for the Bruins’ amnesty buyout.