Bruins

Is Sean Kuraly in line for a bump up in minutes? Weighing the pros, cons of a top-6 promotion

Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

David Pastrnak’s brief summary of Boston’s 3-2 statement win over the Maple Leafs hit on all of the right notes.

“I think we actually, in the first couple of shifts, were the better team. Had more chances. Then they kind of took over the first period. I said, (Tuukka Rask) was able to hang in there for us.

“And then Sean Kuraly’s line showed up.”

Few would expect a quote to be capped quite like that at the start of the season. But here were are, and Pastrnak isn’t overselling the run that Boston’s fourth line has been on for over a month now.

Saturday was just the latest dominant outing put together by the trio of Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari — who are quickly starting to establish themselves as much more than just a checking, energy line on this B’s roster.

Averaging more 5v5 TOI than both David Krejci and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s lines, the Kuraly line made the most of its added reps (12:00 5v5 TOI), combining for one goal, four assists and 10 hits in the win.

Still knocked off the pivot since suffering a fractured nose on Dec. 9 against the Senators, Kuraly continued to reward the B’s since shifting over to the wing — notching a career high three points (one goal, two assists) and factoring into every one of Boston’s tallies in the victory.

“Pretty much the whole night that line was very good,” Bruce Cassidy said of the Kuraly line. “There was again, a stretch like everyone else in the first, where they got away from what makes them successful. Hard, straight lines. Supporting one another. Not getting stuck at the blue line and having to return to D-zone coverage and having to sort things out.

“Listen, you need secondary scoring to win. We talked about it earlier in the year when we weren't winning. Now we’re getting it and we’re getting the points.”

Like his fellow fourth liners, Kuraly was stuck in a bit of a rut to open the 2018-19 campaign — a slow start compounded by a failed audition for Boston’s third-line center spot that only ran through the early days of October.

In total, Kuraly only managed to light the lamp once and chip in three assists over his first 30 games. But in the following 14 games? Four goals and nine points.

Once a spark plug piece on Boston’s fourth line, Kuraly is starting hear his name called early and often during Cassidy’s rotations from the bench — with the 25-year-old averaging over 16 minutes of ice time in his last seven games. During Tuesday’s win against the Wild, Kuraly led all Bruins forwards in TOI at 18:21.

Given his recent surge in production — as well as the continued search for a viable top-six wing to pair with Krejci — could Kuraly be in the line for a promotion?