The arrival of Taylor Hall and the promise that comes with a potential solution to a top-six vacancy that has thwarted some of the Bruins' most promising Cup runs in recent years deservedly has drawn most of the headlines when it comes to Boston's trade-deadline pickups. But the former Hart Trophy winner was not the lone piece that Boston managed to snag from Buffalo in what looks more and more like a fleecing of a downtrodden Sabres organization.
They may not make nearly as many highlight reels as the likes of Hall, Bergeron, Pastrnak and other Boston big guns up front, but in Bruce Cassidy's system, an effective fourth line stands as a key ingredient to the Bruins' string of success — with the likes of Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Trent Frederic and others regularly tasked with heavy D-zone starts, top-six assignments and other daunting missions as a way to both inject some energy into the lineup and afford both Bergeron and Krejci easier matchups against the opposition.
"Whoever was on that line, when it's at its best, they were difficult to play against in three ways," Cassidy said last month of the Kuraly/Wagner line. "Usually physically — they were finishing checks all over the ice, and they were usually out against good players. They manage pucks, tend to get it deep. And then the last part was they had good O-zone puck possession. And I think our guys are trying to be physical. .... Those guys get more D-zone starts, which we tried to get away from with Bergy's line, and a little bit of Krech — they're older guys that were just trying to save some wear and tear, but certainly they can do it. We prefer not to use them up in that situation. But if that's what the situation calls for, then that's what we're gonna do."
And while that checking line has struggled to string together consistent outings in which they're routinely negating key matchups and generating looks down in the O-zone, Tuesday's win over the Sabres stood as a major step in the right direction — with that fourth line tilting the ice in favor of the Bruins off of simple, hard-nosed hockey, with a lot more O-zone touch added into the mix.
Most of that was the byproduct of Curtis Lazar's addition to the lineup as the club's new fourth-line pivot — with the energetic forward looking less like a throw-in to the B's/Sabres deal, and more like the spark plug that Boston's checking unit has desperately needed.