Bruins’ Third Line Needs Improvement

The Boston Bruins have had a decent start to the season, despite fighting off an injury bug that has kept them below 100% for every game thus far. A couple of B’s who were poised for breakout seasons (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, in particular), have gotten off to hot starts out of the gate and will look to build on that success as we press into the third week of the regular season.

However, Boston’s third line has been rather underwhelming in the early going. While it’s certainly too early to hit the panic button, the third line has to find their stride if the Bruins want to be in the thick of the playoff race this season.

jimmy Vesey
Matt Beleskey has been very quiet for the Bruins so far. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Beleskey

Matt Beleskey has had the toughest start out of everybody this season. Coming off of a pretty good 2015-16 campaign in which Beleskey notched 37 points in 80 games played, the veteran winger has yet to record a point in all five games this season and currently carries a minus-five rating.

Beleskey will need to be better for the Bruins moving forward. Despite playing on Boston’s third line, Beleskey has some pretty high expectations from Claude Julien and company, who expect him to bring a relentless pace to every game that creates opportunities for him and his teammates. So far, the six-foot-tall left-winger has been unable to do that, and as a result, Claude Julien has found himself messing with the lines already.

Jimmy Hayes

Across the faceoff circle on the third line, Jimmy Hayes has also been quiet for the Bruins. Hayes, like Beleskey, is also pointless through five games and carries the same minus-five rating as his linemate. The two wingers have struggled despite rolling several centers through the third line (Austin Czarnik and Riley Nash have both been slotted into the third-line center position to no avail).

Hayes is also a big-bodied winger standing at six-foot-five-inches, and he too is successful when he exerts his strength to create turnovers in the dirty areas. However, Hayes has been without the punch that we’ve seen from him before, and his stat line has been suffering as a result.

Identity Hunting

(Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)
Is Ryan Spooner the key to Boston’s third-line troubles? (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

In years of past success for the Bruins, Claude Julien has had a reliable energy line that set the pace for the Bruins. During their 2011 Stanley Cup run, the Bruins’ fourth line, aptly named the “Merlot line” (due to the color of their practice jerseys) of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, and Daniel Paille were essential in setting the tone every single game. The Bruins prided themselves in their ability to roll all four lines, and the depth played a huge role in their success that season.

In this case, Boston’s third line needs to take on an altered form of the Merlot line. Beleskey and Hayes both play an energetic style of play, just like the Merlot line did, however, today’s third line is certainly capable of producing a lot more for the B’s. If Boston wants to be successful this season, they’ll need the third line to start producing at an adequate level.

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Maybe the poor start has just been a slump. Perhaps Beleskey and Hayes are having some issues creating on-ice chemistry with their rotating centerpiece. Whatever the problem is, the Bruins need to find an adjustment sooner rather than later.

Look for Claude Julien to shake with the lines some more, particularly the prospect of adding Ryan Spooner back onto the third line.