Last season, the Bruins had one of the best fourth lines in recent memory. The trio of Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller, and Noel Acciari drew comparisons to the Bruins 2011 fourth line. That trio of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton was key in the Bruins championship run. Last season didn’t end in a Stanley Cup for the Bruins, but the fourth line was valuable in many ways. Schaller signed with Vancouver in free agency, but Kuraly and Acciari will look to make the same impact next season.
Comparisons to The Merlot Line
The line’s value was not just measured in statistics, but also in how they affected the game . Whenever the Bruins needed a momentum shift, Bruce Cassidy called on them. All three players were vital on the Bruins penalty kill, which was the third best in the NHL. The trio combined for five shorthanded points. They had a “defense first” attitude, which allowed for offensive counter opportunities. They grinded on every shift. The trio was not as physical as the “Merlot Line,” but they were still willing to throw their bodies around. Their play set a new standard for the fourth line.
By The Numbers
Last season, the trio combined for 30 goals. Kuraly was the only one of the three to not score at least ten goals. Since the departure of the “Merlot Line,” the Bruins had struggled to get production from their fourth line. As the NHL has become faster, the Bruins had struggled to adapt. These three were not just willing to throw their bodies around, but also could fly up and down the ice. Through their first 23 games together, they allowed just four goals, including two on 5-5 action. They were trusted against other team’s top lines, which allowed the Bruins forwards more rest. All three were undrafted and played with a chip on their shoulder.
Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/ NHLI
Expectations For Next Season
In the playoffs, this line was just as good. Through the first six games of the first round, the trio were in the top three in terms of points per minutes amongst the Bruins forwards. Next year, the line will look different with the departure of Schaller in free agency. Kuraly and Acciari will bring the same energy and improve as they gain more experience. Even though one-third of the trio is gone, they reminded Bruins fans just how valuable the fourth line can be.