Noel Acciari

New 4th line poured for Bruins' playoff push

Ken Laird
March 01, 2016 - 8:30 pm

Energy. Momentum. Presence. Toughness. These were some of the qualities associated with the famous "Merlot Line" of Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup championship team. But in 2016 -- with neither Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell nor Daniel Paille walking through that door to don that unit's burgundy-colored practice jerseys -- the Bruins' fourth line would settle for bringing a steady dose of just one of the aforementioned qualities. Not to mention it would settle for just being settled. On Tuesday night at TD Garden against Calgary, with two new forwards in the B's dressing room thanks to changes made at the NHL trade deadline, a brand new Bruins fourth line took the ice in the form of Landon Ferraro, Noel Acciari and Brett Connolly. First there was the demoted Connolly, 23, playing in his 61st game of the season but jettisoned from Patrice Bergeron's right wing on Tuesday as 33-year-old newcomer Lee Stempniak took his place. "Well, they made a decision, and I'm not going to sit here and cry about it," Connolly said after Boston's 2-1 victory. "The [trades] were good, and you know our team got better, and that's a GM's job is to make the team better. And you know, we'll see what happens, things can change." Then, there was the 24-year-old Acciari, making his NHL debut after playing in 42 games in the AHL with Providence and less than a year after helping Providence College win the NCAA hockey championship. "It's just a dream come true," Acciari said of his first professional call-up. "It's just kind of a bit of a whirlwind. Going into it was a little nerve-wracking. I mean, I had to put my phone on airplane mode, just because I wanted to block out the distractions." Finally, there was the the 24-year-old Ferraro, the Boston waiver claim from back in November. 50 games later, Ferraro has become coach Claude Julien's most consistently used fourth liner. "Whether it's going to be five minutes or 10 to 12, you just need to be able to do as much as you can with what you're given," said Ferraro, reading from the Merlot handbook. "When you can make a difference on a positive side it's when you know you're going to be generally in a good spot as a team if you can chip in." All this motley crew of never-before-seen Merlot did Tuesday was deliver a goal less than seven minutes into the game. "Well it didn't take them long to get that first goal, right?" asked Julien. "They stepped on the ice and it was in the net. So I think we got two guys with some experience, you know [Ferraro] has been here now for a while and [Connolly], and [Acciari] was very reliable so I thought that line handled themselves well tonight." Connolly picked up an assist on the goal, but Ferraro performed the heavy lifting as he blasted one from the high slot over the glove of Flames' goaltender Joni Ortio for his fifth goal of the season to make it 1-0 Boston. "It's almost one of those where you have too much time — you just have to kind of bury your head and go for it," said Ferraro. "I think it was big. We were sitting for a while with everything going on and it was our first shift and to get that one of the way was nice. I thought we had a lot of speed and we were playing pretty well." Acciari, a hits leader for the P-Bruins and a solid face-off man, drew praise from both Julien and Ferraro for the un-flashy things he did on the night. "I thought he handled himself real well, very responsible and gritty and you know seemed to be in the right place for the most part," said Julien. "I thought he handled himself well for a guy in his first game." "He did really well tonight," said Ferraro of Acciari. "He skates well, he was good on face-offs, and he knows where to be in the defensive zone. I didn't feel like we had to try and make up for anything. He played extremely well and it was a nice little boost for us." Connolly, who came in averaging 13:57 of ice time per game, had just 5:50 to work with in his new bottom-line capacity. He admitted that it's an adjustment. "It's different," said Connolly. "You know you've got to kind of try and keep your legs going as much as you can. When you're playing a lot like I was in the past, you're not really thinking, you're just playing, your legs were in it all game. But when you're sitting there a little bit longer you know your legs get a little heavy. [But] I thought for the most part our line was pretty good for the minutes that we did play." Julien will have other fourth-line options as the playoffs approach. Tough-guy Tyler Randell and pest-y Zac Rinaldo -- serving a new five-game suspension -- have played 25 and 52-games this season, respectively. Max Talbot and Joonas Kemppainen, now in Providence after being recently assigned, have played 36 and 44-games this year in the NHL. With a now at least seven-deep competition, performance will be closely examined to find the right Merlot mix. "You know if we do stay together, we need to be good on both ends of the rink," said Connolly. "You want to be put out there a little bit more, you've got to show Claude that you can show through a little more, and we'll see what happens."