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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- A team's top line is considered its best for a reason.
For the Boston Bruins, the unit of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla should consistently be the best players on the ice. Lucic is off to a strong start, Krejci has been consistent and Iginla is beginning to fit in. There's no reason to think that trio should not dominate.
Iginla has 10 points in the last 11 games, Krejci has 14 points in the last 14 games and Lucic has nine points in the last 11 games.
For all the emphasis on the Bruins' first line, the reason Boston is in the midst of a three-game winning streak and playing its best hockey of the season is that the team's second line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson has begun to hit its stride.
As the Bruins prepare to host the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night at TD Garden, that line finally is playing with confidence.
There are a few factors why those three started this season slowly. Bergeron still was feeling the effects of a rib injury he suffered during the Stanley Cup finals last spring. Marchand wasn't playing his style of game by aggravating and chirping at the opponents. And Eriksson had to learn the Bruins' system.
"It's been a lot better and we've been improving," Bergeron said. "We're adjusting to Loui and he's adjusting to us as well. It's not easy when there's a new system to learn, and he's smart enough to be in the right area at the right time and he's been reading off the two of us well.
"Our forecheck has been pretty good and if we keep improving in that area and keep putting a lot of pressure in their zone, we're going to get a lot of offense out of it."
When Claude Julien put this line together, the defensive-minded coach was thinking just that. Bergeron and Eriksson are complete two-way players and Marchand is a strong complement. Bergeron said the one area they need to clean up is their communication in the defensive zone because he and Eriksson are similar players.
"That's something he takes a lot of pride in, like myself, so that helps a lot," Bergeron said of their defensive game. "He's used to going down low and helping out the centerman. It's something we need to talk about, so we both don't do the same job. But so far he's been great in our zone, and Marchy's always been pretty good reading off me."
|While Claude Julien and Patrice Bergeron have stressed the need for control, they're glad Brad Marchand (left) has brought back some spunk.|
Eriksson agrees the line's back pressure and transition game can improve.
"We like to do the same things out there and we think the same," Eriksson said of playing with Bergeron. "We can build on something good here and keep it rolling."
In the last three games, Bergeron has three goals and a plus-2 rating, while Eriksson has three assists and a plus-1, and Marchand has a goal and an assist for a plus-1.
"I think we've been trying to work a little bit harder," Eriksson said. "Now we're finally getting some good bounces to get the goal-scoring going. We've been playing a good forecheck game too. We've been keeping the puck in and creating some good chances from that. We know we're good players, we just need to keep working hard and if we do that we'll get chances out there."
Then there's the Marchand factor.
The little ball of hate wasn't so hateful at the start of the season. Now he's chirping, putting his stick in places it shouldn't be and once again is getting under the skin of his opponents.
"He's definitely a guy who likes to be involved in the game and [chirp] to different guys out there on the other teams," Eriksson said. "He's a great player, a great skater and he can create a lot of good things on offense.
"He's a smart player too, so if we all do everything we should do -- all three guys on the line -- we should be really good."
It's almost comical to hear Bergeron, a Selke Award winner, talk about the importance of Marchand playing his pesty style of hockey. Marchand needs to have some control in that area so he can stay out of the penalty box and be effective on the ice. Bergeron, other teammates and Julien all have helped Marchand find his effectiveness, and it's starting to show.
"It's great to see," Bergeron said. "I don't blame him. It's something, he was trying to work on his game a bit and he had to regroup a little bit, and it shows the character that he has and that's his game. I'm happy to see that back."
After Wednesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena, Marchand sat at his locker and had some fun talking about "Movember" and his teammates' abilities at growing mustaches. When he is acting like that off the ice, it means good things are happening on it.
"We're definitely playing better," Marchand said of his linemates. "We're playing with more confidence and I think we're playing a little more in sync. It's good that pucks are starting to go in for us. We had some early chances, but it didn't seem to be going our way. We're getting some breaks now and everyone's feeling pretty good."
When the Bruins' top two lines are clicking, the other two lines feed off that, and when Julien is able to roll all four lines on a consistent basis it usually equals success for Boston.