Claude Julien made a surprise lineup change (I know, shocking!) before today’s Game 2 against the evil French army. (Since the real France barely even has an army, I’m making the decision that the Habs qualify.) Daniel Paille is on the 3rd line with the Swedes, and Jordan Caron is on the 4th line with the 2 worst skaters in the Bruins lineup. That is harsh to say about the beloved Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, but it’s true. They just aren’t what they were in 2011.
I’m surprised that Campbell has declined a lot since three years ago at a 5 on 5, but, especially in the first 2 periods Thursday night, he really looked bad. He’s still a valuable penalty killer and shot blocker, as Game 3 against the Pens last year proved. But relying on the Merlot Line to actually be the Merlot Line in 2014 is a pipe dream. Daniel Paille is by far the best player on the line, and he’s easily better than Justin Florek or Jordan Caron. I love this move by Claude. Make the 3rd line better even if it hurts the 4th, just like he did against he Blackhawks after Campbell was gone by putting Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin with Daniel Paille. Paille will have the speed to play with Soderberg and Eriksson, and he and Loui will be great defensively. Let Campbell and Caron play PK minutes, and let the 4th line overall play some minutes where it could be helpful to roll some Canadien heads. Other than that, don’t have them play much.
If you have one of the best top 6 forward collections in the league, combined with what will now be a really good 3rd line, use them. Don’t rely on a bad 4th line.
Andrej Meszaros will also be in for Matt Bartkowski, which surprises no one who watched Game 1. Bartkowski is not bad overall, but he does go through really, really bad stretches, like he did late in the regular season. Glad Claude tried to nip this one in the bud, even if Bart returns to the lineup within a game or two. Let’s see if the trade was worth it.