During the remarkable run of the Boston Bruins, there have been several key contributors that have paced the team. Among them are the usual suspects – Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak; the rookies – Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Matt Grzelcyk; the goalies – Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin; and the wily veterans – David Backes, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara.
Obtaining a total team effort is paramount for the long-term success of any group, and it has become evident that the Bruins are capable of having any of the 20 men on the ice step up on a nightly basis.
Until recently, not many fans really noticed just how valuable and impressive fourth-liner Tim Schaller has been to the success of the Boston Bruins.
On February 7th, the 27-year-old made a name for himself, and produced what could be the highlight goal of the season for the Bruins:
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 8, 2018
I could watch that goal over and over again…
Schaller is in the midst of a career year offensively, as he has already eclipsed his career-highs in goals and points with his nine goals and seven assists this season. He has scored three times in the past six games, including notching his second shorthanded tally of the year in Sunday’s 5-3 win over the Devils and adding an assist on the second of Riley Nash’s two goals in Tuesday’s 5-2 victory over the Flames.
Prior to the last week or so, Schaller wasn’t known for his offensive prowess, which is perfectly fine with the Bruins. He has been a valuable presence on a penalty kill unit that has allowed the least amount of power-play goals in the league, and has anchored a fourth line that has become one of the biggest bright spots on a team loaded with them.
The combination of Schaller, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari bring back memories of the Merlot line, as they consistently bring energy along with a physical presence that earn ice time and increased responsibility. Schaller was on the ice for 18:25 on Sunday night against the Devils, which was his second-highest playing time this year and highest in a game that ended in regulation. He has also blown away last year’s hit and blocked shot totals, and is second on the team among all forwards in both categories (92 hits and 45 blocked shots).
When the Bruins need a jolt, coach Bruce Cassidy has routinely turned to his fourth line regardless of the time or situation. Cassidy knows exactly what to expect from both Schaller and the other forwards on that bruising but effective line, calling them “straight-line players” in a recent piece from the Boston Globe.
“They get from Point A to B. I wouldn’t call them dynamic, but effective . . . good team guys . . . guys that moved around in the lineup a little bit.”
Schaller has recently seen time on the third line, as all the left-wingers were bumped up during Marchand’s five-game suspension. Boston didn’t seem to miss a beat during those five contests, going 4-1-0 while averaging nearly three goals a game. Schaller scored twice during his stint on the third line, and has scored two more times since returning back to his customary spot on the fourth unit.
The goal last Sunday night (which was nearly followed by another one at the end of the second period) showcased all of Schaller’s skill and value. The New Hampshire native hustled down the length of the rink to disrupt a typical pass from the goaltender, then flashed some speed to take the puck around the back of the net and stuff it home before the buzzer sounded to end the first period.
That blue-collar goal is more expected than the highlight-reel one against the Rangers, but both demonstrated how confident Schaller is feeling in Cassidy’s system.
“I think [Cassidy] has done a great job with me, just allowing me to be the player I can be — and that is playing simple, but at the same time, I can try things like that (goal vs. NYR). It’s obviously not going to work every time, but he knows that I can make a play like that every once in a while, so he’s not going to get on me if I try that and I am still being consistent, getting pucks in deep and all that stuff. He’s allowed me to play my game, and if I get a chance to make a nice play, I’m going to make a nice play.” – Boston Globe
It is likely that Bruins fans will never witness Tim Schaller scoring a prettier goal than he did against the Rangers. But as long as he continues his dirty, physical style of play, Schaller will continue to be an integral part of the unlikely success of the Boston Bruins this season.