November 1, 2011; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Daniel Paille (20) is hugged by left wing Shawn Thornton (22) and congratulated by center Gregory Campbell (11) after he scored a goal against the Ottawa Senators during the third period at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Merlot. The drink that checks back.

The Boston Bruins very likely have the best known fourth line in all of the National Hockey League. The Merlot Line, known for their wine colored practice jerseys, have made themselves a force to contend with. The line, centered around #11, Gregory Campbell, has been known for extremely aggressive play. Left winger, #22 Shawn Thornton, and right wing #20 Daniel Paille racked up an amusing 249 penalty minutes last season. (Math majors who happened to be hockey fans, that’s almost twelve and a half full periods.) They put together a total of forty four points last season and a total plus/minus of -11.  As numbers go, the last two stats do not sound that impressive.  Working at my other job,  I am known for two things. One, a freakish number cruncher.  My other ‘gift’ is a whimsical love of intangibles.

Let’s start with the NHL’s latest movie star, Shawn Thornton.(It’s just a cameo, and it’s nowhere near as big a part as Cam Neely had in Dumb and Dumber, but it’s still hilarious.) Who doesn’t remember the goal against the Winnipeg Jets?  You know, THAT goal. I watched that penalty shot. Who knew? Seriously, did that just happen ?!  I was making some remark to my hockey guru on why a Canadian team called the Jets had a plane on their chest that to the best of my knowledge the Canadian Air Force didn’t even use and he made that shot? A short handed penalty shot goal!?! God, I love hockey(and intangibles)!

Shawn did lead the league in penalty minutes for fighting(20). His team did go 12-6-1 when Thorty dropped the gloves. He’s the only active Bruin with two Stanley Cup rings to his name (Anaheim ’07 & THE home team in ’11). #22 hosts the annual ‘Putts and Punches for Parkinsons’, now in its third year. He is also known to drop by and hang out at the Jimmy Fund clinic. For a man whose numbers look a tad ‘goonish’, this is an individual who has made himself a visibly positive part of the community since joining us after the ’07 season.

Gregory Campbell was acquired along with Nathan Horton as part of a package deal for Dennis Wideman back in 2010. (Dear Florida Panthers, for all us who got to see the duck boats on parade, Thank you. Seriously, Boston thanks you.) He led the Merlot line with sixteen points and was no stranger to throwing down the gloves either. (80 PIM) Campbell, known as ‘Soupy’ due to his sharing the same name with a famous soup, is also a legacy. He is the latest in a series of father-son combinations to grace the Stanley Cup. (His father was the assistant coach of the Rangers in their ’94 Stanley Cup win.)

In early June, Campbell and fellow forward Chris Kelly made it clear they would rather continue playing for the B’s than go shopping  on the trade market. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli described the pair as “glue guys,” and explained how their retention was a no-brainer. ” It’s a consistent push to get those types of players that obviously can play and that are responsible players, but that have that character and that drive,” he said. “To make little sacrifices in the way that they play and where they play and to check your ego – that’s not a magical formula.”

Daniel Paille, a minor league teammate of the Bruins’ Nathan Horton  was traded to the Boston Bruins on October 20, 2009 for a third-round and a conditional fourth-round draft selection.  It was the first ever trade of a player under contract between the two division rivals in the thirty nine years both teams have been in the NHL. Paille has been with the Bruins for three seasons, registering 25 goals and 22 assists in 186 regular-season games.( 9G, 6A -69 games in 2011-12.) In the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Merlot line performed well on the power play kill, allowing only two Canucks goals in the seven games they were on.  Horton, Lucic, and Tim Thomas may have been the more public face of the Stanley Cup win, but it was the guys in Merlot who were the ‘silent partners’ in that memorable season.

For us Bruins fans, we’ll have plenty of Merlot for the near future. In March, Thornton signed a two year contract extension. In June, both Paille and Campbell were extended for three year deals.  Raise your glasses mates, the wine looks good, and so does the team.




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Tags: Boston Bruins Daniel Paille Gregory Campbell Merlot Line NHL Shawn Thornton

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