Gatlin: Kuraly’s Importance Continues to Grow
(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)
Throughout the past two seasons, the Bruins fourth line has been key to their success.
Although the faces have changed, their impact has remained the same. This past season, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom became key pieces following the departure of Tim Schaller and Riley Nash.
However, despite all the change, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari have been constants.
Since being acquired from San Jose, Kuraly has become a fan favorite. His value was further demonstrated this past season as the Bruins came one win away from a Stanley Cup. The 26-year-old set career highs in every offensive category, and fell just two goals short of double-digits.
In the postseason games the Bruins played without Kuraly, they tended to struggle. His presence was not just felt offensively, as he impacts the game in a variety of ways.
Although Kuraly brings offensive prowess to the bottom six, his biggest strength lies in his play without the puck. The fourth-liner’s skating ability allows him to clear the puck out of the zone as he wins battles along the boards.
He has also shown a willingness to block pucks and get in passing lanes, which makes the Bruins fourth line a tough matchup for any team, regardless of the situation.
Additionally, Kuraly continued to come in clutch during the postseason. In 20 playoff games, the Ohio native had four goals and six assists. He also had two game-winning goals, bringing his career total in the playoffs to three.
When the games become more important, Kuraly simply raises his level of play. This came as no surprise as Kuraly has played the role of hero numerous times throughout his career.
Going into next season, Kuraly will again be asked to play a key role. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy relied on the fourth line last season when this team needed a boost. When Kuraly missed time in the postseason, his line-mates struggled –– but returned to form when he came back. If the Bruins are to return to the Stanley Cup Finals, their fourth line center will again be vital.