Towards the end of the Penguins eventual victory against the Carolina Hurricanes, the team found itself in a bit of a rut.

The Penguins were playing a lot of neutral zone hockey. Both teams struggled to find a rhythm and there wasn’t a large amount of zone time established on either side of the ice.

Joe Vitale and the Penguins fourth line took to the ice for a shift that would change the flow and momentum of the game.

After a simple chip into the offensive zone, Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, and Vitale went to work. They cycled the puck and skated circles around the Hurricanes defensive unit. It was a shift that established a type of possession that the Penguins simply couldn’t put together for the better part of the third period.

The shift lasted so long that Sidney Crosby was able to get on the ice during the possession and eventually set up a goal to Jayson Megna to seal the deal for the Penguins.

Here’s a quick peek at the shift in question. You can see that Vitale & Co. had an extended shift in the zone just prior to Crosby coming on to bank the puck in off of Jayson Megna.

The instance we just discussed is about the utopian version of what you want you fourth line to do on a nightly basis.

In a game predicated on the ebb and flow of momentum, a good shift from your grinders can flip the game on it’s head.

Just like it did on Monday.

So just how good has the fourth line been for the Penguins? Some of the numbers might actually surprise you.

For starters, the combination of Vitale, Adams, and Glass has accounted for 11 points total on the season through the first 12 games. The Penguins are getting nearly a point-per-game average out of their bottom line.

Boy, that depth scoring really would have helped against Boston, right?

Among the fourth line, only Tanner Glass currently has a negative Corsi number.

4th Line Corsi

Joe Vitale: 8.75
Craig Adams: 2.07
Tanner Glass: -9.89

Small sample size aside, it’s impressive for any team’s fourth line to maintain a positive Corsi percentage, especially considering opposing coaches drool at the thought of getting their top line out against the fourth line when playing matchups at home.

And if we look at the Quality of Competition numbers for the fourth line, we can see that they’ve faced a decent amount of good competition this year.

4th Line Qoc

Average Relative Plus-Minus of opposing players, weighted by head-to-head ice time.

Tanner Glass: +.092 (First on team).
Craig Adams: -.032 (Seventh on team).
Joe Vitale: -.131 (Sixteenth on team).

It also help that, generally speaking, the fourth line is scoring way more than they’re getting scored against. Here are the goals for, goals against splits for the fourth line this far. This is expressed at a rate of 60 minutes per even strength ice time.

4th Line GF/GA per 60 Minutes of even-strength TOI

Vitale: GF/60: 2.33 | GA/60: 1.75
Adams: GF/60: 3.10 | GA/60: 1.55
Glass: GF/60: 1.98 | GA/60: 1.98

We mentioned at the start of this article that the fourth line has been grinding it out really well and skating hard in the offensive zone around the tough areas of the ice.

A testament to that is both Vitale and Glass lead the team in penalties drawn per 60 minutes of even strength ice time. Vitale clocks in at the top with 2.3, Glass is second with 2.0.

Personally, I’d describe these numbers as gaudy for a fourth line. They’re working hard, maintaining offensive possession, and surprisingly enough, putting the puck in the net.

If those numbers can continue, the Pittsburgh Penguins will be able to reap the rewards of a team that can truly roll four lines throughout the regular and post-season.

And that kind of contribution goes beyond what numbers can tell you.