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  • 3 up, 3 down – Coyle, DeBrusk and candy corn

    Tim Rosenthal November 1, 2021

    A 4-3 mark in October provided the Boston Bruins with their share of ups and downs.

    Bruce Cassidy’s squad began the season on the right foot with a 3-1 opening night win over the Dallas Stars. A tough loss in Philadelphia led to bounce-back efforts against the then-undefeated Sabres and Sharks. Then the offense hit a lull in their two-game trip in Florida and Carolina before bouncing back in the third period at home against the Panthers Saturday, overcoming a late 2-1 deficit behind Charlie McAvoy’s equalizer and Charlie Coyle’s lone shootout tally.

    The Bruins have some momentum heading into the first week of November after knocking off the unbeaten Panthers. But before we look ahead, let’s look back at the trending players and developments in our first ‘3 up, 3 down’ monthly post of the 2021-22 campaign.

    Charlie Coyle

    Oddly enough, the Bruins only went 1-2 when Coyle lit the lamp in the first month of the season. But his second-line presence provided need stability following David Krejci’s departure.

    The Weymouth product only suited up for one preseason game following off-season knee surgery. Even after a disappointing 2021 campaign and a strong camp outing for Jack Studnicka, the Bruins hardly envisioned anyone but Coyle filling Krejci’s gaping vacancy to start the 2021-22 campaign.

    The Bruins leaned on Coyle for an offensive spark as the top line dealt with its share of ups and downs. He ended the month with the second-highest goals (three) and points (five) amongst all Bruins.

    Even with a mere two shots on net Saturday, Coyle put forth one of his better outings as a Bruin, lighting the lamp on a slick wrist shot in the opening stanza and fooling former Boston College star Spencer Knight during the glorified skills competition.

    Coyle spent time at wing as Craig Smith nursed a lower-body injury for three games. Studnicka took over the second-line center role to mixed results during the two-game trip. The 2017 second-round selection may get another crack at top-six minutes, but it’s clear the Bruins benefit with Coyle centering Smith and Taylor Hall.

    Jake DeBrusk

    Like Coyle, DeBrusk endured a tumultuous pandemic-shortened season. An early-season injury, a COVID diagnosis, a handful of healthy scratches and difficulties navigating through the league’s strict protocols accumulated in the worst season of DeBrusk’s career.

    A motivated and upbeat DeBrusk arrived with a fresh perspective at training camp. He found himself skating with a pair of reliable veteran linemates in Nick Foligno and Erik Haula. They followed a strong preseason effort with a good showing on opening night, highlighted by DeBrusk’s go-ahead tally.

    “It’s always nice to help the team win,” DeBrusk said following Boston’s 3-1 win over Dallas. “I thought preseason fairly well, but it’s just the preseason. Obviously, you want to get on the board as fast as possible. It seems like the mindset is working. It seems like that whatever is going on with our line. Leaning on Nick and Erik has been very helpful for me, and it’s nice to score in front of the full TD Garden.”

    DeBrusk’s quickness and hard-nosed puck pursuit benefit the Bruins when he has his wheels going. He hasn’t tallied a point in his last three games. Yet, even in their two-game swoon through the Southeastern U.S., DeBrusk never became a liability.

    More often than not, DeBrusk brought forth a ‘B’ effort in the season’s first month. At times, he had his ‘A’ game going too. His early-season results matched the effort, thus providing a solid early start for his revenge season.

    Linus Ullmark

    Jeremy Swayman became human after arguably the worst outing of his career against the Flyers a couple of weeks ago. Linus Ullmark took over in the second game of that road trip, stymying his former club in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Sabres. The Swede earned the nod in three of Boston’s next four outings following his 35-save effort in Buffalo.

    Ullmark’s lone loss last month came in South Florida where defensive lapses and a stagnant offense haunted the Bruins in their 4-1 loss to the Panthers. Perhaps he would’ve wanted the first goal back in that losing effort, but his defense hung him out to dry in coverage following a lost puck battle along the boards.

    Granted, Ullmark doesn’t make every save look easy. At times the routine stops appear anything but. Yet, his unorthodox style at times leads to timely highlight-reel stops as was the case on Saturday.

    He isn’t erratic per se. But Ullmark certainly provides a different style of goaltending than Swayman’s unique upbeat and calm presence in net.

    Now to the three downs.

    The defensive depth

    At times, the Bruins relied heavily on Swayman and Ullmark as the defensive liabilities piled up. There’s a glaring disparity between the trio of reliable blue-liners (McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk) and the depth behind them (Mike Reilly, Derek Forbort, Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril and John Moore).

    The Bruins relied on Forbort’s shutdown prowess in the closing moments of their victory over the Sharks. He even became an unlikely offensive source during that Sunday matinee, tallying a goal and an assist in that 4-3 triumph. But he’s made some head-scratching decisions at times, highlighted by Anthony Duclair’s second-period equalizer on Saturday. A sprawling Forbot allowed time and space for Duclair as the Panthers forward walked in for his sixth goal of the year.

    General manager Don Sweeney acquired Reilly from Ottawa in their secondary move at the trade deadline, hoping he’d provide another offensive presence to the blue-line. He isn’t shy about moving the puck in transition, yet he struggles to hit the net whenever he shoots the puck.

    Clifton provides a spark at times with his trademark ‘Cliffy Hockey’ skillset. But the former Quinnipiac product struggled with consistency in the first month of the year, even entering healthy scratch status on a couple of occasions.

    Zboril and the oft-injured Moore don’t move the needle as the seventh and eighth defenseman. The latter now finds himself in Providence, hoping for another callup soon.

    The Bruins may have a few questions with their forward depth. But addressing the defensive concerns and lack of depth ranks atop the list of Sweeney’s top in-season priorities. With few, if any, intriguing options in Providence, Sweeney will undoubtedly have to look outside the organization for help.

    The power play

    Perhaps Cassidy saw his top power-play unit turn a corner after McAvoy’s game-changing equalizer — on a stellar feed from Marchand — in Saturday’s thrilling come-from-behind win. Yet, their paltry 3-for-19 showing in October matchups landed the man (dis)advantage on this list.

    On paper, Boston’s top unit provides potent options: McAvoy at the point; Marchand at the half-wall; David Pastrnak at the Ovechkin spot; Hall at the goal-line; and Patrice Bergeron in the bumper. Hall and McAvoy both provide different dynamics than their predecessors in Torey Krug, David Krejci and a rotation of net-front guys in Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk. The quintet hardly sustained a healthy rhythm in the seven October matchups — until their final power play attempt from Saturday.

    McAvoy’s trying marker didn’t come via a one-timer from the point. Instead, the newly $9.5 million minted blue-liner used his skating senses, finding enough open space in the slot to bury Marchand’s saucer pass for the needed tally.

    Coyle — on the secondary unit — and Pastrnak netted the other two power-play markers in October. The Bruins ended the month 3-0 when they scored on the man advantage. Perhaps a steadier schedule following a pair of lengthy layovers to begin November will finally provide some fluidity on the power play and every other facet of play.

    Candy Corn

    Foligno’s candy corn crusade began when he publicly acknowledged his fandom before the Bruins’ first road trip of the season. His injury prevented Foligno from further displaying his love for the fall ‘treat’ with the media. But it didn’t prevent him from attempting to turn skeptics into fans with his new teammates.

    The Bruins’ social media department documented the players’ Candy Corn thoughts leading up to Halloween. His peers didn’t agree with the veteran winger one bit.

    Foligno kept trying. His teammates never budged. Even Pastrnak, a first-time consumer, didn’t dig the product.

    I can’t speak for everyone here at Bruins Daily, but count me in among the candy corn cynics. Yet, Foligno’s passionate obsession with the autumn snack deserves a golf clap from yours truly.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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