The Boston Bruins took care of business against a banged-up Colorado Avalanche bunch.
Very rarely, if at all, is that terminology applicable for a regular season tilt against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Bruins continued trending upward in their 4-0 victory. The Avalanche find themselves on a rocky-mountain climb, with Nathan MacKinnon becoming the latest marquee name to join their ever-growing injury list.
The depth couldn’t have been more disparent. The Bruins overwhelmed the Avalanche in the attacking end, generating quality scoring chances through their aggressive and stout puck possession.
Boston’s D kept Linus Ullmark’s crease relatively clean, allowing few secondary scoring chances. The B’s held the Avs to 23 shots on net and 38 shot attempts in 60 minutes.
It took a little while for Montgomery’s squad to cash in after a relatively slow opening 20 minutes. David Pastrnak finally put the Bruins up 1-0 after blasting home his 18th of the year.
Pastrnak set the tone with his marker at 3:09 of the second frame; David Krejci assisting. Boston’s third line of Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic would take over from there.
Hall notched his fourth goal in as many games with his pair of markers on Wednesday. He extended Boston’s lead to 2-0 on a 2-on-1 with Coyle off an attacking zone takeaway and capped off the night with a third-period breakaway tally out of the penalty box.
Coyle’s assertive night resulted in a pair of assists, including a helper on Frederic’s one-timer to give the Bruins a 3-0 cushion at 6:24 of the final stanza.
The Bruins came out of this tough seven-game slate with a 5-1-1 record. Here’s what we learned from Boston’s bounce-back win in Denver.
Taylor Hall is a third-line left-winger.
A one-time MVP finds himself on the third line. But Hall doesn’t see that situation as a demotion.
The 2018 Hart Trophy recipient sensed an opportunity to establish cohesion with Coyle after the duo struggled to gel during their time together on the second line at the beginning of the 2021-22 campaign.
“Ultimately, just having team success allows me personally to not worry too much about my own game,” Hall said to NESN’s Sophia Jurksztowicz following his three-point night. “It frees me up a little bit.”
Indeed, Hall has let loose a bit since arriving in Boston. He no longer has the burden of carrying a team as he did during his stints in Edmonton and New Jersey. Nor does he have to worry about trying to worry about being stuck in Arizona or Buffalo, also known as hockey purgatory.
The 2010 top overall pick became a middle-of-the-lineup anchor after coming over from Western New York at the 2021 trade deadline. He encountered previous success with Pastrnak, Krejci, Craig Smith, and former Bruin Erik Haula during his time on the second line.
Even after Brad Marchand’s return from off-season double-hip surgery, Jim Montgomery hasn’t shied away from mixing up his lineup. Boston’s first-year bench boss continues to provide the forward core with a unique opportunity to establish camaraderie with different linemates during the first quarter of the season.
Given Jake DeBrusk’s resurgence at his off-wing on the top line, and the chemistry with the all-Czech line of Krejci, Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha, Hall found himself with another chance to work with Coyle. With Frederic’s recent offensive uptick, the Bruins currently possess one of the better third lines throughout the league.
“I feel comfortable here,” Hall added in his postgame interview with NESN. “Monty [Montgomery] throughout camp, throughout preseason, and throughout the start of the year… he switches lines a lot. I played with Coyle a lot. Freddy [Frederic], he’s a good young player who has a lot of potential, and you’re starting to see that.”
Hall hasn’t missed a beat. He’s on pace to notch 36 goals and 30 assists in 82 games. Those are pretty remarkable totals for someone on the third line as Hall continues to fine-tune his two-way play.
“You’re never too old to get better,” Hall added.
It’s a lesson that one of Hall’s linemates took to heart following a disappointing performance a year ago.
Frederic is finding his offensive groove.
The 2016 first-round selection became a fan favorite for his physical and agitating traits during his first few years in Boston. With his knack for getting under opponents’ skin — from Tom Wilson to Brendan Lemieux — Frederic’s offensive game remained a work in progress.
Frederic encountered injuries and stints as a healthy scratch over the last two years. For the most part, however, the former Wisconsin Badger has developed a consistent blue-collar work habit under Montgomery.
Given that, the coaching staff thought Frederic’s offense would come around upon returning from his latest upper-body injury last Tuesday in the 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were right.
Frederic notched his sixth point in his five games since returning to his third-line spot with Coyle and Hall. His familiarity skating with Coyle over the last couple of seasons, his initial chemistry with Hall, and the coaching staff’s trust gave Frederic more confidence whenever he touches the puck.
“Those two [Hall and Coyle] have helped a lot. They’ve been really positive to me,” Frederic told reporters. “Coaching staff has been really good. Monty has been pushing me to play with confidence. It’s easier said than done, but the guys around me have helped a lot.”
Frederic’s recent stretch provides a welcomed development for an uber-talented Bruins bunch. And his opportunities will only increase, given the third line’s impressive puck possession statistics over these last five games.
Coyle assisted with timely puck possession.
Boston’s first-period outing wasn’t porous by any means. But they weren’t as sharp in the first 20 as they were just a step behind with puck pursuit and scoring chances.
Eventually, Coyle and the Bruins found their skating legs. Whether he created turnovers or shielded pucks away from the likes of Cale Makar and Devon Toews, the Weymouth-born forward once again created scoring opportunities throughout the third line.
Both Hall and Frederic benefitted from Coyle’s assertiveness. The former notched his first of the night on Coyle’s takeaway in the attacking zone during the middle frame. The latter fired his newfound one-timer after Coyle played keep away with Colorado’s defensive core.
“That was our first goal, playing the right way, being tight,” Coyle said to the media. “They turned the puck over, and we capitalized on that. The game kind of finds you after that.”
The third line held a 10-2 advantage in shot attempts and a 4-1 edge in shots on net during their 8:00 of 5v5 time on ice.
The second-line experiment with Hall and Coyle didn’t go as planned when Bruce Cassidy utilized the duo last season. But they’ve found continuity and creativity with one another this season. With Frederic’s lunchpail skillset, the Bruins have a healthy mix of different traits motoring their third line.
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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