By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
If we’re speaking in terms of production alone, the Bruins have not reaped the rewards of the Charlie Coyle acquisition just yet.
In 13 games since making the move from Minnesota to Boston in exchange for Ryan Donato (four goals and 13 points in 14 games with the Wild, by the way) and a draft pick, Coyle has recorded just one goal and one assist. The assist came on a John Moore goal in a failed comeback attempt against the Penguins, while the goal came on a tip in a failed comeback attempt against the Jets. He’s landed just 26 shots on goal, has recorded eight hits and seven blocked shots, and has won 45 of his 89 battles at the dot (50.6 faceoff percentage).
By those numbers, Coyle has been “just another guy.”
But, that’s not how you should view Coyle, to be honest.
Watch Coyle on a shift-by-shift basis and you see a player that’s capable of being incredibly strong on the puck through the neutral zone, a player with the ability to keep plays alive with his size and reach, and somebody that can do some grunt work in corners and in front of the net. He’s also been a considerably solid defensive center in terms of d-zone coverage and support.
When the Bruins first plugged him into their lineup, it was as their third-line center, and with David Backes to his right (the left side was a revolving door of sorts, with Joakim Nordstrom, Peter Cehlarik, and a few others via in-game switching). And in almost 72 minutes of five-on-five play together, the Coyle-Backes duo outshot the opposition 58-28, generated 38 scoring chances, and controlled possession at a 62.7 percent clip.
The only thing they didn’t do was score, really, as the line was not on the ice for a single goal for (though they were on the ice for just one goal against, which seems like a plus in its own right).
Then B’s coach Bruce Cassidy decided to try Coyle as David Krejci’s right winger on Boston’s second line — something the Weymouth, Mass. native was familiar with as recently as this season with the Wild — and it honestly brought about more of the same for No. 13. With Coyle to the right of Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, the B’s have controlled possession with a 64.4 Corsi-For percentage, and outshot their opponents 16-12 in their 41:33 of five-on-five time on ice.
Still, despite that possession advantage and offensive chances advantage, the goal-scoring dam has yet to break.
But it’s not for a lack of trying.
Since debuting with the B’s on Feb. 23, Coyle ranks fourth among Boston regulars in individual high-danger chances per 60 minutes, with 3.85. Only DeBrusk, Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron have more. He’s created the second-most rebounds per 60, at 1.4, and his 8.05 shots per 60 ranks as the sixth-best among B’s forwards.
You’d like to think this effort will eventually lead to some tangible results for the 6-foot-3 Coyle.
At some point though — and soon — the Bruins are going to need the law of averages to even out to settle Coyle into his role.
If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Bruins’ optimal roster would slot Coyle in the middle of their third line with Backes on the right and Danton Heinen to the left (please, no more grinders). That would be the Black and Gold’s best play at recreating the magic Riley Nash had with these two in what was a career-year last season, and would allow Coyle to be the 200-foot driver of that line with two smart players capable of changing styles. The problem? This trio has yet to play together this season, and the Bruins have just eight games left on their schedule to get this group together and on the same page.
Of course, it’s possible that the Bruins view as Coyle as a second-line right wing after this solid-yet-“unproductive” run with 46-74, which would move Marcus Johansson (out since Mar. 5 due to a lung contusion) down to a third line likely centered by Sean Kuraly. But that’s not exactly the best roster optimization, nor does it seem like what the B’s had in mind when they picked up Coyle from Minny.
But the truth is that the Bruins aren’t gonna know what they have with Coyle — be it his ceiling, preferred line, or best linemates — until he can snap this bad luck spell with a goal or two.