By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins have had to reach deep into their bag of tricks -- up front, anyway -- through the first month and a half of the season.
But it's something that may have come with a potential long-term solution of sorts, as it was Boston's new makeshift second line that grabbed some eyeballs in Friday's 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Friday night.
With Jake DeBrusk still on the shelf and Zach Senyshyn joining a group that includes three other Boston forwards and three defensemen, the Bruins were forced to once again tinker with their forward group, ultimately landing on a second line configuration that slotted Anders Bjork to the left and Charlie Coyle to the right of center David Krejci. It wasn't entirely foreign (Coyle has skated to Krejci's right for the last week plus), but adding Bjork to the mix was a new wrinkle.
And it was that trio that got the Bruins on the board with their first of four goals in the winning effort.
The goal was created off Bjork going wide and winding up for a shot, Matt Grzelcyk collecting the loose puck, and feeding Coyle between the circles for a wrister that the Weymouth, Mass. native put right through Leafs netminder Frederik Andersen.
The goal saw Coyle in the Charle On The Spot location the Bruins want No. 13 to be in, and with the decision to rifle his shot on goal and by Andersen. The second point is a big one, too, as the Bruins have been more than vocal with their desire to Coyle to shoot the puck more, as he's frequently looked for a linemate for an extra pass instead of hammering it on goal. This was also the most noticeable night for Coyle as a winger, which has been a potential issue when moving him away from center.
Bjork, meanwhile, has improved his two-way game by leaps and bounds. He did have a second-period shift that went a little too long for Cassidy's liking (and it ended with a turnover), but you're beginning to see Bjork make some legitimately confident plays away from the puck, and become more of a two-way menace than he ever was in his previous runs with the Big B's.
Now, we're a long way from this become a solidified line, and it creates more questions than answers.
If Coyle is a full-time winger, your third-line center becomes the black hole it was a year ago. Unless it's a role you think Par Lindholm can fill on a full-time basis. But Lindholm, though a worthwhile bottom-sixer, does not have the same possession game and offensive touch as Coyle, which makes him an unlikely plug-and-play candidate for such a duty come postseason time. And putting Bjork in the top six would also leave Jake DeBrusk, who has been a fit with David Krejci since breaking in to the NHL, without a home in the Black and Gold's top six. That lack of a bonafide third-line center in this scenario would make DeBrusk seemingly wasted in a third-line role, too, essentially making the B's even more top heavy than they already are.
But in the now, and with the Bruins looking for healthy bodies capable of contributing, it'll work just fine.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a Friday night head-to-head between these rivals...
When in doubt, call Brad Marchand
The third period served as a reminder just how deadly Brad Marchand can be when he has the puck on his stick. Scoring both of Boston's go-ahead goals in the period, No. 63 remains one of the game's top finishers, and made Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen look downright stupid on both of his strikes. Marchand did this in Boston's last victory, a 6-4 win over the Penguins, and remains perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the B's getting themselves back to form.
Chara on Marchand (via NESN): “He showed why he’s our best player — not only on our team but in the league.”
— Matt Porter (@mattyports) November 16, 2019
Trent Frederic makes 2019-20 NHL debut on wing
In what is nothing short of completely ridiculous, 2016 first-round pick Trent Frederic became the 19th Boston forward to dress for a game this year, skating to the left of Par Lindholm and Danton Heinen on Boston's third line. And the 16th NHL game of Frederic's career featured more of the same from the Missouri-born forward, as he had just one shot on goal but contributed six hits in 8:35 of time on ice. Finding offense at the NHL level (and even the AHL level for that matter) has been a chore, as Frederic rarely seems to have the puck on his stick, and moving from center to wing surely didn't help him in this regard. But at some point, you'd like to see Frederic look even somewhat capable of generating some offense the other way.
More video review hell
I've looked at the play a billion times and still can't make a definitive call as to whether or not Auston Matthews' stick was indeed above the crossbar, but there's something funny about this review taking like 15 seconds while an offside review takes upwards of three minutes. Oh, and it also appeared that you had two different referees signaling different things. This league.
The Leafs still can't play defense
The Maple Leafs may have some serious high-end skill at the top of their roster, but it's still tough to take them seriously as any sort of playoff threat given how straight-up terrible they look when asked to play any sort of team defense. I mean, they were straight-up railroaded by the Bruins in that third period, and it was downright embarrassing at times. At the same time, this is what happens you spend a billion dollars on your forwards and then try to build a defense out of 11 dollars.
How about this hit from Charlie McAvoy?
Friday came with a reminder that Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy can bring the nasty when necessary.
What a hit from Charlie McAvoy. pic.twitter.com/VYLoG64sa6
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) November 16, 2019
More of that, please.