Karson Kuhlman didn’t wait long to reward Bruce Cassidy’s decision to promote him from the fourth to the third line in Monday’s meeting with Philadelphia.
Bumped up to a line with Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle in the first period, Kuhlman found the puck on his stick, cocked back and absolutely ripped a goal through Brian Elliott for the B’s first goal of the night and his second of the 2021 season.
Karson Kuhlman snipes one past Elliott.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 5, 2021
Tie game. pic.twitter.com/RrjQ9sghqB
“A big part of my game is getting pucks in and getting to the net myself,” Kuhlman said. “I think I was passing up on a lot of opportunities to shoot it early in the year. So getting back to getting to the net was an emphasis.”
“In that particular case, he just found some good ice at the right place and waited for a shooting lane or traffic, whatever you want to call it, did a nice job, and shot through the goalie from 35 feet away,” Cassidy said Kuhlman’s tally. “That was nice. That’s an NHL goal all day long.”
And so here we are, with Kuhlman having a chance to stick as the B’s third-line right wing with Charlie Coyle. He’s just the latest in a list that’s included Anders Bjork, Jack Studnicka, Craig Smith, Oskar Steen, and Zach Senyshyn among others. (Senyshyn was the one bumped down to the fourth line, and ultimately out of the rotation, for Kuhlman on Monday.)
There’s an obvious sample-size issue at hand, but the on-ice results for the Coyle-Kuhlman have been largely positive in 2021, with the duo holding a 14-9 shot advantage, and 2-1 scoring edge, in almost 22 five-on-five minutes together.
This may be where Kuhlman has the best chance to stick, too.
Previous jumps into a top-six role opposite David Krejci have been too great of an ask outside of fill-in games. And it’s almost impossible to imagine anybody other than David Pastrnak skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when it’s true winning time, though Smith’s recent skates with the Black and Gold’s top-line duo have been encouraging.
“I think [Kuhlman] certainly could be a guy that brings some secondary scoring and has for us,” Cassidy said. “He’s got a good shot, good release. He’ll go to the net, you know, finds himself in good spots, just a size issue for him. Will he get sort of pushed out of the good ice at times? But he’s using his speed, I think, better this year to get inside. He’s more willing.”
“We know that everybody’s pushing each other day in and day out, which is awesome,” Kuhlman, who logged a season-high 12:21 in his last outing before Monday’s contest, noted. “That competition we talk about a lot, I think for myself, is just playing my game: Bring energy every single night [and] do whatever I can to help the team win. Whether it’s score goal, block shots or make hits throughout the game. I think it’s just sticking to what’s got me here.”
Now comes the part that’s always proven difficult for Kuhlman: sticking with it and sticking in the lineup.