Friday night in Buffalo was a truly weird game for the Bruins.
And to be honest, I’m still not sure exactly what I just watched. But when push came to shove, the Bruins found a way to win a game that they probably shouldn’t have, all things considered. I know, I know, I know. We’re talking about the Buffalo Sabres, so that’s not exactly what you want to read. (That’s the 3-0-0 Sabres entering Friday’s head-to-head, pal.)
Still, the simple point is that so long as the Bruins are the Bruins and the Sabres are the Sabres, that’s a game that should favor the Bruins. And when it ultimately did, a new-look second line with Tomas Nosek riding with Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle had a major hand in the Bruins ‘escaping’ the rink with a much-needed bounce-back victory in Buffalo.
Thrown together in the first period, it was the Hall-Coyle-Nosek line that found the back of the net for the eventual game-winning goal with Nosek’s first in a Bruins uniform, it was Coyle who pushed the Boston lead to three in the middle frame, and Hall who hammered home perhaps the most hateful empty-net goal you’ll see in 2021 to make it a 4-1 final.
So, why was this a ‘surprise’ result for the Bruins?
Well, to be blunt, they kinda got their heads caved in territorially.
By the night’s end, the Sabres out-attempted the Bruins at five-on-five by a 60-33 mark at five-on-five. The Sabres also held the edge in shots (31-21), scoring chances (36-16), and high-danger chances (16-9) over 48-minute five-on-five sample. The high-danger scoring chance figure certainly seemed legit, with the home plate area in front of Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark looking like a damn warzone every time the Sabres got down below the dots. In fact, only four Bruins finished the night with a positive on-ice shot differential (all three members of the Bergeron line and Matt Grzelcyk).
But the difference in this one: Coyle.
One game after he committed the selfish penalty that helped kickstart the Flyers’ runaway on Wednesday night, Coyle played like the No. 2 center the Bruins need him to be if they’re gong to be right about him seamlessly replacing David Krejci. Finishing the night with three points (something he had just one other time during his Boston tenure), the performance pushed the B’s record to a lethal 10-0-1 when Coyle records at least two points. That’s a recipe for success.
Coyle also finished as Boston’s top penalty-killing option up front for a unit that went a perfect 4-for-4. Coyle saved his best shorthanded work for Boston’s final kill of the night, too, using his body to deny a pass that would’ve led to another extended stretch where the already-gassed Bruins would have found themselves pinned the B’s in their own zone.
These efforts aren’t the norm. Not yet, anyway.
But on Friday, it was the perfect counter to ‘weirdness’ that likely took everyone on the Boston bench by surprise.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from an Every Time I Die-esque Radical 4-1 final in Buffalo…
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.