Boston Bruins

Jan 24, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins forward Taylor Hall (71) celebrates with teammate forward David Pastrnak (88) after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sport

Man, the Montreal Canadiens stink.

I mean, sure, part of that is by design with future NHL terrorizer Connor Bedard on the line for the team that falls the hardest in 2022-23, but PEEEEEEEEE YOOOOOOOOOU. What a nightmare. They should let Marty St. Louis coach in sweatpants and sunglasses, to be honest. No point in dressing up for that every night.

I’m on Twitter crying about not seeing enough of this rivalry in recent years as Gary Bettman forces me to watch entirely too much San Jose Sharks hockey than I’d ever want to see, but then this rivalry showed up like the IMPACT version of Hulk Hogan and suddenly you realize that it’s not something you necessarily need to see.

But these are not takeaways as much as they’re simply facts of the current situation involving two century-long rivals with vastly different ambitions in 2023.

Instead, the biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s 4-2 win in Montreal should came with a familiar-but-missed name back in the box score for the Bruins. Because Bruins winger Taylor Hall, stuck in the mud of a 16-game goalless drought entering the Bell Centre for the first time all season, is back on the board.

And not a moment too soon.

  • Hall has been doing this long enough, but oh, man, that had to feel like 700 pounds coming right off your back.

    Enough to make a net-front tap-in feel like an end-to-end top-shelf finish to win the Stanley Cup.

    A good soldier on a roster that’s full of ’em, the 31-year-old Hall has trusted the process throughout this season. He has not once complained about a roster complexion that’s put him on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic, and utilized in more of a shutdown role than anything else. Ask him about it and he’ll tell you that everyone on this year’s team is sacrificing something in the name of winning.

    He’s also done his part to make plays when promoted up a line or two, which has happened of late, especially with the Bruins still without Jake DeBrusk and with David Pastrnak unable to play all 60 minutes of hockey.

    But you couldn’t help but feel that the dam simply had to break for Hall as soon as possible, especially from a confidence standpoint given the way he’s performed throughout this slump.

    Because in his 16 games between goals, there’s no doubt that Hall did his part to create.

    Among Boston skaters with at least 200 minutes of all-situation play, Hall ranked fifth in individual scoring chances for per 60 (8.93) behind Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Charlie Coyle. Hall also ranked fifth among that group in individual high-danger chances for per 60, at 4.1, which was better than Pastrnak, and ranked 108th out of 235 NHLers with at least 200 all-situation minutes over that span.

    Switching from individual to on-ice data, Hall ranked fourth on the Bruins in corsi-for percentage, shots-for percentage, and fourth in on-ice expected goals per 60.

    He was doing everything but putting goals and points on the board.

  • These are all fancy ways of saying that Hall never ‘cheated the game’ during his slump.

    This was especially noticeable in the defensive zone, as Hall continued to develop chemistry with Coyle with Montgomery’s continued usage of that third line as a shutdown line. They were given some absolutely brutal matchups during this spell, too, with none bigger than a showdown with Auston Matthews at TD Garden.

    That contest featured an absolutely brilliant move from Hall, too, with Hall backchecking like hell and diving to break up a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Leafs. Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark just did Hall a favor and made his dive worth it with an exclamation point on that sequence behind one of the best saves you’ll see all season.

    But, of course, the tangible production will always reign supreme when it comes to Hall’s impact on this club.

  • ELMONT, NEW YORK - JANUARY 18: Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on January 18, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – JANUARY 18: Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on January 18, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • And the good news is that history tells us that that should be on the way back now that Hall’s touch is back.

    Acquired by the Bruins from the Sabres in Apr. 2021 in a deal that’s looking like one of Don Sweeney’s best, Hall has skated in 33 games following a goal in his previous outing throughout his time with the Bruins. Over that 33-game sample with a hot stick to his name, Hall has racked up 11 goals and 36 points.

    This year alone, Hall has put up five goals and 15 points in 10 games following a goal.

    Is there a real explanation behind the production? Probably not. So let’s just go with a simple when you’re hot, you’re hot. And the Bruins will need Hall to stay hot against some stiffer competition to close out their pre-All Star break slate. Beginning Thursday night in Tampa Bay, the Bruins will run through a stretch that features head-to-heads with the Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, and Maple Leafs.

    That’s one game against a team that hasn’t beaten you since Dec. 2021 and desperately wants to show you that the East still runs through their house, the always-tricky Sunrise showing, and back-to-back meetings with the two biggest threats to your goal of getting back to hockey’s biggest stage.

    Or, in other words, a perfect time for No. 71 to get back to feeling himself with something tangible to his name.

  • MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 24: Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins and Jordan Harris #54 of the Montreal Canadiens skate after the puck during the third period of the game at Centre Bell on January 24, 2023 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL, CANADA – JANUARY 24: Taylor Hall #71 of the Boston Bruins and Jordan Harris #54 of the Montreal Canadiens skate after the puck during the third period of the game at Centre Bell on January 24, 2023. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)