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Getting to overtime provided an uphill climb for the Boston Bruins.
Boston’s struggling offense couldn’t catch a break through the first 40 minutes and change. At times, they passed up shot attempts and looked for the perfect play. They fell victim to posts, crossbars, and pucks nearly trickling over the goal-line when they fired pucks toward the goal.
It all nearly crumbled on them even after Coyle scored his third of the season late in the opening stanza. A defensive lapse on Anthony Duclair’s tally early in the middle stanza and an Aleksander Barkov power-play one-timer in the third period put the struggling Bruins in another hole.
Through all the tough breaks, the Bruins persevered. Their struggling power play evened things up with 6:25 left in regulation on a brilliant feed from Brad Marchand to Charlie McAvoy.
The Bruins needed a shootout to secure the two points after the two teams combined for one single shot on net in the 3v3 overtime. Coyle’s lone shootout tally sealed Boston’s comeback win and Florida’s first loss of the season.
“You don’t want to get those losing streaks that piled up,” Cassidy said following Boston’s 3-2 triumph. “If you want to be considered a good team, you have to beat good teams. I thought the games were close this week, but we didn’t do the right thing at the right time…and some of [our play] tonight was we were playing the right way. We did hit a post early. It was just getting hard to score. Sometimes it will get away from you if you’re not careful, you lose your structure and try to cheat.
“Credit to the guys. We talked about it with them between periods. You’ve got to stick with it. We’ve been in a lot of 1-1 hockey games over the years. We know how to play those games, and even though we gave up a goal [in the third], we got it back.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 4-3 on the young season.
The Bruins wound up short at wing following injuries to Smith and Nick Foligno. With that in mind, Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle from his natural center spot to wing and promoted Jack Studnicka to the second line following his callup from Providence, hoping to provide stability in the top-six.
Studnicka’s two-game trial centering Coyle and Hall provided mixed results at best. With Smith returning, Cassidy reinserted Coyle in the second line center role as Studnicka entered healthy scratch status. Smith eventually found himself skating alongside the potent duo of Marchand and Patrice Bergeron as a struggling David Pastrnak moved to second-line duty.
Surely, Coyle and Hall adjusted a bit to Cassidy’s in-game line changes. It didn’t matter. Coyle put forth one of his better performances of his Bruins tenure. His assertiveness in all three zones paid off after notching his third goal of the season — on a slick snipe past Spencer Knight — and a nifty shootout tally to secure a victory in their second game of the year against a highly skilled Florida bunch.
“We needed that,” Coyle said of the win over the 8-0-1 Panthers. “We saw them a few nights ago and their record speaks for itself. Especially early in the season — to face a team a couple of times in so many nights like that you don’t want to lose twice. I think it’s good on us to fight back here and grab the two points.”
Coyle’s versatility in the middle of the lineup significantly benefits the club as it did on Saturday. Right now, he’s a keeper on the second line.
The top power-play unit of Hall, Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy hardly found a healthy rhythm with one another through the first six games. They looked out of sorts again on Boston’s first two power-play attempts Saturday night.
Amidst all their struggles, Boston’s top man-advantage quintet shined in a pivotal moment. The Bruins faced a 2-1 deficit when Smith drew a hook on Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe at 13:17 of the final 20. Only 18 seconds elapsed before Marchand saucered a slick pass to the slot to a streaking McAvoy, pinching in from his usual point spot. Unlike the second period where he passed up a shooting opportunity on a 2-on-1 rush, McAvoy fired one past Knight for the pivotal equalizer.
“It’s funny because that’s not how we scripted [the play],” McAvoy said of his first tally in 2021-22. “One of the things Butchy [Cassidy] talks about is possession over position. So we get the puck and we’re trying to make plays, and that’s kind of where the skill takes over. I kind of don’t know what I’m doing there backdoor, but that’s where I ended up. Marchy is on this side, I’m on that side and Pasta is on the top. But that’s where we trusted each other and you just want to let the skill take over. It was really nice to see that one go in.”
The top man-advantage unit witnessed a significant departure in Torey Krug in 2020. Following training camp, McAvoy solidified the No. 1 power-play quarterback role after splitting time in that coveted spot last season with Matt Grzelcyk.
McAvoy provides a different dynamic on the top unit. Unlike Krug or Grzelcyk, who transition the puck with slick passing and stickwork, McAvoy uses his speed and skating sense to set up the attack. On a night where the Bruins and Panthers honored one of their former teammates, the former Boston University standout used his agility for a game-changing moment.
The tragic death of ‘Broadway’ Jimmy Hayes this summer hit the tight-knit hockey community hard.
On Saturday, Hayes’ former squads came together for a touching tribute. The night began with the Bruins and Panthers displaying ‘Haysey’ and ‘Broadway’ crests on the back of their sweaters. The uniforms will be auctioned off to benefit the Bruins and Panthers foundations and a charity of the Hayes’ family choosing.
The tributes continued right before puck drop with a moment of silence and a touching montage highlighting Hayes’ accomplishments on and off the ice.
We’re sure Hayes appreciated the tribute watching from above. We’re also certain he would’ve enjoyed watching his two former teams take the ice in a spirited early-season Atlantic Division matchup.
“I played with Jimmy. A very infectious kid and a pleasure to be around,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said of Hayes (via Mass Live). “I miss not being able to see him, but to be part of it tonight is very special.”
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