The Boston Bruins may want to schedule a “Charlie Card” promotion the next time they face the hated Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.
The first Bruins-Canadiens matchup in 641 days provided plenty of drama through big hits, scoring chances, and intense moments between whistles. But Boston’s pair of Charlies, Coyle and McAvoy, took center stage in the latest chapter of this historic rivalry.
Both Charlies lit the lamp twice, with McAvoy setting the tone on a pair of equalizers in the second and third periods.
It didn’t matter who stood in McAvoy’s way, as fellow teammate Nick Foligno found out firsthand. McAvoy’s high-flying night on both ends of the ice capped off one of the best outings of his five-year career.
The other Charlie used his head — both figuratively and literally — to put the Bruins ahead for good.
Coyle’s noggin paid a price, but his unique goal off Jeff Petry’s failed clear attempt in front of Sam Montembeault gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead shortly after McAvoy’s second of the night. The Weymouth native added an insurance tally off a stellar rush, and birthday boy Taylor Hall delivered the empty-netter to secure Boston’s 5-2 victory.
Another odd break awaits the Bruins. They won’t play again until Saturday’s tilt in Philadelphia. For now, here’s what we learned from Boston’s eighth win of the 2021-22 campaign.
McAvoy’s offensive instincts are reaching new heights.
The former Boston University standout provided an instant jolt to Boston’s blue-line upon his arrival in the spring of 2017.
McAvoy’s steady two-way progression catapulted him into elite territory. His offensive instincts, defensive assertiveness and physical prowess developed McAvoy into one of the more stout 5v5 blueliners in the league.
Surely McAvoy provided offensive sparks in his 20-25 minutes of ice time per night. His point production, while solid, didn’t necessarily match his importance to his club during his first four seasons.
With his recent $9.5 million extension in hand, McAvoy’s ascension continued at the start of the year when Bruce Cassidy inserted him into the top power-play unit with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and a rotation of net-front guys in Hall and Foligno.
No matter the situation, the Bruins benefit when McAvoy has the puck. He displayed his high offensive IQ in Boston’s pair of weekend triumphs, tallying a trio of assists Saturday against the Devils and a couple of lamplighters on Sunday.
McAvoy’s offensive production came with variety on Sunday. He attacked the net with his first tally, set up by Hall’s initial shot and Jakub Zboril’s stout entry into the offensive end. Then, with the Bruins down 2-1 in the third, he fired a wrist shot past a screened Montembault for another tying marker.
“You want to let him play. He’s a very fluid creative player,” Cassidy said on unleashing McAvoy’s offensive skillset. “I don’t want to be the guy that says, ‘hey, pass here and shoot here.’ He’s running a power play with some high-end talent with one puck and they all want it. Everybody wants the [puck], so he’s got to balance that on the power play and then 5-on-5 — I think that’s where we encourage [McAvoy to attack] more. Get more pucks to the net and get inside position, whereas the power play is a little more scripted.”
McAvoy finished the night with a trio of hits seven shots on net in 23:03 of ice time. Another Charlie then highlighted the second half of the weekend’s secondary scoring uptick.
Bruins get a weekend’s worth of needed offensive depth.
Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk bookended Boston’s 5-2 win in Newark. In between, the top line went to work dissecting the Devils’ D in Saturday’s matinee.
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak all produced their share of scoring chances against the injury-plagued Habs one night later. This time, they had some company from the second, third and fourth lines, particularly in the final 40.
The bottom-six wore down a Canadiens bunch playing in their second game of a back-to-back, albeit within a shorter timeframe following their loss in Detroit 24 hours prior. It paved the way for the second line of Coyle, Hall and Foligno.
In the end, Coyle and company earned their bounces. The Weymouth native received a little luck from his helmet for his go-ahead tally.
“I’ll take more of those to be honest. Sometimes you get a little lucky,” Coyle said of his first of two tallies. “You try to play the right way and sometimes you get bounces going your way. I happened to get a really good bounce there. But, it was a big goal. I think anyone will take any of those.”
The Bruins received a middle-of-the-lineup upgrade with Hall’s arrival at last year’s trade deadline. They entered this season looking for David Krejci’s replacement from within.
Coyle provided the Bruins a reliable hand as Boston’s new second-line center. The local product rewarded the coaching staff’s faith in him with his two-goal effort on Sunday, capping off a productive weekend of secondary scoring.
Cassidy ‘Swayed’ by his gut
Jeremy Swayman manned the pipes for the first two games of the 2021-22 campaign. Linus Ullmark then started Boston’s next three tilts.
Swayman and Ullmark have alternated starts since. It appeared the trend would continue this weekend, with one starting the road tilt against in New Jersey and the other entering the crease on Causeway St before the six-day break.
Ever swayed by his gut, Cassidy deviated from the script.
“That was a gut feeling,” Cassidy said of his decision to start Swayman on back-to-back nights. “The one part of having a two-headed monster in net is now you’re trying to get two goalies going. And I think with the amount of games we’ve had, it’s been a tough challenge for both of them to get into their rhythm. So I guess the other night, I felt that we could get one going and then work on the other one and get him going. It just happened to be Swayman.”
This isn’t new territory to Swayman by any means. He established that back-to-back routine as UMaine’s workhorse during his three collegiate seasons.
Granted, Swayman never started consecutive nights at the NHL level. Yet, a year and a half removed from his final season in Orono, Swayman remained his calm and collected self on the second half of a back-to-back, making 27 stops in his first career Bruins-Habs tilt.
Another set of back-to-backs awaits the Bruins next weekend. Cassidy and the coaching staff are leaning toward Ullmark making his first start since Thursday’s third-period collapse against the high-octane Oilers. Either way, they’ll undoubtedly return to the script again, heading into their third back-to-back encounter of the year.
“In fairness to Ullmark, he had the toughest assignment against Edmonton with its potent offense, and I think it will be a good week for him to get his practice details in order,” Cassidy said. “He’ll probably go in the net in Philadelphia. That was the plan originally to give him a week of practice. Things could change, but that what went into the conversation because we’ll definitely split them next weekend.”