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Bruins Player Predictions: Third Line Will Give Bruins ‘Unicorns’



David Backes

Three scoring lines is a dream for most NHL teams. Very few teams have been able to roll out a top-nine that is dangerous offensively on every line. Sure, everyone wants to do it, but it just isn’t realistic in the salary cap era. Three scoring lines on the same depth chart is the NHL’s version of unicorns. It isn’t real, it’s just a fantasy. Unless you are the Boston Bruins, of course.

Thanks to the savvy addition of Charlie Coyle at the 2019 trade deadline, the Boston Bruins have the potential for the NHL’s ‘unicorn’ in 2019-20. After being carried by a single scoring line for the last few seasons, the Bruins very likely could have three units capable of outscoring the opponent. Coyle will anchor the club’s third line this season, and is poised for a huge year. He was terrific in the postseason and dominated this past preseason.

He’ll be joined by young skill winger Danton Heinen, while veteran David Backes attempts to rebound on the other wing. If things break right, this trio should be a solid scoring line for the Bruins against soft opposition.

2018-19 Stats

Coyle played in 21 regular season tilts for the Bruins a season ago, coming over in February via trade. He struggled to adapt at the end of the regular season, managing just six points (2 g, 4 a) and a -2 rating. Coyle went from being a go-to offensive center in Minnesota to being a guy with a more all-around role in Boston.

The playoffs were a different story. Coyle was an impact player for the Bruins, appearing in 24 games and posting 16 points (9 g, 7 a). At times, Coyle was the Bruins best forward during the postseason. He’s got the talent to be a real offensive difference maker, and possesses the size to be a force on the ice. Possession wise, Coyle posted a 54.9% Corsi For at five-on-five as a Bruin a season ago.

David Backes never complained. He was willing to do whatever it took to remain in the lineup and help his teammates in 2018-19. That included taking on the role of enforcer, not an easy task for a player with concussion issues in the past. Backes struggled mightily a season ago, and was a liability most nights. With just 20 points (7 g, 13 a) in 70 games, the offense all but dried up with Backes.

His possession numbers were relatively strong, 54.5% Corsi For at five-on-five, +1.4% relative to his teammates, but there wasn’t much going on with Backes a season ago.

Backes’ 20 points were the lowest of his NHL career. At times, Backes looked done as an NHL’er.

Heinen, meanwhile, took a step back from a terrific 47 point campaign in 2017-18. He finished 2018-19 with 34 points (11 g, 23 a) while bouncing around the lineup. With a more defined role, Heinen should be able to get back to form in 2019-20. Heinen brought a bit of a physical presence, registering 54 hits at even strength and blocking 36 shots.

One area of Heinen’s game that remained consistently strong? He had 43 takeaways a season ago.

2019-20 Predictions

If this line stays together this season, they should provide the Bruins with steady play. A refreshed Backes looked like a different player during training camp and could be poised for a slight rebound in the coming season. Coyle, with a full camp and some comfort in Boston, is poised to breakout this season. Once he got comfortable with the Bruins, Coyle proved to be a true impact player a season ago. Expect a continuation of that this season.

Both Coyle and Heinen have the ability to post 40-50 points in a given season, which is top-six production in today’s NHL. You put that on the third line, and you can expect an impact offensive trio. Factor in softer opposition and this trio could feast in the coming year.

Steady two-way play and consistent secondary scoring. If Heinen, Coyle and Backes remain together in 2019-20, that should be the expectation from Bruins fans. This is a line of responsible veterans who play the game the right way. Bruce Cassidy will lean on them quite a bit in the new season.

Charlie Coyle Official Prediction: 80 GP, 18 Goals, 23 Assists, 41 Points, +9, 16:11 TOI

Danton Heinen Official Prediction: 76 GP, 11 Goals, 25 Assists, 36 Points, +11, 14:01 TOI

David Backes Official Prediction: 70 GP, 8 Goals, 20 Assists, 28 Points, +15, 13:08 TOI

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