The contributions on the offensive side of the puck have been obvious for the Boston Bruins since Taylor Hall arrived at the NHL trade deadline.
Playmaking center David Krejci has looked energized and like much more of a threat with the puck, and Hall himself has three goals, six points and a plus-6 in eight games since arriving from the Buffalo Sabres.
“I think we complement each other well,” said Hall. “Once we get in the offensive zone, we have a level of battle that allows us to create second chances. It’s been a lot of fun playing with [Krejci and Craig Smith].
“Unfortunately, in my career I’ve had a lot of games late in the season that didn’t really mean much. To now potentially play in the playoffs and have meaningful shifts every game where when you score a goal it’s important to the team, that’s been a lot of fun.”
The speed, the creativity and the willingness to make plays are all as advertised throughout his NHL career, but there’s been even more than was initially billed with the left winger.
Seemingly every game since Hall’s arrival has featured him hustling away from the puck, breaking up plays with the back-check and paying attention to the little details of his game. Against the Penguins in Sunday’s shutout loss, Hall hustled back to force Teddy Blueger into a rushed backhander on a 2-on-1 rush simply by finishing off a hard two-way shift.
— Bruins Diehards (@BruinsDiehards) April 25, 2021
That’s exactly the kind of thing that will get the 29-year-old Hall into the good graces of two-way players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
The left winger contends it’s always been a part of his game, and certainly it was in his Hart Trophy season with the Devils where he finished a plus-14 along with his 93 points.
“Honestly, I feel like I’ve done that for most of the year. The plus/minus stats didn’t really bear fruit to that in Buffalo, but I’ve always been conscious of my defensive game,” said Hall. “I don’t like being on for goals against and costing the team that way. Any way I can help the team win games and that’s what I’m here to do.
Clearly that’s a good idea for any player entering a new team dynamic as Hall did with the Bruins a couple of weeks ago, but it was also a little surprising for a player that finished a minus-21 in 37 games with the Buffalo Sabres this season.
It’s certainly been something that Bruce Cassidy has been pleasantly surprised by after not digging deeply into Hall’s game in the recent past.
“He’s obviously contributed offensively both scoring and making plays. I think his effort to get back into our end on back-checks has been there every night,” said Cassidy. “[On Sunday] he broke up a play and kind of impacted the way a 2-on-1 was going to play out with a back-check that forced a guy onto his backhand.
“It’s little things away from the puck that you don’t know as much about a player where you’re not as familiar with them aside outside their offensive resume. He’s fit in well and we’ve won a lot of hockey games with him in the lineup. I don’t think he’s been out there for a goal against yet, and for an offensive guy that’s obviously a good sign. It’s all good from my end and I think the line itself has enjoyed him as a part of it.”
Clearly the picture is still incomplete when it comes to Hall and the Boston Bruins given the sample size, and with the most important part of his audition process coming up with the Stanley Cup playoffs on the horizon. But it’s clear at this point that Hall has impressed the Bruins with his play in his first few weeks in Black and Gold and could be looking at a longer-term picture in Boston if he keeps playing strong two-way hockey.