BOSTON – Charlie Coyle wasn’t about to make a big production out of it, but the Boston Bruins forward finally snapped out of the longest offensive drought of his career.
The big-bodied center struck for the game-winning goal in the third period of Boston’s 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Thursday night, and in doing so scored a goal for the first time in 28 games dating back to February. The goal was all Coyle, too, as he tore a puck away from Sam Reinhart along the sideboards in the neutral zone, carried Reinhart on his way to the net and then finished with a nasty offering under the crossbar.
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It was exactly the kind of goal that shows off all of Coyle’s skills in a 6-foot-2, 210-pound body and makes everybody wonder how that guy could possibly go two months without scoring a goal for the Boston Bruins. Just don’t ask Coyle if scoring lifted a weight off his shoulders because it doesn’t seem like that was the case for the 29-year-old forward with team goals on his mind.
“It’s not about me scoring goals, it’s about the team winning. Did I realize it had been a while since I scored? Yeah, but you just need to make sure you play your game. I don’t go into every game thinking I’ve got to score…I’ve got to score,” said Coyle. “It’s just about me bringing what I’m capable of bringing for the team to play well. We need a lot more than just me scoring goals. It was not weighing on me because it’s not about me, it’s about the team.
“You always want to contribute every game, but it’s a team game. Happy to see it go in, help my team win and I just need to keep doing what I set out to do. That stuff will happen. Sometimes you’re not scoring, and you need to bulldoze your way to the net. That was kind of my mindset on that goal.”
Certainly, Coyle was never going to be in the same spot as the struggling Jake DeBrusk, who has been relegated to healthy scratch status for the last couple of games. The next time DeBrusk bulldozes his way to the net will be the first he does it, and that’s part of the issue with the former first round pick.
Coyle still plays good, solid defense and lends his big frame to screening the goaltender in front of the net, and there are meaningful contributions to special teams that would be missed were they not in the B’s lineup.
Coyle finally lighting the lamp was certainly about him making a play to help win the game on Thursday but chalk up a deserving assist to B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy moving him to the wing during his recent struggles. Sean Kuraly was bumped up to third line center allowing Coyle a little more freedom to roam, and less responsibility, that cleared the way to look for more offense.
“It was obviously the difference in the game,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “It was [Coyle’s] type of goal where he took it to the net, something we’ve been encouraging him to do a lot more as of late. Hopefully he builds off that. He’s a big man and I think you’ll see a lot more goals if he’s willing to do that. Maybe this will give him some confidence and he can get going from there.”
Coyle also gave Kuraly an assist as a linemate that perhaps allows to pursue offense a little bit more than he’d been doing in the recent past with younger, less well-rounded linemates.
“Sometimes when you play wing you just play in more of a straight line. I’m playing with a guy in Sean Kuraly that’s really responsible defensively. I can trust him and really get in on the forecheck,” said Coyle. “That’s the beauty of playing with another guy that’s got a bit more of that defensive mentality.”
Regardless of what’s happened with Coyle in February and March, it’s pivotal that his third line gets things together in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the top two lines firing on all cylinders for the Black and Gold, a spate of effective two-way play with occasional offense from the third line could be the key to a deep postseason run from the Bruins.
After a dry spell in the middle of the season, Coyle is exhibiting signs he’s ready to carry the third line and turn into that big, strong forward that was almost unstoppable during the B’s playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
“I think how Charlie was holding on to the puck and just dominating the game in those playoffs,” said Kuraly, when asked what made Coyle such a difference-maker as he posted nine goals and 16 points along with a plus-8 in 24 playoff games. “He’s just such a powerful skater, a big guy. He holds onto the puck really well and he’s got some really high-end skill and can finish. He’s got some good touch and a great shot. When he’s doing all those things, he’s really the total package in terms of skill set. So, I think he was really doing a little bit of everything which is why he was playing so well and why he’s such a good player.”
If the Weymouth native can turn into that “dominating” guy again during this upcoming postseason then the sky truly is the limit for the Boston Bruins as the conversation turns to realistic Stanley Cup prospects.