BRIGHTON, Mass – After 11 years in the NHL and almost 700 regular season games under his belt, there aren’t many new things for Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall at this point in his career.
But the 29-year-old Hall will be a new guy this season in terms of the power play as it looks like he’s going to start net-front for the Boston Bruins top PP unit this season.
Nick Foligno got a few net-front looks early in training camp and Jake DeBrusk has worked that area in the past as well, but it looks like the B’s are interesting in loading up on that PP unit with Charlie McAvoy running point, Patrice Bergeron in the bumper, Hall in front and David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand setting up in either of the circles.
Hall is normally working off the half-wall or perhaps even manned the point in some unique formations, but playing in front of the opposing net is a new one for the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder. It’s also something he’s looking forward to developing as things go on.
“I don’t think there’s really defined spots on that power play. Obviously off the faceoff if we set up in our perfect alignment then I’m set up net front at the goal line, retrieving pucks and I don’t think that sounds like a bad thing. I think it’s awesome to be on a unit with those guys,” said Hall, who has had just seven power play goals over the last three seasons and had one apiece for the Sabres and Bruins last season. “Whatever I can do to help, that’s what I want to do. As you get more comfortable then you start playing.
“I remember when [Torey] Krug was on the PP, he’d be goal line and he’d be behind the net sometimes. That just happens when you’re on the ice with good players. You make plays and you read off each other. I just that’s good for your overall game when you’re out there with those guys. I don’t think I took a shift with [Brad Marchand] even once last year, so it’s been nice to play give-and-go with him. I’m relishing the opportunity I have on that unit.”
It will mean more focus on Hall winning battles down low, tipping pucks around the net and generally playing a power forward game that hasn’t always been the ask from him in the post. Then again, the Boston Bruins improvise a great deal on the power play, rotate through positions and generally wreak havoc on penalty kills with their creativity and movement.
All of this brings an interesting element to Hall doing something different than his usual PP spot, and the Bruins looking to make dangerous options at each of the five spots on the power play formation.
“On 5-on-5 it’s a little through the neutral zone and one-on-one skating, so it’s stuff that’s happening dynamically. He’s got the ability to back people off and separate [with his speed]. The power play is a little more structured in terms of where the puck is going through.
“There’s a little less of him getting his touches when you’re net front, so he has to find the areas where he can impact that. We’re looking at that too. With entries for example, it was usually [Pastrnak] and [Marchand] on the outside, but now we have another weapon there. There are certainly ways he can get it through the middle of the ice, but [the challenge will be] finding ways to use his teammates effectively on the power play. The other night against Washington he got away from the front of the net a little bit. At the end of the day, you can’t get too far away from the front of the net because that’s his responsibility.”
Will it result in a power play pop for Hall when it comes to paying the price around the net? That remains to be seen as it could be a star-studded power play, or it could just as easily become a spot where multiple players get looks after Nick Ritchie did a pretty solid taking up net-front space (and scoring his share of PP goals) last season.