Don’t look now but Boston Bruins bruising forward Trent Frederic is playing some of the best hockey in his NHL career on a “heavy line” with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith.
The 24-year-old Frederic has teamed with Coyle and Smith to make a dynamic forward line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand out of the lineup, and they accounted for Boston’s only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy termed Coyle, Frederic and Smith as Boston’s “best forward line” in the shootout loss as they continue to play a heavy, effective two-way style of play that could be a factor down the stretch.
“They’ve been good. They’ve been our best line,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who noted that the Taylor Hall, Erik Haula and David Pastrnak trio has been passing up some shooting chances to unsuccessfully try and make plays in recent games. “They’re going to the net for second chances. They’re a little more let’s get it there off the first pass, create some second chances so they’ve been good in that way.”
Frederic had three shots on net and a couple of blocked shots on Tuesday night, and that was after scoring a goal in last weekend’s matinee win over the Ottawa Senators.
Even in the blowout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Frederic was noticeable with some physicality and play around the front of the net while getting a bit more ice time with Marchand serving out his six-game suspension. And Coyle was a beast scoring the game’s only goal and potting one in the shootout as well as he’s pretty clearly elevated his game with bodies missing from the Bruins lineup.
“At the beginning of the year last year we played together a little bit – me, Smitty and Freddy. It seemed like we clicked right away. We just kind of jelled. I was pretty excited to see them on my wings and test it out,” said Coyle. “You get one on the first shift, you feel pretty good. That’s a good way to start. It’s just all the little things we did leading up to that. And it was the same thing, we just kind of clicked right away.
“We had a number of chances, and we should have buried a bunch. But it’s good to get an opportunity with those guys. We’re just looking to build on that. We could be a very good line, a big line, guys who can protect the puck, holding it down there and be responsible and contribute, too.”
Clearly, Coyle was a guy that struggled in last week’s loss to Carolina and was one of the veteran players called out a bit by his head coach in that humbling defeat. Coyle has responded since then with a goal and two points, a plus-2 rating and six shots on net while being very involved at both ends of the ice for the undermanned Black and Gold.
The Frederic-Coyle-Smith line strikes once again.
Coyle knocks a rebound past Shesterkin to open the scoring.
1-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/QpItLKzg72
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) February 16, 2022
“I think sometimes he’ll take more responsibility to shoot the puck and attack the net, it seems like depending on who he’s playing with. We always encourage him ‘Never mind who’s on your right or left, just play that game and pull them along and they’ll get there,’” said Cassidy. “That’s what I see at times. He defers. That’s his personality a little bit. I don’t think anybody was happy with the way we played [vs. Carolina] so he took it upon himself to be more of a leader in that department with (Patrice Bergeron out). Hopefully he continues to be consistent in that attack mode. You’re not going to score every night, but if you’re attacking, good things happen.
“To me, that’s a really nice-looking third line. Guys can score, work, contribute on special teams and probably be a good matchup line.”
That’s exactly how things can come about down the stretch when injuries, attrition and circumstance can throw players together that gel, or simply bring out the best in each other based on their style of play.
“It’s all about speed these days, but you need guys who can skate decent and win battles down low and hang on to the puck, put it on their d-men and play down there,” said Coyle. “That’s huge. It helps the other lines, too. When they come out, they may get tired defenders. You just wear guys down that way, and it helps as the game goes on. That’s what we need to bring and that was a good start for us.”
Patrice Bergeron is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday night against the Islanders and Brad Marchand’s return is only a few games away as well. So there will be changes coming when the big B’s boys come back into the fold, but the play of Coyle’s “heavy” line has given the Boston Bruins coaching staff something to think about at a time of the hockey year when that style of play can start being much more effective.