Things continue to come together for the Boston Bruins up front as it looks like the Boston Bruins have a third line that’s working well at both ends of the ice.
On Thursday night they produced three goals with right wing Craig Smith netting the hat trick, left winger Trent Frederic accumulating a career-high three assists amidst his best stretch as an NHL player and Charlie Coyle holding it all together in the middle.
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The Smith explosion was the most welcome as the three goals accounted for half the offensive output, he’d struggled to put up in the first 47 games of the regular season.
The Boston Bruins knew it was going to come with Smith because he’s able to generate tons of shots on net through his second effort and NHL-caliber shot and release.
“Smitty is always going to be Smitty. When the puck is on his stick, he’s going to tend to shoot it,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “What we’ve asked him to do is, if they know he’s going to throw it on the net from 40 feet, winning a race for the next puck [around the net] and then start the offensive cycle. It’s something he should enjoy because he is a shooter.”
But it was all also giving Cassidy welcome flashbacks to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final run when Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson gave the B’s an effective third capable of providing depth scoring and strong two-way play.
“It takes me back to the  playoffs,” said Cassidy, after Boston’s win over the Golden Knights. “[After] the Coyle and [Marcus Johansson] trades years ago, we had three lines going offensively, and our fourth line was built to kill penalties and give us energy. We have that. And now, if that line can generate, we become dangerous like that offensively.
“Good teams need secondary support. You need your [top] guys, but you’re not going to lean on your fourth line every night to generate offense. But now our third line comes through, and if that can be a thing that you can get through some games where your top guys aren’t going or you don’t get on the power play much or generate on it…then you’re going to be dangerous, right? We don’t need necessarily a great amount of offense from them but pitching in is going to help us a lot and that’s what they’ve been able to do.”
In the last five games, Smith has three goals and six points, Frederic has the three assists and a plus-1 rating and Coyle has three assists while somehow not getting even a single shot on net during that span. It’s not really about shots for Coyle and Frederic, though, as those two big bodies have created puck possession headaches for opponents cycling the puck, and Smith has been happy to pick up the shooting slack for both of his big-bodied linemates with 17 shots on net in the last five games.
It’s turned them into a line with different players, and their differing strengths, coming together to form a really effective trio on the ice. The real X-Factor is the 24-year-old Frederic, who seems to finally be getting comfortable at the NHL level after really struggling to generate consistent offense and be a nightly factor aside from fighting, agitating and throwing his body around.
Frederic is still expected to do that given his size and stature, but there’s clearly more to the former first round pick’s game.
“He’s feeding off the other two. What he needs to figure out is how can he generate offense for himself,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Frederic of Trent Frederic. “I think Charlie Coyle understands how he’s going to generate offense. He’s a puck possession guy, right, and he attacks. Craig Smith knows he’s a volume shooter. Freddy has to figure [that] out [his offense].
“He’ll bring the physicality, we know that. But he’s learning to possess pucks better with that group, so they’re spending time in the o-zone. Freddy has a really good shot, and I don’t think that people notice that. His release is excellent. [Thursday], even though he got three assists, he shot off the rush a couple times, which was great. His decision making coming into the zone, or once he had the puck on his stick in a dangerous situation, was better.”
The million dollar question now is what a potential Jake DeBrusk trade is going to do in terms of upsetting the natural chemistry that’s developing between the forward lines. Who would have that would be the case even a couple of months ago prior to DeBrusk’s camp requesting a trade away from the Boston Bruins?
Perhaps that is where Oskar Steen factors in when/if the DeBrusk trade comes down or Erik Haula slides to wing if they bring in another center, but for now the Bruins seem to be cementing their roles within the forward group as the B’s gather momentum down the stretch. It’s not the way the Boston Bruins coaching staff drew it up at the beginning of the season, but then again when does it ever really go that way during a long 82-game season filled with twists, turns and adversity.