The Bruins ‘Charlie Coyle Dilemma’

When the puck drops at the start of Game 4 between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins will be looking to erase a 2-1 series deficit and even up the tables heading back to Boston. This would effectively give them the home-ice edge once again as two of the three remaining games would be played at home to close out the series.

Related: Nazem Kadri Suspensed

The Bruins performance in the playoffs thus far has resembled a roller coaster with how many peaks and valleys they’ve had. Whether it was a 4-1 loss to Toronto in Game 1, a 4-1 victory in Game 2 or a narrow 3-2 loss in Game 3, the Bruins simply haven’t been consistent enough to merit a trip to the second round of the playoffs.

One player who has been pulling his weight, however, has been one of the team’s deadline additions in Charlie Coyle.

Coyle Worth the Deadline Addition

When Coyle was added to the Bruins roster at the Trade Deadline, it was a move met with mixed reactions. For some, it made sense to go out and acquire a player who could fill in at center and on the wing, especially a winger with the size, skill and link to Boston that Coyle brings. On the other hand, losing a prospect like Ryan Donato certainly stung on the surface.

Bruins center Charlie Coyle
Bruins center Charlie Coyle (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite this, Coyle would score two goals and six points in 21 games in Boston following the deadline. The point total doesn’t jump off the page, nor does his 16 hits through 21 games in Boston either. Still, his play away from the puck was noticeably better than Donato’s and the ability to shore up the third line center position was huge for the Bruins.

In the postseason, Coyle has been far better than a responsible 200-foot player, though. He’s taken a visible step forward and made a huge impact in Game 1 despite the Bruins ultimately losing. He’d lay out a game-high seven hits while coming close to scoring a goal on two separate occasions. He’d keep that energy over the next two games as well, scoring big-time goals in each and laying another three hits out in each contest, bringing his total to 13 hits through three playoff games.

On paper, this should be great considering the Bruins acquired him to produce points, bring a well-rounded 200-foot game to the third line and help them win playoff games. Unfortunately, while Coyle has likely been the Bruins best player may seem like a good thing, it’s actually a bad thing when considering what that actually entails.

Bruins Top Line Not Producing

A big part of the Bruins trailing 2-1 in the series against Toronto comes down to the top players on the team not performing like the best players on the ice. While there have been glimpses from Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, it’s been very obvious throughout the series that what is often considered to be the best line in the NHL simply isn’t playing up to their standard.

Brad Marchand David Pastrnak Patrice Bergeron Bruins
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is concerning given the fact that it hasn’t been just a one-game slump. It’s been three games and it’s happening at the worst time of the year.

The three would combine for 106 goals and 260 points in just 210 games this season but have been outplayed throughout the first few games of this series. For reference, Bergeron has only won 32 out of a possible 65 faceoffs, good for only 49% from the dot.

The Bruins are keeping the trio together to start Game 4 in Toronto but the leash will likely be very short for them as the team looks to even out the series when they return home to Boston on Friday.

Bruins Can’t Fear Line Shuffling

While head coach Bruce Cassidy has been known to juggle lines in the past, he’s been very reluctant to do so in this series for one reason or another. When certain players aren’t producing, though, it would behoove the team to shake things up and find a spark.

Related: Bruins Need Pastrnak on the Second Line

One solution the team could look at would be breaking up their top line and moving Pastrnak to a pairing with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. This would give the Bruins some options as they could then use Marcus Johansson, Danton Heinen or even Charlie Coyle on their top line alongside Bergeron and Marchand.

The issue with elevating Coyle would be the obvious domino effect of hurting the team’s third line, but the Bruins need to figure something out if they’re going to compete with the high-powered Maple Leafs.

Danton Heinen Bruins
Danton Heinen, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The issues run further than the Bruins top line, though, as their fourth line has been largely irrelevant for much of the series. Part of this could come down to the fact that Sean Kuraly is still injured, but that doesn’t excuse the second-best team in the NHL’s regular season to just fall asleep in the playoffs.

This is especially true when considering how well the team dealt with injuries throughout the regular season.

Moving forward, the Bruins need Coyle to keep playing the exact same way he has been through the first three games of the series. The rest of the team will need to catch up, though, ensuring that Coyle’s contributions aren’t all for not.