Slow starts are often difficult to overcome. Whether that’s referring to the player overcoming a slow start and turning a season around or a fanbase forgetting the slow start after said turnaround occurs, both can be true. For Taylor Hall, many were worried that he may not be the same player he was during his 16-game stint with the Boston Bruins in the regular season last year. It was a fair opinion to have given the fact that David Krejci was no longer the center on Hall’s line and as a result, the veteran winger would score just six goals and 14 points through his first 26 games of the season.
In general, the Bruins’ roster as a whole seemed fairly mediocre at this time. They weren’t particularly bad, but they definitely didn’t look like a lock to make the playoffs or compete for the Stanley Cup. That all changed when the calendar flipped to 2022, however, and head coach Bruce Cassidy shuffled his lines to get the most out of his roster.
One such change saw Cassidy finally break up the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Sliding the latter down to the second line to play alongside Hall, things immediately started to click for the Bruins and everybody started firing on all cylinders. Hall was no exception to this.
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Since Jan. 1, 2022, Hall has scored 10 goals and 40 points in 44 games and has looked like a legitimate top-line left-winger. The reason this is so invaluable to the Bruins comes down to the fact that Hall isn’t the team’s top left-winger. In fact, if we’re evaluating his spot on the team among wingers in general, it’s very fair to say that he’s only expected to be the third-best winger and fourth-best forward on the roster behind Marchand and Pastrnak and Bergeron. This is in line with his production as well given the fact that the ranks tied for third on the team in points with Bergeron.
Hall has been among the best players in the NHL since the start of the 2022 calendar year and he’s been a huge part of the Bruins’ continued success and ascent up the standings. His chemistry with Pastrnak has been evident since their first shift together. It also stands to reason given how talented of a playmaker he’s been throughout his career that he’d excel with a natural goal-scorer like Pastrnak.
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More impressive than the raw point production from Hall has been the consistency at which he’s produced. To find a time when Hall went more than one game without recording a point, you’d have to go all the way back to February. His play with and without the puck is always something to admire as he’s become known as a walking (or skating) highlight-reel machine, but getting the point production to match has been crucial for the Bruins given some of the roster turnover they’ve experienced in recent years.
Hall’s Production Will Need To Continue in Pastrnak’s Absence
With Pastrnak out of the Bruins’ lineup, Hall and center Erik Haula will be joined by newcomer Marc McLaughlin who will be skating in just his third NHL game when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. It’ll be a tough matchup for the Bruins who will aim to stave off the Lightning who are tied with the Bruins with 93 points each. As it stands, the Bruins hold the third spot in the Atlantic Division with the Lightning occupying the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but the two teams could swap places by the end of the night.
This is especially true with the absence of Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm. It’ll be up to the players who are healthy and in the lineup to pick up the slack for the rest of the team Friday and Hall will be as important in this equation as anyone. Though he may not generate as many scoring chances without Pastrnak on the ice, he and Haula should be able to take some of the pressure off of the team’s top line in what should serve as a very important game this season.
The next-player-up test is a very important one heading into the playoffs and it’s something the Bruins will have to work on Friday. Though they faltered against the Detroit Red Wings in a 5-3 loss on Feb. 5 while dealing with injuries, the fact that this game was on the second night of a back-to-back also contributed to that performance. With two days of rest between their last game and Friday night’s game, they’ll get a chance to prove they can compete with a very tough divisional rival despite being shorthanded.