When a veteran player is dropped down from the top six to the bottom six, it’s not generally met with much happiness. Things can go south quickly with the player’s performance and attitude. For the Boston Bruins, that has not been the case so far in 2022-23. Taylor Hall began the season as a staple in the top six for first-year coach Jim Montgomery, mainly on the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. The results from Hall were not to the liking of Montgomery, so the Black and Gold’s bench boss had an idea. So far, the returns have been excellent.
Hall was dropped to the third line to reunite with center Charlie Coyle. Last season, they began the season together on the second line with Craig Smith on the right side, but like most of the Bruins, they struggled to sustain any connection. This season has been different. Hall has thrived in his short time with Coyle on the third line, giving the Bruins much more scoring depth.
Hall Has Been Breaking Out on the Third Line
In his last seven games, Hall has played some of his best hockey of the season. He has three goals and three assists in that time and two of those goals keyed a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 29. He opened the scoring just 1:07 into the game when he redirected a Brandon Carlo shot from the point past Andrei Vasilevskiy. After the visitors tied the game in the second period on a power play goal, Hall once again found the back of the net.
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With the Bruins’ only power play opportunity of the game winding down to the final seconds, the Bruins won a board battle along the wall in the offensive end and the puck came to Nick Foligno who started to skate around the Tampa Bay net, only to slid a pass to the slot and Hall was there to hammer home the game-winning goal in the third period. Brad Marchand would seal the win with an empty-net goal, but Hall had other chances in the game for a hat trick.
In the second period, he used his speed out of the defensive end to get to a loose puck and had a partial breakaway, only to be stopped by Vasilevskiy. After Marchand scored into an empty net, they pulled their goalie again and Hall had the puck on his stick looking at an open net in the final seconds, only to run out the clock and end the game and give the Black and Gold their 13th straight home-ice win to begin the season. Montgomery has been impressed with Hall’s acceptance of his role on the third line.
“He is very accepting of the fact that I’m using him on the third line and we’re using him on the second power play because that is what’s best for the Boston Bruins,” said Montgomery. “I can’t say enough about his exemplary attitude. He’s still getting 15 minutes a night, and some nights he’s getting 16, 17 depending on special teams.”
The Bruins have one of the most talented first-unit power plays in the league, but adding someone with Hall’s talent to a second unit, which turned out to be different against the Lightning, is a nice option to have.
Hall Accepting Third Line Role Benefits the Bruins Greatly
Hall is a veteran who has played in just about every situation during his 13-year career with five different teams. The 31-year-old has eight goals and 15 points this season, but more importantly, accepting his role on the third-line and on the second power play unit makes the Bruins a better team.
“Wherever you’re slotted, you’ve got to make the best of your ice time,” said Hall. “Charlie Coyle, as a third-line center, that’s one of the best third-line centers in the whole league. So, I don’t take it as a demotion. I take it as…do what you can with the ice time you’re given and the opportunity you’re given, and I think we can be a really good line.”
Hall has scored in a variety of ways this season, around the net on the power play, on an odd-man rush against the Washington Capitals on opening night, and tipping pucks on the doorstep of the opponent’s crease. If he continues to produce in his role on the third line, the Bruins become that much deeper and tougher to play.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.