Boston Bruins: This entire line needs to step up

Apr 20, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski (31) makes a pad save on Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) during the first period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dustin Tokarski (31) makes a pad save on Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle (13) during the first period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since making the trade deadline deals to acquire forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, and defenseman Mike Reilly, the Boston Bruins have been playing great hockey as they’ve won five straight games.

Hall has instantly brought life to what has been a struggling B’s second line with his play-driving ability, Reilly has brought the puck-moving ability at the blueline that the Black and Gold have needed, and Lazar surprising has revitalized Boston’s fourth line.

However, while three of the four lines for the B’s have excelled since the trade deadline, there is still one line that has struggled.

The trio of Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk needs to step up for the Boston Bruins.

As I mentioned earlier, three of the four forward lines for the B’s have been rolling since the trade deadline. However, the Black and Gold’s third line of Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk has been struggling.

Tuesday night, against one of the worst teams in the NHL in the Buffalo Sabres, this trio continued to struggle. Through the first two periods of the game, the combination of Ritchie, Coyle, and DeBrusk were being out-chanced 7-0.

To put this into perspective, the second line of Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith were out-chancing the the Sabres 11-3 through two periods.

This level of play and inability to control the pace against one of the worst teams in the league is just unacceptable. All three guys have the talent to play like top-six forwards, and they need to start playing like it. Yes, the rest of the B’s lines have been playing well, but in a close game like against the Sabres, the secondary scoring from any of these guys could’ve been used.

Nick Ritchie, LW

Ritchie started off the season hot, scoring four goals and five assists for nine points through the first 10 games. However, he has since cooled down, scoring just six goals and five assists for 11 points in 34 games.

While Ritchie has surpassed his point total and goal total from last season, he just hasn’t consistently been a factor in games since the early part of the season. Ritchie hasn’t registered a point for the last 10 games.

Not only is Ritchie on the third line, he’s also on the first powerplay unit. As the net-front presence on the powerplay, he’s a key factor. With him struggling, it’s not surprise the B’s powerplay has also struggled.

Ritchie needs to step it up, not for only his own good, but for his line’s success and ultimately the success of the entire team.

Charlie Coyle, C

Coyle has been one of the biggest disappointments this season. After receiving a six-year, $31.5 million extension in November of 2019, it was expected that Coyle would be a vital asset to the team, eventually taking over for either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci in the top six.

However, after scoring 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points in 70 games last season, Coyle has struggled to put up points this season, recording just five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 43 games.

Coyle played his best hockey this season when he was moved up to the second line when Krejci was out with an injury. However, he has struggled to find his game playing in his normal spot on the third line.

Like Ritchie, Coyle is also on a pointless streak, as he hasn’t recorded a point in five straight games. If Coyle can find his game, it may help his linemates of Ritchie and DeBrusk.

Jake DeBrusk, RW

Like Coyle, DeBrusk has been a major disappointment this season. DeBrusk was signed to a two-year, $7.35 million bridge deal this past November. After signing, DeBrusk talked about rebounding from his disappointing previous season and getting back to the type of game he played his rookie season where he scored 27 goals.

However, DeBrusk hasn’t done this. Besides the game after being a healthy scratch, DeBrusk has been nonexistent. He has just four goals and five assists for nine points in 31 games, unable to record a point in his last five games, and has been up and down the lineup, failing to even be effective with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

DeBrusk has all the tools to be successful in the NHL, and especially on the B’s — size, speed, hands, and a nice shot — he needs to figure it out and help his line and the entire team be successful.

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Overall, none of these three players should be a guarantee to be in the lineup if they continue to struggle. Ritchie can be replace by Sean Kuraly or Trent Frederic, Coyle can be replaced by Kuraly, Lazar, Frederic, or even Jack Studnicka, and DeBrusk can be replaced by Chris Wagner or Karson Kuhlman.