The beginning of the 2021-22 NHL regular season is upon us. And so, from a New England hockey perspective, that means all is right in the world. The preseason was good(ish) for the B’s and we know the regular Boston Bruins starting lineup will likely mirror the following from Opening Night to Game 7 of the Cup Finals, if they make it that far.
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Hall – Coyle – Smith
DeBrusk – Haula – Foligno
Frederic – Nosek – Kuhlman
Forbort – McAvoy
Reilly – Carlo
Grzelcyk – Clifton
Now, on paper, the starting lineup seemingly looks pretty solid. That is, of course, until you see Charlie Coyle slotted right smack dab in the middle of Taylor Hall and Craig Smith on the second line.
I’m sorry, but it just—this dude just doesn’t get it done as a 2C in my view. I don’t see it. Moreover, the Bruins themselves admit that Erik Haula is far better offensively than Coyle is, with the latter being better defensively. So what sense does it make to play the more defensive middleman on a more offensive line and the far better playmaking centerman on the shutdown third line?
Imagine the scoring wizardry between Haula and Hall, coupled by Smith’s crash-bang-and shoot style. The potential of that combination tops anything Coyle can or will add in his current second-line center spot instead.
Which is why, when it comes to Lord Stanley, the saying “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” will continue to apply to the Bruins until the right decisions (like a durable defenseman with size, grit and nastiness, etc.) are prioritized and made. And rightly so, because bad lineup decisions often cost teams later on down the road, usually when the stage is bigger and the lights are brighter, like playoff time.
With question marks still lingering on defense and $20 million spent on a goalie they should have used on either a better one (Philipp Grubauer was available, at one point, this offseason, just saying) or more offense (i.e. Blake Coleman, Christian Dvorak, Conor Garland), this current Bruins lineup does not exude ‘balls-to-the-wall’ postseason confidence, in my opinion. But rather a raised eyebrow, some head-scratching and even more, albeit still unanswered questions.