In order for the Bruins to repeat last year’s playoff success (and hopefully win the Stanley Cup) this season, a number of key players will have to step-up big time when the game is on the line. There are the obvious players who the Bruins count on every night, like the Bergeron Line or Tuukka Rask, but as last year’s run to the cup final showed, you have to have unexpected or lesser known players rise to the occasion as well.
The perfect example of this was Charlie Coyle last season. After arriving in Boston at the tail-end of the season, Coyle’s performance in his first month could’ve best been described as “meh.” to “I mean, he’s alright?” Going into the playoffs, the expectations for Coyle were really up in the air.
A third line center obviously plays a huge role on a hockey team, yet fans were unsure if Coyle could fill in this void and elevate the Bruins to a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender. Sure, he’d shown flashes throughout his career of being worthy of his 28th overall pick in 2010, however consistency had seemed to be an issue for Coyle in the past.
And then the playoffs happened, and Charlie Coyle stepped up. There were several games in the 2018-2019 playoffs where it could easily be argued that Coyle was the best player in Black and Gold. Coyle was able to not only lift his game to another level, finishing tied on the team for most playoff goals, but also created a dangerous third line trio with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen. When Coyle recorded a point in last year’s playoffs, the Bruins had a record of 8 wins and 4 losses.
Flash forward one strange hockey season later, and Charlie Coyle is still the x-factor to Bruins’ playoff success.
While Coyle's season doesn't necessarily look all that flashy on paper, he more than passes the eye test. Despite not having steady wingers all season, Coyle has put up 16 goals and 21 assists and when Coyle scores this season the Bruins are 13 - 2.
Where Coyle shines though, is often not picked up on the score sheet. To put it simply, Coyle tries to dominate the puck every time he's on the ice and steadily wears down opponents' defencemen by protecting the puck with his large frame and underrated stick-handling. This trait that was evident against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets in last year’s playoff run, and will again be called upon this year, as the B’s are looking down the barrel of several seven game series’ against the league’s best.
For Boston though, probably the biggest reason the Bruins need Charlie Coyle to repeat his success from the previous year’s postseason, which makes him the biggest x-factor, is the need for scoring depth.
While the first line of the Bruins has been perhaps more prolific than ever, the same cannot be said for the rest of the lineup. The second line of primarily David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk has been hampered by the lack of a 2RW, while lines 3 and 4 have been a revolving door all season, as Bruce Cassidy has struggled to find chemistry between his bottom 6 forwards. In all likelihood, the second line, which will get a boost from Ondrej Kase, will contribute to the score sheet, however if the Bruins are going to have a legitimate chance at winning the cup this year, the 3rd line will need to chip in some goals as well...and its hard to imagine this happening with Coyle at his best.
Speaking of depth, Charlie Coyle also offers the Bruins’ some insurance at center if (God forbid) something was to happen to Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. There’s no guessing what’s going to happen this year in the playoffs with Covid-19 looming over every game being played. It’s quite likely players (hopefully not Bruins) become infected with the Coronavirus before this season is over. The more depth you can have at critical spots like center the better.
With potential playoff hockey just a few weeks away, so much is still up in the air. No one can guarantee that the NHL will even resume its season this year, and if it does happen, probably more than any year before, the eventual winner is tough to predict. What is predictable though, is that every year an unlikely hero will emerge that helps his team win hockey’s holy grail. For Bruins fans, that hero could once again be Charlie Coyle...or maybe Sean Kuraly...or Nick Ritchie...