Coyle hat trick pushes B's to 11th victory
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If there’s been one near-constant demand from second-year Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery this year, it’s been for his team to play faster.
Even with the Bruins off to a better start than last year’s record-breaking regular season, Montgomery has repeatedly stressed his desire for more pace, more urgency, and has been forthright with his desire to want to see the team simply try to run the other team out of the building with their ability to execute at high speed. And though it hasn’t always been there, it’s been there enough for the Bruins to kick their 2023-24 campaign off with a stellar 11-1-1 record, with their latest triumph coming by way of Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Islanders coming as the group’s latest highlight.
And while it was just one of 11 victories to date, and one of 82 on the schedule until the B’s shot at playoff redemption, Montgomery took to the podium Thursday night beyond pleased with what his team was able to put forth on their way to victory.
“We came wave after wave,” Montgomery said following the victory. “I thought that was one of our best, if not the best, offensive game we’ve had this year as a team.”
Montgomery cited his team’s four-line attack, their power-play success, and their ability to respond after giving up goals. But all of that was a footnote thanks to what was a monstrous night from Charlie Coyle and linemates Trent Frederic and James van Riemsdyk, as the trio combined for four of the Black and Gold’s five goals in the winning effort.
Three of which came off the stick of Coyle for the veteran center’s first career hat trick.
“This was his most complete game,” Montgomery said of Coyle. “Like when Charlie’s skating like he was tonight, like early in the first, he got a puck and he skated around at the offensive blue line, skated wide and took it deep. That’s when I know he has that extra gear. And I’ve talked to him about that. I thought he was playing slower than he did last year. And he plays a lot of hard defensive minutes for us on the penalty kill and the matchups I give him, and he’s just a team-first guy. But when he has that jump like he had tonight, he becomes a dynamic offensive player.”
This was certainly Coyle’s biggest boom of the 2023-24 campaign to date, but the Weymouth, Mass. native has quietly put together a start that has him paced for a career year.
Through 13 games, Coyle sits at five points and 12 points. Should that pace hold from now until Game 82, Coyle would finish the year with 32 goals and 76 points. Both would be new career-highs, beating previous career-highs of 18 goals and 56 points, both of which were set with the Wild in 2016-17. Of course, expecting Coyle to post hat tricks at any sort of regularity is probably a mistake. But this was the case even before Coyle exploded for two more goals in the third period of this contest, with Coyle already paced for a 60-point campaign prior to the has landing on TD Garden ice.
That seems definitely doable, and that would be a gigantic boost to the Bruins, especially in the club’s first year without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and with Coyle previously failing to be anything more than a really, really, really good third-line center in Boston’s offensive hierarchy.
But Coyle is looking like Bergeron — as best as one can, anyway — beyond the 60-point pace.
As Montgomery noted, Coyle continues to draw some seriously difficult matchups, has been deployed as Boston’s top penalty-killing forward, and has emerged as the team’s go-to faceoff option. He’s delivered on all fronts, and especially when it comes to his success at the dot, which has almost certainly flown under the radar out of the gate this season.
On the backend, meanwhile, Derek Forbort made his return to the B’s blue line after missing the previous three games with an injury. Forbort finished the victory with a plus-2 rating, along with one hit and blocked shot, in 17:31 of time on ice.
And in goal, Linus Ullmark rebounded from last Saturday’s loss to the Red Wings with a 27-of-29 performance for his fifth victory of the season.
Bruins move Geekie to injured reserve, activate Lauko
Hopes of the Bruins being ‘fully’ healthy anytime soon were formally dashed Wednesday with the word that versatile middle-six forward Morgan Geekie would be out week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Thursday made that official with Geekie officially placed on the injured reserve.
Geekie departs the Boston lineup with one goal and three points through 12 games, and averaging what’s been a career-high 14:15 of time on ice out of the gate this season, Geekie has thrived doing the ‘little things’ that seemingly go under the radar. His 11 blocks are the seventh-most among all B’s skaters, and tops among all forwards. Geekie has also been a supremely effective weapon at the faceoff dot, with wins in 36 of his 65 battles at the dot (a 55.4 percent success rate).
The good news? Geekie’s move to IR came with Jakub Lauko activated off the injured reserve. Lauko has been on the ice these last two days at Warrior Ice Arena, and even got in for the pregame warmup Thursday night at TD Garden, though it’s been with a full cage to protect his face after he took a skate to the face in Chicago last month. Lauko is also wearing a neck guard, making him the first Bruins player to don a neck guard since the horrific tragedy involving Adam Johnson.
Up next: The B’s will head to Montreal for a Saturday night showdown with the Canadiens.