Charlie Coyle’s return locks in spot on second line
Jack Studnicka has had one heck of a training camp, by far his best to date. As promising as his off-season has been, and the sign of developed chemistry centering Taylor Hall and Craig Smith on the Bruins second line, there still does not seem to be a fit for him on the opening night roster.
Especially given Charlie Coyle’s performance in his preseason debut Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“He looks more fluid. There were some nights last year Charlie didn't look like himself,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“And we would talk to him and he's a hockey player, right? So he's like 'Well, I'm ok.' And the medical staff would tell you, he's got a bit of a, you know now he had a bit of a knee issue and they said he's just gonna have to play through it, because once he gets it fixed, that's it.”
Coyle got his knee fixed, opting for surgery over the summer. The Bruins have been slow with the workload given to Coyle since, and rightfully so.
When David Krejci opted to ditch Boston to play professionally in the Czech Republic, Coyle became the de facto second line center behind Patrice Bergeron.
In their cautious approach of Coyle’s training camp, Studnicka slid into Coyle’s spot on the second line and in my mind, did enough to earn himself a job on that line when the Bruins kick off their 2021-22 season next week.
“That’s what you need. That’s what good teams have. Every day I think you should feel a little pressure whether it’s a young guy, or whether it’s an older guy trying to make a push,” Coyle said of Studnicka’s efforts.
“That’s what makes the guys that are ahead play better because if you don’t then they are coming up. That’s the mindset you have to have to bring it every day or somebody is going to take your spot.”
The issue with Studnicka centering the second line is where would Coyle go from there? He’s not moving up to the top line, and certainly he would be a waste on the fourth line. Sure, he could play either center or the wing on the third line, but that creates a similar issue with Nick Foligno and Erik Haula.
Even bumping Jake DeBrusk down to the fourth line wouldn’t be the best idea, he’s been one of the Bruins’ best forwards throughout preseason.
"It's a work in progress. You just want to make sure you're doing the right things,” Coyle said about his preseason debut. “Thought we had some decent plays and definitely some stuff to build on. It's a start, but we definitely have a ways to go and I think that's a good thing.”
Coyle’s goal that opened the scoring for the Bruins Wednesday is not one that will you’ll continuously see in highlight packages, but it’s more of him getting to the net and putting himself in a position for success that’s encouraging.
Coyle will lineup between Hall and Smith on the 16th when the Bruins begin their season and expectations will be high for Coyle.
He’s not going to replace the production given by Krejci, that’s hard to do. But Coyle needs to be just that, Charlie Coyle.
And, if he’s not, well, then there’s Studnicka, knocking on the door.