Hours after a trade that sent him from Buffalo to Boston last month, Taylor Hall met the Bruins media for the first time. In the process, he admitted that he wasn’t a very confident hockey player at the time.
What a difference 16 games makes.
If you were unsure about where Hall’s confidence is at entering the playoffs, his overtime winner in Monday’s contest with the New York Islanders answered that for you.
“Confidence is such a special thing in sports. When you have it, you don’t really know you have it, but when you don’t have confidence, it’s certainly apparent,” said Hall. “I can’t really say what the turning point was or anything.”
The Bruins will begin their playoff campaign Saturday night in Washington. With their opening round matchup set, it’s likely Hall and several other Bruins remain in Boston Tuesday when the Bruins finish their regular season in Washington.
That means eight goals, and six assists in 16 regular season games with the Bruins. Hall had two goals and 17 assists in 37 games for the Sabres.
“I thought he was really good tonight. He’s a real invested player for us at both ends, drew a penalty and he’s finishing plays now,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
"He’s been good since he got here from day one. Really showed tonight, he finished some nice plays and we need it. That’s the Taylor Hall we were hoping to get and so far so good. Now playoffs are a different animal. Hopefully he’s excited, I’m sure he is to get back in the playoffs and get going.”
Hall has just 14 games of playoff experience under his belt, with nine of those coming inside Edmonton’s bubble last season.
Given where he came from, and how poorly that went, to where he’s at now, how well it’s gone, and what’s hopefully ahead, Hall is very much enjoying himself here in Boston.
And it’s shown on the ice.
“It’s probably been some of the most enjoyable hockey I’ve ever played in my career. I really hope there’s more to come,” said Hall. “Obviously the playoffs, and winning in the playoffs is something you can’t really replicate in the regular season. Whatever you’ve done in the regular season goes out the window and it’s time to perform, play well and ultimately help your team in the playoffs.”
With each passing game, the chemistry between Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith grows. They’ve been the perfect complement to the Patrice Bergeron line.
“The first time we stepped on the ice together, you could see the playmaking ability that he has and he’s done it for so long,” Hall said of Krejci.
“Just speaking to people that know hockey, they always told me that if Krejci has some linemates that he really likes playing with like he had [Nathan] Horton and [Milan Lucic] back in the day—some other guys have been through, and he’s comfortable playing with some players that can play with speed and pace, he’s very effective and obviously he’s been much more than that.”
The line as a whole has been the Bruins most effective since Hall’s trade, but as much as Krejci’s playmaking ability has helped drive Hall’s success, playing with a right-handed centerman has been a new experience for Hall.
One that’s helped him tremendously.
"For me, I’ve never played with right-handed centerman at all really in my career, maybe a little bit with Sam Gagner in Edmonton,” said Hall. “But to have a guy that doesn’t have to go to his backhand to pass me the puck when I’m coming up the wall, I think it adds another dimension to our attack off the rush.”
When general manager Don Sweeney pulled the trigger on a Hall trade at the low price of Anders Bjork and a 2021 second-round pick, Sweeney and company were undoubtedly hoping for some resemblance of the pre-Buffalo Taylor Hall.
No one could have expected Hall to come in and resemble the player that had 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points in 2017-18, leading the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs.
Hall was the league’s MVP that season.
“It’s obviously been a good transition for me. There’s really good leadership in our dressing room,” said Hall. "There’s a way the Bruins play and I always felt like even when I wasn’t on this team, it was a style of play that I could come and play well in and perform well and I feel like I’ve had a positive impact.”
Doing it in the regular season is one thing, doing it in the playoffs is another. Hall has four goals and eight assists in those 14 career playoff games.
Hall hopes the good times keep rolling.
“It’s important for me just on an individual level just to try and maintain that impact in the playoffs because ultimately that’s our goal here,” said Hall. “I think for everyone in our room, getting a couple days rest and being able to come out with a lot of energy in Game 1 is our goal.”
Clearly, Hall not being a confident player is no more.