Before we begin, let’s get this out of the way: We fully recognize that a one-game sample size is not enough to buy too much into a line combination, especially in a losing result.
That said, it appears the Boston Bruins just might have something with the third line Bruce Cassidy trotted out Tuesday night in Montreal. With Zach Senyshyn called up from Providence, the Bruins rolled with a Anders Bjork-Charlie Coyle-Senyshyn third line, and it worked out pretty well in the controversial 5-4 loss to the Canadiens.
Putting both Senyshyn and Bjork with Coyle was a far cry from what the center has experienced this season, as he’s often been saddled with at least one winger who creates little in the way of offense, like Brett Ritchie or David Backes. But with the two youngsters, Coyle finally had a line where the primary focus was offense, with two speedy wingers flanking a center who did some of his best work with the Minnesota Wild when he had offensive-minded guys riding shotgun with him.
At Bell Centre on Tuesday, the results were clear.
Bjork-Coyle-Senyshyn was Boston’s second-most used line 5-on-5, behind only the top group. And in their 8:28 together, they, per Natural Stat Trick:
— Had a 10-3 advantage in shot attempts (Corsi)
— Scored two goals (Bjork’s second-period tally and they were on the ice for Connor Clifton’s) and conceded none
— Had a pair of high-danger scoring chances and conceded none
— Took nine draws, three in the offensive zone, three in the defensive zone and three in the neutral zone
So what does that tell you? Well, it says Cassidy wasn’t afraid to use the trio in all three zones, and no matter where they on the ice they were they essentially dominated play.
Part of the reason Bjork has stayed in the lineup is that he rounded out the defensive side of his game (injuries are another, more obvious, part). Offensive dry spells become more forgivable to Cassidy when players take care of business in the defensive end, and Bjork getting utilized on the penalty kill (he had 1:02 shorthanded ice time against the Habs) signifies a growing trust. If Senyshyn also can show he’s fine enough as a defender, one has to think Cassidy won’t immediately break that line up if the Bruins fall behind in games.
The obvious worry still would exist that one or both of those wingers is going to flame out for lengthy stretches. Given that happens to most every young player, that would be a legitimate concern. But if both Senyshyn and Bjork prove they can be legitimate NHL players who are going to go through dry spells, then it makes it easier to just slot other players in since the overall forward depth has been bolstered.
Sure, things might change as players get healthier — the Bruins still are without Joakim Nordstrom, Karson Kuhlman and Par Lindholm. However, the third line, at least in its current form, showed some promise in an area where answers were needed.