Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy probably is still peeved by his team’s 8-1 loss Sunday night, but the addition of Taylor Hall likely helped him sleep a little better.
The Bruins made the deal of the deadline so far when they acquired the former Hart Trophy winner (along with depth forward Curtis Lazar) from the Buffalo Sabres for Anders Bjork and a second-round pick. Despite some uneven play recently, Boston clearly believes it has a deep playoff run in it, and adding Hall certainly should help in that regard.
The Bruins probably aren’t getting the MVP version of Hall — that one season seems to be an outlier — but they are getting an offensively gifted player (at a great price) who not only improves Boston’s top-six but also gives the B’s better balance up and down the lineup.
“I haven’t been told who I’m playing on a line with or anything like that, but there’s a lot of great players on that team and I’m just excited to contribute however I can,” Hall said Monday in a video call with reporters.
Cassidy will have some work to do in determining how he wants to use Hall, as there are a few options. The first seems to be the most obvious, which is to put Hall to David Krejci’s left on the second line. Hall’s blinding speed paired with Krejci’s vision and creativity has first-line potential on the second line. That duo with the shot-happy Craig Smith would be a very intriguing combination.
This kind of top-six forward depth is matched by few teams in the NHL, especially if the top line is reunited and clicking like it has in the past.
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall — David Krejci — Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie — Charlie Coyle — Jake DeBrusk
Trent Frederic — Sean Kuraly — Chris Wagner
That’s a pretty formidable third line, too, with Coyle centering Ritchie and DeBrusk, which lightens the load and adjusts expectations for a player like DeBrusk, who has been streaky this season.
Another variation of Hall on Krejci’s line would be to leave the current first line alone, and Smith stays up top with Marchand and Bergeron. Imagine Krejci’s playmaking prowess when flanked by skaters like Hall and Pastrnak?
Marchand — Bergeron — Smith
Hall — Krejci — Pastrnak
With Hall on the second line, it’s possible — and probably likely, given Cassidy’s tendency to shake things up — the Bruins could try multiple players on that second-line right wing.
Could Cassidy even try Hall on the first line? It seems a little unlikely because you probably want to use Hall on the left side, and in order to bump him up to the first line, you’d have to break up the Marchand-Bergeron combination. Hall could play the off-wing on the right, but then what do you do with Pastrnak and Smith?
Maybe you move Smith to the second-line left wing, alongside Krejci and Pastrnak.
Marchand — Bergeron — Hall
Smith — Krejci — Pastrnak
That’s a ridiculously talented top line, but it does seem like a lot of moving around for the sake of moving around.
Things could get even more complicated if Cassidy and the Bruins decided to use Hall on the third line, which technically is possible but doesn’t feel very likely to happen.
The point is, of course, Hall gives Cassidy options up and down the lineup. No matter what, the Bruins’ top six is better now, but adding Hall also stretches out the lineup. That there are so many options speaks to the versatility not only of Hall but the other players in the lineup.
The first chance to see Hall in a Bruins lineup likely comes Tuesday against the Sabres of all teams. Wherever he’s skating, Boston likely will be better because of it.