By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
The Boston Bruins find themselves in the middle of a long playoff run, and while there are many different factors that have led to this, one of the biggest x-factors that fueled this run is the play of the third line, and the players that make up that third-line. Going into the season, if someone told you the Bruins would make it at least to the Eastern Conference Final, and that third-line was going to be a big part of that, you would probably think that person was nuts, but here we are. Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played great hockey over the last few weeks, and they’ve really shown that they can hold the secondary scoring mantle. Secondary scoring was also a big problem for the boys in black and gold with many local and national media personalities telling us that while the first-line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak is elite, the team needed more balance on all lines.
With that balance needed, and the younger internal options never fully emerging the Bruins turned to the trade market to fortify the third-line. The guy that Boston turned to was Charlie Coyle. They traded Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Coyle. Then a few days later, the Bs traded a second and fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Marcus Johansson. Now, Coyle looked strong, and the Bruins seemed to finally solve the third-line center position, but Johansson was initially tried out on the second-line. Then only a few games into his tenure with the spoked B he took a hard hit from Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Micheal Ferland, which bruised the New Jersey Devils’ lung. As a result, we never were able to fully see what Boston’s new additions could do.
Even after Johansson came back from injury, he still needed time to fully show what he could do. Heading into the playoffs, Charlie Coyle had fully stabilized the third-line center position, and Johansson was still working to find his niche on the team. Even after game one of the first round of the playoffs against Toronto, the Bruins sat the Sweden native for games two and three. Since then, however, both Coyle and Johansson have been a force to be reckoned with these playoffs. Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal even pointed out that Johansson and Coyle combined in the playoffs have netted nine goals and dished out 12 assists for 21 total points, and they’ve generated 25 individual high-danger scoring chances. Individually, Charlie Coyle has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points, Marcus Johansson has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points, and the final member of the third-line Danton Heinen has netted two goals while dishing out five assists for seven total points.
To top all of that off, over the past five games that they’ve played together the three players have netted a combined four goals while dishing out a combined nine assists for 13 total points. To take it a step further, the 13 points in five games accounts for 21% of the points scored in those games. All five of those games have resulted in a Bruins victory. Not only are these guys scoring, but they are also driving play when they are the ice which is one of the most important things, especially in the playoffs. A lot of fans were critical of Don Sweeney at the trade deadline stating that the trades getting Coyle and Johansson would not be enough to get past Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup. Luckily for Boston, Columbus took care of Tampa Bay for them, and their acquisitions are playing a large part in the Bruins being two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
The Boston Bruins third-line has gone from a non-factor to an x-factor this long playoff run. They’ve become such a big strength that you have to consider re-signing Marcus Johansson in the off-season if the price is right. It seems like whenever he has the puck, he has a chance of making a big play. The play of the third line has been an absolute joy to watch, and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have become some of my favorite players to watch these playoffs. If Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson can keep up their high level of play, then the Bruins’ chances of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June are very good.