By: Matthew Cahill | Follow me on Twitter @MWCahill5
A fair share of Bruins have had their struggles this season, and Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk are among them. Coyle has only found the back of the net five times this season and has just 15 points in 44 games. During these 44 games, Coyle has gone on multiple stretches where he’s looked invisible, including a pair of pointless streaks that lasted eight games each. Like Coyle, Jake DeBrusk has had an up and down season, with just four goals and six assists for ten points in 32 games. On top of a cold start to the season, DeBrusk has not been able to play long enough to find a rhythm and break out of his slump, as he’s found himself in the NHL’s COVID protocol twice. The 24-year-old was only able to play three games after returning from the COVID list the first time, landing back on it after the Bruins win over the Sabres on March 18.
However, Coyle and DeBrusk have started to show some flashes of promising play with their linemate Nick Ritchie. If the three can begin to play well more consistently, the Bruins top three lines will be more than capable of scoring. Although the third line hadn’t shown up on the scoresheet until recently, its members played well since the trade deadline. Coyle and DeBrusk scored back to back in the shootout to seal Boston’s victory over the Sabres on April 13, and Ritchie energized the team by fighting Matt Irwin. In addition to this, Jake DeBrusk has been utilizing his greatest asset, his speed. This has led to excellent efforts by him on the forecheck, which is something that wasn’t happening early in the season.
The trio finally broke through during Thursday night’s game against the Sabres as both DeBrusk and Coyle assisted on Nick Ritchie’s 11th goal of the season. The play started with Charlie Coyle carrying the puck into the offensive zone and dropping it off to DeBrusk, who found Ritchie coming down the slot on his way to the net to put the Bruins up 4-1. Things seem like they are starting to look up for the Coyle line, and the Bruins’ three-game series against Buffalo this week may be exactly what this third line needs to find some consistency.
With the postseason nearing, if the Bruins are looking to make another deep playoff run, they’ll ultimately need their third line to find their game, and Charlie Coyle specifically is someone they’re going to need more from. He played a large role in Boston’s 2019 Stanley Cup run, ranking fifth on the team in points with 16 in 24 games, including an overtime winner in the Bruins’ first game against Columbus in the second round. Coyle’s play helped elevate his linemates, as the Heinen-Coyle-Johansson line produced 28 points through the first 15 games of that postseason. The trio, although not all came while playing together, finished the 2019 postseason with a combined 35 points, with the majority of that production flowing through Coyle. The then 26-year-old center assisted on a third of goals scored by Heinen and Johansson while also tallying seven even-strength goals with the line.
If DeBrusk, Coyle, and Ritchie can find chemistry similar to that of Coyle’s line from 2019 and play well consistently, the Bruins will have another great third line. Combine this with the top two lines that are playing extremely well, and the Bruins could be looking at a Stanley Cup run again, potentially the last with this current core.