Bruins’ Third Line: A Force to be Reckoned With

( Photo by Steve Babineau / NHL via Getty Images )

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

The Boston Bruins have found a versatile combination for the third line after beginning the 2021-22 season with uncertainty surrounding what personnel should play on the bottom-six lines. Known as the “3-2-1 Contact” line, the Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle, and Craig Smith combination has provided much-needed depth scoring and a physical identity to Boston’s bottom-six. The line came to fruition during Brad Marchand’s six-game suspension back in February and when Craig Smith’s production was nonexistent on the top line. 

The third line came up massive during Boston’s six-game road trip out west as they notched a collective 15 points, including a hat-trick from Craig Smith against the Los Angeles Kings. It’s fair to say that Craig Smith had a disappointing start as he recorded only six goals and eight assists through his first 35 games. After last Saturday’s matchup against the Arizona Coyotes, Smith notched two goals and has just under a point per game with seven goals and six assists in 15 games. He’s also a plus 12 through that stretch and a shooting percentage of 14.3%, up 7.8% from his previous 38 games. It’s evident that Smith has been a beneficiary from being paired with Coyle and Frederic.

Trent Frederic has been a pleasant surprise for Boston on the third line as he’s brought size and physicality. Frederic has been much more noticeable because he’s getting to open areas offensively and using his body to protect the puck, similar to his linemate Coyle. Not necessarily known for his offensive capabilities, the 24-year-old has started to show some scoring prowess, as he’s scored a goal and five assists over his last ten games on the third line. He seems to be more confident in his game than he has ever been in his brief NHL career.

On the other hand, Charlie Coyle has been consistent through most of the season. Boston hoped to slot Coyle on the second line alongside Smith and Taylor Hall to start the season. The chemistry and play style between the three players didn’t mesh well, and head coach Bruce Cassidy resorted to moving Coyle to the third line. Since then, the centerman has been the driving force on this line since the three forwards were paired together. Over Coyle’s last 15 games, he’s notched four goals, eight assists, and an astonishing 26.7% shooting percentage playing on the third line. 

Cassidy, as of late, has shown his praise to the “3-2-1 Contact” for their consistent efforts. “I think they’re playing to the identity of how they would need to play to score on a regular basis, which is typically they’re playing behind the D, they’re winning pucks, getting pucks back, good forechecks, in sync together in the O-zone with their spacing,” Cassidy said after their victory over Arizona.

This line will be crucial come May as the Bruins are looking to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bruins have been eliminated over their last three playoff runs because they have been outplayed physically and lacked depth scoring. If the “3-2-1 Contact” line can continue their intimidating physicality and scoring ability, the Bruins forward group will be a force to be reckoned with.

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