Trying to pinpoint exactly how Charlie Coyle has gone more than a month without scoring a goal was hard for Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to do.
Some of it might have been tough luck — a puck just wide of the post. Some of it might have been aggressiveness — putting himself in positions where Coyle is comfortable scoring. Some of it might have been a product of playing with so many different linemates and never finding a rhythm.
But part of the Bruins getting more offensive production depends on getting scoring from players beyond Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. And getting Coyle going is a key part of that.
“We’d like him to score more,” Cassidy said. “We’ve talked about secondary scoring with a number of guys. Any team will tell you to get everyone clicking all at once, you enjoy those moments, but you need different guys going to help you win.”
While Coyle has notched four assists in the past five games, he hasn’t found the net since he scored two goals against the New York Rangers on Feb. 28.
“I think just for him, he’s not a guy that’s going to score his goals typically like say a Pasta with the one-timers,” Cassidy said. “For him, as he’s got to get inside a little more ... So a little more of that mentality. If you’re a guy that needs to be near the net to score, that’s fine. Get closer to the net, find your way in there. You’re a big body, got good enough hands, so that’s on him a little bit to initiate a little more inside drive to get those looks.”
Cassidy has been trying to find ways to generate more offensive production outside of the team’s three guaranteed goal-scorers. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak have been the Bruins’ most trusted threats. With 51 goals between them going into Sunday night’s game against the Washington Capitals, they account for almost half of the teams’ goals. In the 27 games they’ve played as linemates, they’ve produced 17 goals. The only other Bruin with at least 10 goals scored is Nick Ritchie with 10.
With so many parts moving in and out of the lineup this season, getting multiple players in a scoring rhythm has been a challenge, but it has also created some opportunity. Left winger Craig Smith thrived on the top line with a goal and an assist on Thursday at Washington and two assists Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“You see a guy like Smitty now has picked it up — whether that’s a move up the lineup or whatnot — but he seems to have complemented everybody he’s with, so good for him,” Cassidy said.
While Cassidy understood the revolving door of wings alongside Coyle, including Smith, Ritchie, and Jake BeBrusk, he said it was Coyle’s task to find ways to score.
“We want him to produce more,” Cassidy said. “Yes, chemistry matters, but at the end of the day, we have a lot of good players here and, whoever you’re with, the onus falls on the individual to do what he does best to create offense and score. So for him, that’s the ask and hopefully, we start getting a little bit more of it.”
Trying to play 56
As the NHL continues to sort through the COVID-19 outbreak that led to the Vancouver Canucks postponing eight games, the league announced Saturday that the season will be extended to May 16 for the North Division to allow Vancouver to play all 56 games.
The season was originally set to end May 11.
Cassidy said he hadn’t heard any discussion about possible schedule changes for the Bruins, who had a tightly-packed second-half schedule that became more crammed after the team had to shut down due to COVID protocols in March.
“The focus is to get the 56 games in, and right now we’re scheduled to play our 56,” Cassidy said. “So I don’t think they would stretch ours out, but maybe. It’d be good for us to get a little bit of a break.”
Fans honor Chara
The Bruins paid tribute to Zdeno Chara a month ago when he returned to Boston for the first time since mutually agreeing to part ways with the franchise before the season. But with no fans in the Garden, Chara didn’t get to experience the full extent of appreciation for his 14 years.
With fans back in the arena, the Bruins paid their respects again with a tribute in the first period and Chara received a warm ovation from the limited crowd
“It was great for him to have that with the fans,” Bergeron said. “I think they played that video last time around, but there was nobody in the building. It doesn’t have that same feel. I know it’s only 12 percent capacity, but he deserves that.
“He’s done so much for the organization and for the game of hockey and he’s still doing that. So I thought the fans had a great response and I was happy for him.’'
Rask still on mend
Tuukka Rask skated Sunday and will skate again Monday, but Cassidy still had no clear answer as to whether the goalie would be ready to return this week.
“He’s on his schedule to get better, which involves certainly on-ice, full practice with us Friday,’' Cassidy said. ‘‘I’ve always said once you’re in full practice and you have no setbacks that’s a good thing.’'
Makeshift back line
With Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller out, Jarred Tinordi and Jack Ahcan filled out the backline for the Bruins. Ahcan made his debut March 18 against Buffalo, firing 3 shots in 17:55 on the ice.
“I thought he did play to his strengths,” Cassidy said. “He was involved in the play offensively, had some looks? Got caught a couple times as well. So I guess for him, it’s managing risk-taking. We want you to be a guy that gets up on the play, support the rush, make plays when they’re there.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.