Taylor Hall skated his first laps in Black and Gold on Tuesday, lining up to the left of David Krejci and Craig Smith with hope of boosting the Bruins’ lowly five-on-five offensive numbers.
Entering Tuesday night’s 3-2 shootout win, the Bruins led only the Sabres in goal production at five aside, scoring 63 times to Buffalo’s 62. The East-leading Capitals, by comparison, topped the league with 105. Boston ranked a modest 19th in overall scoring (2.72 goals per game).
They also had the fewest scoring chances (725) and the lowest shooting percentage (6.49) at five on five, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“To get a guy of Taylor’s magnitude,” coach Bruce Cassidy said, “knowing we could use that extra layer of secondary scoring, was big for our guys.”
Hall’s arrival also gave Cassidy, a power-play specialist, some intriguing options on the man-advantage, which has been struggling of late. Boston, ninth overall in success rate (23.3 percent), entered Tuesday 6 for 32 (18.8 percent) going back to the last meeting with the Sabres (March 27). The Bruins were 0 for 1 on Tuesday night.
Hall, the ex-Buffalo wing, started his Causeway Street residency on the second unit, in the left circle. The vision: two dangerous playmakers, Hall and Krejci, attacking downhill on their strong-side wings.
Unlike right-shooting David Pastrnak, who plays in the same left circle, Hall (and Krejci for that matter on the opposite site) will look to beat defenders and snap pucks home rather than hammer one-timers.
“He played there in Jersey, had success coming down the wall a little bit in Arizona,” Cassidy noted of Hall. “He’s got a good shot, a wrister. Pasta’s more of a one-timer guy. Taylor’s more of a release, maybe even beat you one on one, make a play in tight areas. He’s used to that, coming down the left wing, he’s been doing that his whole life. It’s just something he’s good at.”
Cassidy said Hall and Krejci could flip sides, which would increase the one-time threat. For now, they will skate together on that unit, and at even strength.
“We’re looking to give him the easiest adjustment possible, and let’s see where it goes,” Cassidy said of Hall, who sported No. 71 in his debut. “Let’s look at what kind of chemistry they build. I’m sure guys will move around and be in different spots. We do like the shot mentality he brings. The second unit’s been a bit of a challenge there. [Charlie] Coyle, [Charlie] McAvoy, and Krech, the guys who handle it the most, are pass-first guys mostly.”
Coyle was bumped off the second unit in favor of Hall. Smith (slot, or bumper), McAvoy (point), and Jake DeBrusk (net front) remained.
Hall’s ability could allow Cassidy to lessen the burden on the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak group. A few 60-second power-play shifts for them, rather than 90-second ones, could keep their overall workload down. Entering Tuesday, Pastrnak was averaging 3:59 per game on the power play, 12th-most among NHL forwards. Bergeron (3:36) and Marchand (3:32) ranked in the top 30.
Defenseman Mike Reilly, ex- of Ottawa, joined the first power-play unit in the continued absence of Matt Grzelcyk (upper body). Reilly, a solid puck-mover, was a spare part on the Senators’ power play (average TOI: 1:03 per game, fourth among Ottawa defensemen and 15th on the team). Reilly paired with Kevan Miller at even strength.
The other newcomer, Curtis Lazar, made his Bruins debut centering a fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner. Cassidy said the former Sabre, who last played March 31, was dealing with a “soft tissue kind of injury.”
McAvoy (upper body), who missed the last four games, returned to skate with Jeremy Lauzon … Tuukka Rask practiced with the main group for the first time since a flareup of his upper-body injury March 25. Rask, believed to be dealing with a back issue, was not available for the game but could return Thursday. Jeremy Swayman got the start in net and made 21 saves on 23 shots … Trent Frederic (non-COVID illness) skated with the taxi squad after practice. According to Cassidy, Frederic needs to build his conditioning but could be in as early as Thursday against the Islanders … Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo (upper body) did not practice … Miller (knee) returned to the lineup after a maintenance day … Ex-Bruin Anders Bjork, wearing No. 96, debuted for Buffalo on a line with Dylan Cozens and Arttu Ruotsalainen. Bjork was screening in front and earned a secondary assist 1:52 in, when another former Bruin, Colin Miller, ripped a point shot past Swayman.