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Taylor Hall making net gains since Bruins shuffled lines

Taylor Hall celebrated after scoring in the second period Tuesday night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Not all net-front guys bring the same tools to the job, or fulfill their duties in similar fashion.

Job One, the only thing that truly matters, is finding a way to help the puck over the goal line during the power play.

Taylor Hall, currently the Bruins’ first option around the paint when they’re on the advantage, did just that in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Kraken, but did so with a cross-crease pass from the side of the net rather than, say, a tip on the doorstep or a quick-shovel home of a rebound.

“Three different kind of places,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, noting multiple instances, including the pass for David Pastrnak’s first goal, in which Hall was a legit net-front threat. “But at the end of the day, around the net, where he had some different options.”


Prior to getting moved over to the right half-wall, Brad Marchand had a lengthy stay in front, using grit and guile to find ways to gain leverage at the doorstep. Long ago, some of the game’s net-front greats were much bigger bodies, such as Phil Esposito, Dave Andreychuk and Tim Kerr.

Taylor Hall celebrates a recent goal with his teammates at TD Garden.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Hall, 6-foot-1 and upward of 210 pounds, was a superb power-play threat with the Devils during his 2017-18 MVP campaign. He did so mainly as a puck distributor, usually dishing from the left half-wall, and not as the classic man-at-the-doorstep, ready-to-pounce-on-anything net-front guy.

The Bruins also have Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle as net-front options, along with Nick Foligno (likely fit for duty when the Bruins return to action Tuesday night vs. the Penguins). Their styles are closer to the standard definition: setting screens, tipping shots and passes, converting loose pucks and rebounds.

Hall, who chipped in with an even-strength goal that delivered a 2-0 lead in the second, has become a more consistent offensive threat the last five weeks, in large part because he was paired Jan. 1 with Erik Haula at center and Pastrnak on his opposite wing.


Since the turn of the calendar, Hall has clicked at nearly a point-per-game pace, 5-10—15 across 17 games, a substantial uptick from his 5-9—14 in the 26 games across October, November, and December. For the season, he has registered 4-4—8 on the power play.

“It’s been better for me,” said Hall, acknowledging his improved numbers. “Personally, I didn’t love my last five or so games. I feel like I ran into a bit of a wall with my game. I couldn’t really get much going. But I have felt better since the [December] COVID break, just coming in, playing my game, being a little bit more relaxed at the rink and away from the rink and it lets me play my best when the chips are down.”

High on the list of his recent dislikes, noted Hall: being on the ice for two goals scored by Dallas Sunday night, and then both of the Kraken scores.

Taylor Hall has found his scoring touch of late.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

“Those are things I want to get rid of in my game,” he said, “and really be a reliable two-way guy for the rest of the year, earn more playing time that way, and continue to be a guy offensively that can produce in the role I’m in. That’s why I signed here and I believe I have another level I can get to as a two-way player and hopefully after the [All-Star] break I can continue that.”


Part of that growth, too, will come from his evolving work at the net front.

“I’m getting better at tipping pucks at the front of the net,” he said, “getting my stick on pucks from [Marchand]. And then I think that I am getting a bit more leeway to leave the front of the net and make plays from the goal line, which I know I can do. But I know my main focus is to be a net-front guy and getting pucks back. I think I can use my speed and my size to get pucks back and get them in the hands of the guys that we want. I know I can be a guy that adds lot of value to a power play like that.”

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.