DALLAS — Charlie Coyle, impressive in training camp, followed through with a superb effort in the season opener, with his telltale gloveprints all over both of the early strikes that led the Bruins to their 2-1 win over the Stars.
Obtained in the trade deadline deal in February that shipped top prospect Ryan Donato to the Wild, Coyle is one of 10 free agents on the Boston roster. The trickier signing for GM Don Sweeney no doubt will be Torey Krug, the top scorer on the backline, but the 27-year-old Coyle will be both a critical and expensive signing.
On the season-opening strike by Brett Ritchie, Coyle disrupted a Dallas breakout, clipping the puck away from Andrew Cogliano along the right wall in the Dallas end. The disruption was compounded when Ritchie bumped Radek Faksa, allowing Ritchie to take control of the puck and snap in his wrister from the center of the left wing circle. Good shot, but none of it would have happened without Coyle’s astute effort to negate the breakout along the wall.
“Arguably our best, most noticeable player in camp,” said coach Bruce Cassidy.
The second goal, a Danton Heinen snipe, had the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Coyle playing the oak tree role at the top of Ben Bishop’s crease. Heinen, also in that left wing circle, snapped his wrister high to the short side, with even the towering Bishop unable to track the shot because of Coyle’s net-front presence.
“The screen, to me, made that goal,” noted Cassidy. “A good shot by Danton, might have gone in anyway, don’t get me wrong, but Bishop is a real good goalie. You have to take away his eyes. Charlie did a good job there. He was originally one of the guys that was going to be on the elbow, not net-front, but he had the presence of mind to get there — a fluid game, you have to adjust sometimes.”
“You have to stay there, that’s where the puck goes,” added Coyle. “You have to do your part . . . whether that means standing on your tippy-toes, or what.”
Bishop, who allowed two goals on the first two shots, snuffed out the 18 other shots the Bruins landed across the next 54 minutes.
■ Not that anyone needed a reminder that hockey’s a dangerous and sometimes cruel business, but it was underscored emphatically for the Stars.
They lost Blake Comeau to injury (puck to mouth) in the first and then, in a frightening scene, saw veteran backliner Roman Polak stretchered off in the second after he went down in a heap while in a footrace with Chris Wagner to track the puck in the Stars’ end.
The heavy, broad-shouldered Polak tipped awkwardly into the boards, crashing his neck and right shoulder into the wall. He landed belly down on the ice and did not move. It took the Dallas training and medical staff some 10 minutes to wrap him up with proper braces — to stabilize his neck and spine — before he was wheeled off the ice at 7:04 of the second period.
A tough, solemn scene. It appeared Polak never opened his eyes. He moved none of his four limbs, before or after he was placed on the stretcher. The Stars only reported that the 33-year-old Czech, who was David Backes’s teammate for many years in St. Louis, was taken to a local hospital for examination.
The sellout crowd sat in near silence for much of the 10 minutes, then applauded in respect as Polak was wheeled off. Eyes still closed, he did not respond. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara made a point of skating over to offer encouraging words to Polak as he was wheeled off.
“I didn’t really see him go down,” said Wagner. “I saw him, and it looked like he was going to give me a push, so I kind of went the other way and got out of it. Unfortunate . . . I didn’t see him [hit] the boards. Sad.”
Polak has had at least a couple of concussions over the course of his career.
Comeau, racing to back check into the Dallas end on a delayed call against the Stars, was felled by a puck to mouth that had him leaking a large amount of blood on the ice. It was a Brad Marchand pass that nailed him, after it deflected off the stick shaft of Dallas defenseman Andrej Sekera.
That was it for Comeau, done for the night on an innocent play.
■ In an era when speed is the dominant trait for all 31 teams, it can be a chore to discern from fast, faster and fastest.
Not true Thursday night. The two burners, at least in shorts bursts, were Roope Hintz for the Stars and Karson Kuhlman for the Bruins.
Hintz, who cracked the Stars’ lineup last season, used his speed to power in and cut Boston’s lead to 2-1 at 7:55 of the second — only 51 seconds after Polak exited. Hintz, a Finn, blew by Charlie McAvoy on a botched change by the Bruins, and zipped his shot under the crossbar from the inner edge of the left circle.
Midway through the third, Hintz nearly tied it, again bolting into the slot to snap off a sizzling 30-foot roster. It took a lightning–fast flash of his glove for Tuukka Rask to snare it.
Kuhlman didn’t stamp his name on the scoresheet, but he flashed a couple of bursts that were eye-catching. With David Krejci out of the lineup and the trios altered, Kuhlman worked most of the time at right wing on a line with Jake DeBrusk and newcomer Par Lindholm. DeBrusk is also among Boston’s top burners. Cassidy will juggle ’em up when Krejci is back, but the veteran Czech pivot might be working with the two fastest wingers he’s had in his career.
■ Ex-BU Terriers McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk each picked up an assist on Heinen’s power-play goal. It’s the first time they’ve each had helpers on the same goal since joining the Bruins.
If Cassidy keeps to his plan (always subject to change), McAvoy and Grzelcyk will pair as the point men on the second-unit power play all season. They logged around 2:40 in ice time on the man-advantage, while the No. 1 unit shooters, Torey Krug and David Pastrnak, averaged about 4:07.