SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jim Montgomery was not happy after the Boston Bruins’ morning skate Thursday. It was the second straight on-ice session in which the coach’s players fumbled pucks, missed passes and lacked the crispness he prefers.
“Wasn’t happy with our energy,” Montgomery said, moments after using choicer language with his team. “I thought we were very lackadaisical today.”
That changed Thursday night.
The Bruins did not play a full 60 minutes against the San Jose Sharks. But they put together enough action to claim a 3-1 win and remained undefeated.
PING PONG PASTA 🍝 pic.twitter.com/Z88ScyPANJ
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 20, 2023
Coyle line rises
Through two periods, Montgomery had changed three of his four lines. He did not touch the trio of James van Riemsdyk, Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic.
The thunderous third-liners, playing together for the first time this season, dominated from the opening faceoff, which they controlled. On their first shift, the trio generated multiple chances to give their team momentum.
Late in the first, their grunt work paid off.
After Brad Marchand gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead, Coyle lugged the puck down low on the following shift. Coyle raced below the line and found Frederic in front. Kaapo Kahkonen stuffed Frederic three straight times. But before Kahkonen could cover the puck with his right pad, van Riemsdyk jumped into the mix and scored on the rebound.
“I thought they had a tremendous impact,” Montgomery said. “I thought Charlie was dominant tonight. His two linemates owned the middle and the front of the net in the middle of the ice. That second goal was really an exclamation mark of what I think that line can be.”
It was exactly the type of down-low, puck-possessing game Coyle had predicted he and his linemates could play after Wednesday’s practice. Not many defenders can handle Coyle at full speed when he’s handling the puck.
“He’s definitely a horse in the offensive zone with the puck like that,” van Riemsdyk said. “He draws the extra guy to him. So there’s a lot of open ice out there. That’s kind of what happened on the goal. He had a lot of eyes on him. We were able to find some soft ice and get a couple extra whacks at it.”
Hampus Lindholm submitted his best performance of the season. Lindholm commanded the game in all three zones: stout in front of his net, involved in the neutral-zone rush and around the action in the offensive end.
Lindholm played a game-high 25:21, his highest workload so far. Montgomery had no choice but to keep feeding him shifts.
“Moving his feet,” Montgomery said of what made Lindholm (two shots, two blocked shots, one takeaway) excel. “He was really dominant with his skating. He wanted the puck and was commanding the puck. When he’s doing things like that, he’s a very dominant player.”
With Lindholm on the ice at five-on-five, the Bruins had 24 attempts on net while allowing 12. Lindholm’s 66.67 Corsi For rating was the best on the team, per Natural Stat Trick. Lindholm’s only blemish was an Anthony Duclair goal against in the third period that rattled in off his skate.
Lindholm’s left-side dominance complemented Charlie McAvoy’s usual right-side thoroughness. McAvoy played 22:50, putting three shots on net. At times, Montgomery used Lindholm and McAvoy together as a do-it-all pair.
Quiet night for Poitras
Matt Poitras had his first opportunity to play with Marchand and Morgan Geekie on the No. 2 line on Thursday. It did not go as the Bruins hoped.
The 19-year-old had his most muted game of his three NHL appearances. He played just 12:18, his lowest workload so far. Poitras had no shots. In the second period, Montgomery took Poitras off the No. 2 line and put the teenager with Geekie and Jake DeBrusk.
Poitras is scheduled to play his fourth NHL game Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. That would leave him with five more appearances before the Bruins have to decide whether to keep the center around. He will burn the first season of his entry-level contract once he appears in 10 games.
“To be a good pro, you’ve got to learn from the game, but move on,” Montgomery said when asked what he hoped Poitras gathered from his difficult game. “Get ready for the next one. We’re going to get a real good test when we go to L.A.”
The No. 4 line of Milan Lucic, Johnny Beecher and Jakub Lauko was the Bruins’ most consistent trio through the first two games. They played fast, were hard on pucks and created havoc in dangerous ice.
The line did not play as well against the Sharks. They spent the game chasing the puck instead of controlling it.
That said, Beecher made a strong play in the first period to record his first NHL point. Once Derek Forbort pinched down the left-side wall, Beecher rotated to the blue line to cover for the defenseman. Beecher was in place to receive the puck and find Marchand in a soft spot. The left wing took care of the rest, placing a pea over Kahkonen’s glove.
“It’s pretty special to get the first one,” Beecher said. “Especially an assist to a guy like that, top 20 Bruin all time. Something I’ll be able to tell my kids one day.”
(Photo of Charlie Coyle: Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)