Boston Bruins: New-look 3rd line will determine how far B’s go

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 03: The Boston Bruins third line of Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic, and Craig Smith. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 03: The Boston Bruins third line of Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic, and Craig Smith. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

For much of the 2021-22 NHL season, it looked like this year would be the same old story for the Boston Bruins. Carried by their all-world first line, the team would cruise into the playoffs and then falter once the pressure turned up.

But ever since coach Bruce Cassidy committed to Charlie Coyle centering Craig Smith and Trent Frederic on his third line, the Bruins offense has jumped to new heights, and it shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, they’re only going to get better with time. It feels like every time you turn on the game, they’re scoring a go-ahead goal or swinging the momentum in the B’s favor.

Boston Bruins third line bringing back memories of 2019

Think back to the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals run, and you’ll surely remember the spark that the Bruins received from their third line. The trio, with Charlie Coyle centering Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson, came up huge time and time again.

For long stretches of that run, the third line was the best the Bruins had. Recently, history has been repeating itself, as the Coyle line has been driving the B’s for a large chunk of the time they’ve been together.

In a league where the recent trend is to have (at least) three lines that can contribute offense on a regular basis, this is no small development. Because when the ice shrinks in the playoffs and teams gameplan to slow the Bergeron line, the rest of the lineup needs to step up.

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The Boston Bruins have found a line with both size and skill

The big difference between the Frederic-Coyle-Smith combo of this year and the 2019 version is exactly that: these guys are big. This line is capable not only of putting the puck in the net, but also of beating you into submission along the way. That’s a good thing, especially come playoff time, where we’ve all seen the Bruins get physically manhandled year after year on the way to disappointing exits.

Up until this recent success, Trent Frederic was known almost exclusively as a physical presence always willing to drop the gloves. He’s kept that edge, but has finally added in some offensive kick.

Craig Smith, of course, came to Boston with the reputation of being a shooter, and he’s more than lived up to that for the Black and Gold. Five times he’s eclipsed the 20-goal mark, and he’s got an outside chance of getting there this year. Not to mention, he’s no stranger to throwing his weight around in the corners either.

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Add in the elite puck possession and crafty playmaking of Charlie Coyle and you’ve got a group of guys who have everything needed to be a creative, physical, game-changing line. And that’s exactly what they have been since Bruce Cassidy put them together.

The Boston Bruins will need this line to produce in the playoffs

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, depth is king. Anyone can have one great line. What really wins is deep, balanced scoring, and having three capable lines has become almost a requirement to truly be competitive.

We know what the Boston Bruins top two lines are. The first line, with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, is going to produce no matter who is on their right wing. The second line of Taylor Hall, David Pastrnak and Erik Haula has been producing all year long, and has even stepped up recently as Hall has started to get more involved on the score sheet.

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Where the Bruins will be able to separate themselves is by having a strong third line, which it finally looks like they’ve found. The B’s are rolling, and they’re going to go as far as their third line will take them.