At first glance, there was an awful lot to like about Boston’s latest combination on its new-look third line.
Anchored by Charlie Coyle at the pivot and a pair of heavy wingers in David Backes and Peter Cehlarik, a line that has usually stood as one of Boston’s most evident flaws suddenly possessed the right amount of size and skill to be a viable option in Bruce Cassidy’s arsenal of forwards.
The results were encouraging in their first stint together last week against St. Louis — with the Coyle line holding a 14-7 edge in 5v5 attempts and seven scoring chances generated in 9:39 of TOI. The lone blemish in an otherwise solid night? A neutral-zone turnover by Cehlarik during a sluggish line change — paving the way for a goal from Alexander Steen seconds later.
The miscue from the 23-year-old B’s winger might have stood as a bit of a precursor to Saturday’s matchup, but Coyle was impressed with what Cehlarik showcased during his first outing in a bottom-six role this season.
“I think we did really well,” Coyle said. “Even for playing together the first time. We had some chances, we had the opportunities. He’s a pretty skilled guy, can hang on to the puck. I think if we just focus on not forcing things and we hang onto the puck, I think things will open up naturally. Three big guys, it makes it hard for them to take the puck from us and we can wear them down.”
Once again, the Cehlarik-Coyle-Backes line largely imposed its will in its latest appearance against the Devils on Saturday. After a constantly rotating third line sans Coyle had only managed to generate one high-danger scoring chance in its previous three outings ahead of the trade deadline, the 22-13-42 line had managed to create four high-danger bids in a little over 17 minutes of 5v5 TOI together.
Winning puck battles left and right in the Devils’ zone, the new Coyle line was out for 14 shot attempts and just four for New Jersey during 7:40 of 5v5 TOI Saturday, while also holding a 6-3 edge in shots on goal.
And yet, something wasn’t passing the eye test for Bruce Cassidy on the bench.