BOSTON -- Taylor Hall playing on the Bruins' third line is a pretty good indication of how incredibly deep this Boston roster is up front.
After struggling to score of late -- only one goal in his last 11 games -- Hall broke out of that slump with two tallies in the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Hall got the Bruins on the board just 67 seconds into the game when he tipped a Brandon Carlo shot past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
After the Lightning tied the score with a power-play goal late in the second period, the Bruins capitalized with a power-play tally of their own early in the third period. Hall buried a shot from the slot to put the B's up 2-1.
“It’s nice to see a couple go in," Hall said. "It felt like I had good legs the last few games, had some chances against Carolina. It’s nice to contribute, nice to score at home, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a multi-goal game, so those are always fun. Just a good win against a good hockey team.”
Hall carries the puck a lot. In fact, not many wingers in the league do a better job than Hall at entering the attacking zone with speed and a purpose. He was consistently pushing the pace and putting the Lightning on their heels when he had the puck skating through the neutral zone up ice.
"He drove the net a couple times. Had a blocked shot in the second and takes it and beats (Victor) Hedman to the net. He's doing a lot of what I call championship-type hockey," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "Things that are helping our team win games. There's a lot of wingers that drive offense like that. David Pastrnak is like that. I think of Artemi Panarin and Johnny Gaudreau as others."
Montgomery's system, which emphasizes getting quality looks at the net and not wasting offensive zone time, has suited Hall's skill set quite well. It's given him a bit more freedom to create and look for the best possible play to set up a scoring chance.
“He loves driving wide and stopping up. I think we have a little more latitude to make plays East-West in the offensive zone," Hall said of Montgomery's style. "Not as much of a shot quantity team, more of a shot quality team.
"It took a few games for me personally to get out of the habits of pucks to the net, shoot from anywhere, never a bad play to get it on net. Where I think Monty, he's made a few adjustments in our game where some shots are bad shots. We want to control pucks. I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I feel more comfortable with that. As we get going, you’re seeing a lot of guy’s skill sets coming out in different ways. I think I’m one of them.”
Montgomery has Hall on the third line. Hall wasn't scoring with David Krejci over the last few weeks, so a change was made to benefit the team.
"He wants to win a Cup, he wants to be in a dressing room that values winning and has that pedigree," Montgomery said of Hall. "And I think it shows in the way he’s playing. He’s very accepting of the fact that I’m using him on a third line and we’re using him on the second power-play (unit) because that’s what’s best for the Boston Bruins. I can’t say enough about his exemplary attitude."
Some players might have viewed the move to the third line as a demotion, but not Hall.
“I think it’s whatever is best for the team. You come into the year and you think you’re gonna be on one line and you’re going to have a lot of success, and sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t," Hall admitted.
"But for our team, what are we, 19-3-0, or something – wherever you’re slotted you have to make the best of your ice time. Charlie Coyle as a third-line center, that’s one of the best third-line centers in the league. I don’t take it as a demotion, I take it as doing the best with the opportunity and I think we can be a really good line.”
Hall played on the third line with Charlie Coyle for stretches last season and the two just didn't click chemistry-wise and failed to produce offensively on a consistent basis.
Hall and Coyle played 282:24 of 5-on-5 ice time together last season and the Bruins were outscored 16-13 and lost the scoring chance battle 131-129 in those minutes, per Natural Stat Trick. The 2022-23 season has been better for this duo. The B's have accounted for 56.6 of all shot attempts, 62.7 percent of all shots on net and 57.1 percent of all goals scored during the 69:22 of 5-on-5 ice time Hall and Coyle have played together.
Why are Hall and Coyle a better fit right now? Just getting some experience together has been a huge factor, according to Hall.
“I think just games and playing with him and seeing him. I think we’re working on our dialogue on the bench and just what he sees and what I see, areas where we can contribute and get better at," Hall explained. "He’s such a good hockey player, he’s so strong and good in his own end. Just more games I think, after last year, if I ever got on a line with him again I’d have a better idea of what I needed to do and how I needed to play. I think that the line has been really good.”
One of the reasons why the Lightning have been such a dominant team -- three straight Eastern Conference championships and two Stanley Cup titles over the last three seasons -- is their extraordinary depth up front. They've been able to roll four quality lines on the ice and get offensive contributions for more than one each night.
The Bruins look like that kind of team this season. Twenty different players have scored at least one goal through the first 22 games. Hall is a former Hart Trophy winner and a top-tier left winger, and yet he's on the third line right now scoring goals against an elite opponent.
This impressive level of scoring depth has been absent in recent Bruins playoff runs. It would be pretty surprising, based on what we've seen so far, if that's a weakness again in April, May and possibly June.
“I think that’s the key this year. We can talk about system changes all we want, but we just have a plethora of guys who can play anywhere and I think that’s what really wears teams down with how deep we are," Hall said. "And not just at forward, but on defense. The guys we’ve put on waivers are tremendous hockey players. I’d say that’s the biggest thing.”