Building Taylor Hall’s confidence will be a work in progress for Bruins
It’s been a while since the Bruins made a dramatic deadline trade. The one they made this year might not be as dramatic in production as it is in name value.
Taylor Hall made it abundantly clear he wanted to play in Boston. He had been interested in signing there in the offseason before taking a one-year deal in Buffalo. In his introductory press conference, he expressed a desire to not be the “focal point” like he’s been in Edmonton, New Jersey, Arizona and Buffalo.
In years past, a second round pick and Anders Bjork for someone who has been an elite scorer would have been laughable. Even on a tough deadline for sellers, most experts consider Hall a steal for the return, even with lesser production in Buffalo.
His Bruins career began with a turnover and an icing. It got better, though tentative, from there.
It appeared his first point came in the second period, but they took an assist off the board and credited Craig Smith with an unassisted tally.
That first point will have to wait after all. Perhaps it would have helped a player who admitted his half a season in Buffalo had shaken his confidence. Maybe a win where the team in front of him didn’t have to rely on him figuring it out all at once might, too.
“The details of the game we have to look at closer,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I don’t want to overanalyze that his first night here.”
[NHL Power Rankings: Where things stand after NHL trade deadline]
Cassidy said he’d like to keep Hall with David Krejci on the second line; the Bruins are a team that doesn’t often leave lines alone for long, though.
He also played with Smith, the hottest player on the Bruins with 15 points in his last 14 games. He liked what he saw from the former Sabres forward.
“I think he’s world class with his ability to create and the way he shoots the puck and the way he sees the game,” said Smith. “He’s been a player, when I’ve played against him that I’m watching him and seeing what he’s doing. It was fun to get a chance to play with him. I’m sure over the next couple games, we’ll get to know each other a little bit better.”
The final scoresheet says three shots on goal -- two in overtime -- in 16:43 played, mostly at even strength. His backchecking game won’t make any boxscore, but was a factor as well.
There were times Hall played like a player lacking said confidence, but at other times he did exactly what they needed. He didn’t get credit for the assist on Smith’s goal, but he helped make it happen, sending a puck to the middle of the ice that hit off Sabres defenseman Colin Miller’s stick, and to Smith.
His zone entries were clean, something the Bruins -- and Krejci’s line in particular -- haven’t always had this season.
“He certainly creates in space, said Cassidy. “I thought he did a good job off the rush, finding the open guy. Overtime, looked dangerous. Had a nice backcheck as well. Good speed.”
His confidence after a season mired in Buffalo misery might not return overnight. It might not in a few games. He likely will never be the Hart Trophy winning player of years’ past.
Odds are, though, Hall’s 2.3% shooting percentage won’t stay stagnant there, especially playing with Krejci and Smith. Odds are, he’ll find a semblance of the swagger that made him a number one overall draft pick 11 years ago.
“He’s played at a high level, I don’t doubt him for a second,” said Smith. “Playing for the Boston Bruins is a pretty good thing, so I think we’ll be fine.”