Don Sweeney's deadline moves looking a lot more prudent after Game 1


BOSTON – When both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson didn’t produce a ton after arriving following the trade deadline for a number of reasons, naturally some criticism was aimed toward Bruins general manager Don Sweeney for his deadline moves.

Well, Sweeney and his deadline deals are looking pretty good at this point.

Charlie Coyle scored both the game-tying and game-winning goal in a 3-2 OT Game 1 win for the Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden, and Johansson set up each of those Coyle scores with some pretty slick playmaking of his own. That comes after both Coyle and Johansson scored in the pivotal Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs earlier this week, and now gives Coyle an impressive five goals in eight playoff games after scoring just twice in 21 regular-season games after arriving at the trade deadline.

There were certainly some vocal critics of Sweeney in the weeks following the trade deadline with snap judgments and knee-jerk reactions.

Those voices were suddenly silenced after Game 1.

“He’s a really important forward for us. [He was] such a great pickup at the deadline and if we’re going to go far, he’s going to be a key guy for us,” said Torey Krug. “[It’s] obviously, exciting for him being a hometown guy to lift the Bruins to an overtime playoff victory. Exciting stuff. We’re glad to have him.”

It’s clear now that Coyle was getting the lay of the land while starting slowly offensively after coming to Boston, and that Johansson has been set back a couple of times due to injuries and illness since coming to Boston. But both are guns blazing when it matters now in the playoffs, they’re forging chemistry together and they are making Boston’s third line a force to be reckoned with during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That’s a welcome development for the Bruins.

“It’s starting to develop, obviously. That second goal is an all-world play. I mean, shot-ready Charlie [Coyle]. We’ve talked about Marcus, right? He had some, an injury here early with us, then he got sick and so he hasn’t had time to really develop a lot of that. Practice time is limited down at the end of the year, so he’s got to do it on the fly,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They all made a great play. If you go back to the start, Danton [Heinen] wins the puck on the wall. Charlie outlets to Marcus, he flips it out and Danton stays onside, so then... for a coach and any team that plays the way we do, we like to see offense be a reward for good defensive play, good structure.

“So that’s even that. It’s great, what a great video, teaching point for young guys that come in here, how they were in good spots. They won a puck, and then your skills take over at the other end.”

As Cassidy referenced, the first goal that Johansson and Coyle combined for was something special. Johansson threw a backhanded saucer pass across the ice and Coyle managed to get every inch of torque into a one-timer bullet despite a Blue Jackets defender standing right in his way as the puck arrived. The puck bounced in and out of the net so quickly that it took a moment for everybody in the building to realize that Coyle had tied the game in the final minutes of the third period.

“[Coyle] is such a good, strong two-way centerman. Someone you can always rely on and he makes the right decisions out there. That’s always something that helps. Yeah, so far it’s been nothing but good,” said Johansson. “We both like to play with a lot of speed. We like to move the puck and I think so far what’s been part of the success is that we haven’t really made it too hard on ourselves. We’re not forcing things. I mean that’s how we got goals tonight. So, you know, [it’s about] keeping it simple and moving our feet, taking advantage of the chances when we get them.”

The second goal, the overtime game-winner, was both clutch and undoubtedly redemptive for the Weymouth-born Coyle. The big, powerful center and his line caught the Blue Jackets in transition and Johansson dangled with the puck before sliding a perfect pass at the net just as Coyle was moving to the post. Coyle tapped the puck past the springing Bobrovsky, and a third-period turnover by the third-line center that led to a Columbus goal was gone and forgotten.

Even better, the local kid was living out his dreams scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals in the second round of the playoffs.

“His buddies probably expect [Coyle] to get a hat trick next game, that’s the problem,” said a smiling Cassidy with tongue firmly planted in cheek. “Listen, he’s got to be excited. I think in Minnesota they didn’t have much luck in terms of getting to the second round, so he’s probably excited he’s advancing. Now you’re at home [in Boston]. Now you’re the hero of the game, so I think it’s awesome. Good for him. [It’s a] great story. Hopefully, [Chris] Wagner’s next.”

The story for another day is the continued production struggles of some of Boston’s top offensive players. But Sweeney and the Bruins saw these tough times coming when they brought both Coyle and Johansson in at the deadline. They weren’t the sexiest names that moved at the deadline and they honestly didn’t even seem like really beneficial players over the final six weeks of the season.

But there’s no doubt that a two-way player like Coyle has fortified a third line that was a weak link all season long for the B’s, and Johansson brings the influx of offense that Boston needed during 5-on-5 play this season.

It’s been right there for everybody to see in the last two playoff games when it matters most, and perhaps that merits a little attaboy to Sweeney for a job well done at the deadline, giving the Bruins exactly what they needed in the playoffs. 

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