PHILADELPHIA - For much of the past week, Charlie Coyle has been flanked by wingers Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen during practice. And on Thursday night, they finally got the chance to show off the chemistry they've been building in a game setting.
The new-look trio did not disappoint, with all three finding the scoresheet during what was, at times, a dominant performance in the Bruins' 3-1 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
"It was nice to do it in a game," said Coyle, who landed three shots on goal in 15:17 of ice time. "You start to feel it out in practice. Thought we had some good looks, some chances we didn't capitalize on. But the looks are there. That stuff will come. That was a good start, I thought. Something to build on."
The chemistry between Coyle and Heinen has been building since last spring when the two were paired up with Marcus Johansson throughout the Bruins' playoff run, forming a highly successful third line that was Boston's most consistent triumvirate throughout the postseason.
"We just kind of know our tendencies and what we're gonna do," Coyle said of his rapport with Heinen. "He knows what kind of player I am and vice versa. I think that helps. He's an easy-going guy off the ice. It's good to know each other off the ice, I think that helps as well. That's a good start and we want to improve on last year and our performance playoff-wise."
Video: B's top Flyers 3-1 in 2nd preseason game of the year
Coyle and Heinen picked up right where they left off, connecting for the game's opening goal on Thursday night. Showing off some of his patented puck possession skills, Coyle brushed off a defender, spun around, and whipped a shot on goal.
The rebound popped out to Heinen, who crashed in from the slot and buried it from the bottom of the left circle to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
"I thought he was dominant with the puck," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Coyle. "We're getting used to that with Charlie. This week in practice you've seen it in down low drills; it's hard to take it from him, even our veteran guys. I thought he had good pace through the neutral zone as well. He's willing to dish, make his line mates better.
"We're gonna try to get him to find a balance of when to shoot, when to pass, especially if he's gonna play with Danton because he has that issue as well. Hopefully those two kind of sort it out - one of them has to shoot. I think they'll do a better job the more they play together."
With the departure of Johansson to Buffalo via free agency, Cassidy is searching for a replacement to Coyle's left, and so far, it appears that Bjork is making a strong push to reclaim a spot in the NHL after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last January for the second straight year.
"He adds a different dimension," Cassidy said of Bjork, who was plus-2 with a shot on goal in 17:48. "He's got, probably, more flat-out speed than Danton, where Danton is more of a cerebral guy, gonna make those small area plays, so they complement each other well.
"They've been together for a bit in camp now, so when you get to play two or three days in a row, it doesn't sound like much, but this time of the year, it allows you to sort of feed off each other and read off each other. They did a good job of that tonight."
Video: BOS@PHI: Heinen buries Coyle's centering dish
Jaroslav Halak had not been between the pipes since April 4, when he got the start for the penultimate regular-season contest in Minnesota. But on Thursday night, it sure didn't look like the netminder had a five-month layoff.
The veteran backstop turned away 16 of 17 shots against the Flyers, including what could already end up as the save of the year.
With Philadelphia on the power play late in the first, Flyers forward Morgan Frost tipped a point shot off the left post. The puck trickled across the crease and Frost attempted to bat it home, but Halak - with his back to the shooter - reached around and snatched the shot with his glove.
"He's a good goaltender. You're never sure the first game how it's gonna go, but we were fairly clean in front of him," said Cassidy. "The one sequence, tip off the post, rebound, he made an outstanding save where we could have been better…I thought he was real good, his puck play was clean, that helped our D. He was good overall."
Max Lagace, signed to a one-year deal on July 1, came in for the third period and stopped all seven shots he faced.
Video: BOS@PHI: Halak spins around to rob Frost with glove
Connor Clifton is not known for silky hands, but his mitts sure looked nifty in the third period. Fresh out of the box after taking a slashing penalty, the blue liner raced to pick up a loose puck in the neutral zone and cruised in all alone on Flyers goalie Alex Lyon.
Clifton got to the hashmarks, kicked out his left leg, went to his backhand, and lifted one past Lyon's blocker to put the Bruins ahead, 3-1, with 3:45 remaining.
"I honestly have no idea…I decided to go backhand, that's really it," Clifton, who played a team-high 21:59, said of how his goal developed. "Kind of just on the spot…I don't really know what to do on breakaways. Maybe next time I get a breakaway [I'll know what to do now]…maybe. Kind of just saw that side open. It worked out."
Video: BOS@PHI: Clifton flees box, scores on breakaway
By the Numbers
- Peter Cehlarik's second-period tally, a top-shelf rip off a spin-around feed from Brendan Gaunce, proved to be the winner, as it put Boston up, 2-1, at 4:16 of the middle frame.
- Jake DeBrusk and Providence blue liner Cooper Zech led the Bruins with five shots on goal apiece.
- Sean Kuraly played 18:48, most among Bruins forwards, and won 7 of 11 faceoffs.
- Urho Vaakanainen (21:17 TOI) and Alex Petrovic (18:59) were paired up and each posted a plus-2 rating.
- The Bruins went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Video: BOS@PHI: Cehlarik put Bruins ahead on Gaunce's feed
Patrice Bergeron skated with the non-game group on Thursday morning, donning a white practice jersey for the second straight day. It was a strong sign that the B's No. 1 pivot will be ready for Opening Night, which he confirmed following the session.
"I'm very confident about that," said Bergeron. "It's still the goal and the plan, and that's why right now we're trying to ramp things up without being careless. That's why the progression right now…I'm feeling pretty good, I'm happy with how I've felt. It was my first time I was going back-to-back, and it felt pretty good."
Bergeron, who said that he will have a scheduled day off on Friday, expects that he could continue a trend from late last season that saw him sit out several morning skates and take more maintenance days.
"I think that's something that we've had discussions about in the past and last few years," said Bergeron. "The amount of games we play…when you accumulate that over the course of a career, it's a lot.
"I've talked to a lot of players that have been in that situation before, and as much as you like to be on the ice all the time, I think sometimes you need to concentrate on the the fact that it's a long season."
Video: Bergeron provides an update on his health
Thursday's Camp Lineups
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Anton Blidh - Sean Kuraly - David Backes
Jake DeBrusk - Jack Studnicka - Karson Kuhlman
Peter Cehlarik - Brendan Gaunce - Robert Lantosi
Jeremy Lauzon - Connor Clifton
Urho Vaakanainen - Alex Petrovic
Cooper Zech - Josiah Didier
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Paul Carey - David Krejci - Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner
Ryan Fitzgerald - Trent Frederic - Oskar Steen
Jakub Lauko - Pavel Shen - Samuel Asselin
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Wiley Sherman - Matt Grzelcyk
Chris Breen - Steven Kampfer