Jim Montgomery has not been shy about changing up his lines frequently this season, even with how much the Bruins have been winning.
He has made it clear since Day 1 that he wants players to be comfortable playing with everyone, not just one or two regular linemates. The Bruins’ incredible season has actually afforded him more opportunity to experiment; trying a combination that doesn’t click isn’t going to hurt Boston as much as a team that’s on the playoff bubble and needs every point it can get.
On Thursday, Montgomery rolled out his latest tweak: Taylor Hall, first-line right wing. Hall has been almost exclusively a left wing throughout his career, at least in terms of where he’s listed on the depth chart. He has ended up on the right side either during shifts or as a result of in-game shuffling plenty, though.
Now, he’ll start Thursday night’s game against the Lightning there. Montgomery revealed to reporters in Tampa that Hall will play on the right side next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and he explained why he feels like now is the time to give that trio a look.
“Just want to see it. It’s something we haven’t tried,” Montgomery said. “We’re always looking at different ways to see if we can use people in different ways to just better ourselves. That’s what we’re gonna do there and give him the opportunity. I’ve never seen him on the right wing.”
Hall has moved around the Bruins’ lineup quite a bit this season. He began the year moving between first- and second-line left wing with Marchand missing time early on. Eventually, he settled into a home on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic, a role he embraced with a positive attitude and never viewed as a demotion.
That trio was excellent for a while, but then they went a little quiet, especially Hall. Hall went 16 games without a goal from Dec. 19-Jan. 22, finally ending the drought with a power-play goal Tuesday night in Montreal.
Playing with Bergeron and Marchand -- guys he already plays with on the top power-play unit -- could get his offensive production going again. Despite the recent slump, Hall’s numbers for the season remain pretty good. He’s fifth on the team in goals (14) and tied for fifth in points (31). But there’s definitely another level he can get to -- a scary thought for Bruins opponents -- and this move could help him get there.
“It’s obviously two great players,” Hall said of his new line. “…It’s a great opportunity. I don’t think I have to change my game a whole lot. I’ve lined up on the right side throughout games a lot in my career, just when we would play 11 forwards or when someone would go out. It’s something that I’m used to, and those are great players and they’re easy to play with.”
Here is how the Bruins are expected to line up for Thursday’s game:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Taylor Hall
Pavel Zacha - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic - Charlie Coyle - Craig Smith
Nick Foligno - Joona Koppanen - A.J. Greer
Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Hampus Lindholm - Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort - Connor Clifton