BOSTON -- When the Boston Bruins talk about their scoring depth, there's a name that sticks out for the talent and strengths of the player, and for where he's slotted into the lineup: Taylor Hall, third-line forward.
"I don't know that there's another team with a Hart Trophy winner playing in the 3-hole," Florda Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
Hall is five seasons removed from when he was voted most valuable player in the NHL for willing the New Jersey Devils into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and totaling 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games in 2017-18.
His numbers haven't neared those highs in the seasons since. He has journeyed from the Devils to the Arizona Coyotes to the Buffalo Sabres before finding a home in Boston after a trade from Buffalo on April 12, 2021. But it doesn't mean that Hall isn't a dangerous player, especially where he plays in the lineup, on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic.
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"They're going to get chances," Maurice said. "Tremendous size, tremendous speed, both men very, very strong net front and around the net."
Hall will be there again for Game 2, when the Bruins try to take a 2-0 lead against the Panthers in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round at TD Garden on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVAS, SNO, SNE, SNP, NESN, BSFL). He was noticeable in Game 1, a 3-1 victory in Boston on Monday, passing to Frederic on two separate 2-on-1s, though neither were converted into goals.
"I thought Taylor Hall was one of our better players last night," Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said Tuesday. "I thought his details and habits were excellent. And then you combine that with his speed, it creates mismatches for us. He had three chances all game from real good [defensive] zone plays by him that led to offensive chances. One was by him, two were by 'Freddy.'"
Hall was pleased with them too.
"They came from good defensive posture," Hall said. "We weren't cheating to get those chances. Would have loved to see one of them go in, but I know 'Fred' is good for it."
There was a question whether Hall would even be here after a lower-body injury sustained Feb. 25 initially raised fears that he might be lost for the season. He was out six weeks, returning April 8 to play three games.
"Just the pace, the timing of the game," Hall said, "and honestly to get into those games and make mistakes and put yourself in spots that you don't want to be in and correct those and have three days to look back on the video and make some corrections to my game was really valuable. That's what I tried to do. I knew those three games weren't going to be perfect, but if I could get myself in a pretty good spot for Game 1, I was happy I was able to do that."
Hall finished the regular season with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 61 games. It was a disappointment in terms of production and games played compared to last season when he 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists) in 81 games.
Now, though, he could turn it on.
Hall said his approach to the playoffs is to be even more detail-oriented than usual and embrace the role he's been given, even if that third-line spot isn't where he necessarily might have envisioned himself after being traded to Boston.
"I've been on for some goals in the past couple playoffs that I'd love to have back," Hall said. "I think I know what the playoffs are like. I think I understand the intensity that the playoffs bring., and you don't really get that until you play, until you get that experience and you're in the battle and you're behind in a series, you're behind in a game. That's really important. I feel comfortable. I feel like the whole season's been leading up to this."
And Hall knows that his play and the matchups he creates, could help get the Bruins into rarefied air, a place they've already visited with their historic 65 wins. He's played 822 regular-season games but only 33 in the playoffs, 19 since coming to Boston, and knows the chance he has now.
"This is as good of a chance at potentially a Stanley Cup as I'll ever have," Hall said. "That's not lost on me. I think everyone in the room realizes the opportunity we have. But you keep your window small and right now it's about winning tomorrow and winning this series and going from there."