By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Earlier this week, when asked what it was like to play in a Game 7, Bruins third-line center Charlie Coyle’s mind went right back to one spot: his driveway at his childhood home.
“When you’re playing in the driveway and you’re playing street hockey, you say it’s Game 7. You want to play in that,” Coyle, a native of Weymouth, said on Tuesday. “So to be doing the real thing, it’s a lot of fun. That’s why we play the game.”
As it turned out, playing in a Game 7 was only the appetizer to Coyle’s dreaming. The main course came on Thursday.
Facing a 2-1 deficit in Game 1 of the second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Coyle one-timed a cross-ice feed from Marcus Johansson to tie the game with just 4:35 left in regulation.
The 2-2 score held until overtime, and 5:15 into that extra period, Coyle camped out on the doorstep. Marcus Johansson — who had assisted on that game-tying goal — sent a feed to Coyle’s tape. Coyle did what he needed to, redirecting the puck into the net before breaking into a full-on celebration in front of 17,000 of his closest friends and family members.
Despite experiencing a moment that every young hockey player dreams of, the first thing Coyle brought up wasn’t his feelings of joy or ecstasy. Instead, the 27-year-old lamented the costly mistake he had made earlier in the game.
“Well, I had a costly turnover in the third period. Can’t have that during a game. I’m just glad our line kept playing, got a chance to go out there and redeem ourselves,” Coyle said. “Just happy to get the win after that, to be honest.”
Pressed for more, Coyle reiterated his dismay at his turnover that led to Columbus’ first goal.
“I was just relieved we got the win. I really didn’t care who scored, to be honest. … It’s special. It’s special personally, but it’s all about the team here,” Coyle said. “I was glad after that turnover just to get the win, no matter how we did it.”
At a certain point, though, it had to go back to that driveway, and the street hockey.
“I used to play street hockey outside my house. I lived in a little cul-de-sac, so I used to either play with friends or just by myself. You always think about that stuff and play scenarios in your head and what it would be like when you’re older,” Coyle admitted. “I think most times, you envision you’re yourself in the future. I think we’ve all done that. So yeah, pretty cool to be living it.”
Another Massachusetts native who dreamed of experiencing such a moment was Chris Wagner, who happened to be skating on Coyle’s wing on this night after getting re-inserted into the lineup by head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“It’s awesome,” Wagner said. “He probably doesn’t have any words for it. I don’t either. I’m so happy for him — genuinely. That’s pretty cool stuff, especially since I’ve known him since we were 17. Seeing him progress and everything, it’s pretty cool.”
Where Wagner and Coyle also found accord was in the tremendous vision and skill on display from Johansson on both assists.
“On the tying goal, just an unreal pass,” Coyle said. “And then he did it again — I’m just on the end of it.”
“That’s about as skilled as it gets,” Wagner agreed. “I was kind of surprised where he was passing. I didn’t even know that Charlie was over there. That’s a world-class play. For Chuck to one-time it like that, kind of cross-grain. That’s a pretty good one.”
Johansson wasn’t particularly impressed with his own work to set up the game-winner.
“I felt like everything opened up and before I got the puck, I already saw Charlie going back door, so it was just kind of a quick play. One of those you don’t really think, you just do it,” Johansson said. “And that was fun to see it go in.”
Coyle’s game-winning goal was much more than a moment. It was part of what appears to be a larger movement. The Bruins are only still alive in this postseason because of scoring contributions from the bottom two lines; Johansson, Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly scored for the Bruins in their Game 7 win over Toronto, before Coyle buried an empty-netter. And in Thursday’s Game 1, it was fourth-liner Noel Acciari who kicked off the scoring when he beat Sergei Bobrovsky to the blocker side midway through the first period.
With Coyle scoring the Bruins’ other two goals, it’s been quite the offensive onslaught from the Bruins’ bottom-six forwards.
Coyle himself has scored five goals in the Bruins’ eight games. That’s just one goal behind the leaders across the entire NHL.
“He’s a really important forward for us,” Torey Krug said of Coyle. “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. So, 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.”
If the Bruins hadn’t had him over the past several weeks? They wouldn’t still be here. And Coyle wouldn’t have gotten that moment.
Even on a night when he wanted to beat himself up for one mistake, and even on a night when he wanted to deflect credit and share praise with his teammates, Coyle had to admit. It was pretty special.