( Photo Credit: NBC Sports)
By: Jamie Gatlin | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217
Throughout the course of a season, every team faces adversity in a variety of ways. For the Bruins, their depth has already been tested. Both Charlie McAvoy and veteran defenseman Kevin Miller are currently on the injured reserve. Torey Krug missed the first eleven games of the season before returning last night. As a result, Matt Grzelcyk has had to step up in his second NHL season. He does not have the offensive upside of McAvoy or Krug, however, he has performed well in their place.
The Boston University product is coming off a solid rookie campaign in which he appeared in 61 games and recorded 15 points. He had 12 assists and saw significant time on the man advantage. Along with Kevan Miller, he solidified the Bruins third defensive pairing. Due to injuries, he has taken on a different role so far this season.
Without Krug, the Bruins had been without their most dangerous power play weapon. To replace him Grzelcyk was placed on the Bruins first powerplay line. He performed well as the Bruins man advantage has been one of the most productive in the league. Through twelve games the Bruins have the fourth-best power play in the NHL. It will only improve with the return of Krug who has 123 points on the man advantage in his career. With Krug healthy, Grzelcyk will look to continue improving on the Bruins second power-play unit.
In order to get playing time, Grzelcyk must continue to show improvement. The Bruins have one of the deepest defensive groups in the NHL with many talented prospects in Providence. He is not a dynamic goal scorer as his six shots on net this season is the lowest total of anyone on the team. His five assists, however, are the second most of any Bruins defenseman trailing only Charlie McAvoy. He is making smart decisions with the puck which has been evident in his growing confidence on the ice.
His improved play is partly due to the work he put in over the offseason. As a rookie, he struggled when battling for pucks due to his size. After adding more muscle this offseason that has not been the case. He has shown more patience by letting his teammate’s cause pressure and not force anything in the offensive zone. Unfortunately for the Bruins defenseman, a lower-body injury forced him to miss Tuesday’s matchup against Carolina. His injury does not seem serious as there is a chance he could return to the lineup on Saturday against Nashville.
If Grzelcyk is able to return, he will most likely be on the Bruins third defensive pairing and second powerplay unit. It is same the role he excelled in last season. His experience on the Bruins first powerplay unit should only improve his play on their second unit. He will, however, be without his linemate, Kevan Miller.
Nonetheless, he has performed well regardless of who he has been paired with this year. His return will be a sigh of relief for a team that has yet to be at full strength all season. If Grzelcyk can continue his solid play then it could be a memorable season for the young defenseman who is just starting to prove himself.