(Photo Credit: Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

Last summer, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney took a deep dive into the bargain bin. Among others, Sweeney took a chance on James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie, and grizzled veteran Kevin Shattenkirk, spending roughly $4.05 million towards the 2023-24 cap hit between the three free agent signings. As the Bruins are 37 games into the season, Sweeney’s low-risk acquisitions have certainly paid off. With a fresh boost of confidence, Shattenkirk is the latest player from the trio to showcase their value for the Black and Gold.

The 34-year-old blueliner has posted a 5-6-11 line for Boston this season, experiencing an offensive breakthrough to close out the month of December, ultimately carrying into the New Year. In Shattenkirk’s last 11 games, he’s picked up six points, highlighted by a two-goal game in the team’s December 30th win over the New Jersey Devils. Shattenkirk’s successful night was capped off with his first of two goals being his 100th career National Hockey League goal. Two games later, he found the back of the net again, this time in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The outbreak didn’t happen overnight and is a testament to the veteran’s commitment to buying into Jim Montgomery’s Bruins.

“I think that he’s gained a lot of confidence in how we want to play, and you can see his brain as he leads,” Montgomery said after the win over New Jersey. “It allows him to get into advantageous spots, and that’s what we’re seeing a difference in him now.”

Confidence has been the driving factor in Shattenkirk’s recent success. The defenseman is jumping into rushes, putting pucks on net, and not being afraid to hold onto the puck with an offensive purpose. As a result, he’s become a mainstay on the Boston blue line, playing meaningful minutes in contested games. Having played the last three seasons of his career with the Anaheim Ducks, Shattenkirk wasn’t used to the amount of offense this Bruins team offers.

“I think a lot of it is just generated from the coaches pushing me to get up the ice as the play is moving away from our zone,” Shattenkirk said after the win over Columbus. “It establishes good gaps defensively, but it allows you to jump up on those fifty-fifty pucks and keep plays alive.”

That’s not to say Shattenkirk has been perfect for the Bruins this season. In Thursday night’s 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defenseman was a -2 in just 13:28 of ice time against an offensively gifted Penguins team. On a back end where Boston heavily relies on Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm for most of the minutes, the Bruins will only be as good as Shattenkirk and the remaining depth blueliners in high-scoring matchups. When Shattenkirk posts an even or above plus-minus this season, the Bruins are a dominant 17-1-4. If the Bruins hope to make a deep run come playoff time, Shattenkirk’s play will be at the nucleus of Boston’s success.