(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

By Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

Justin Brazeau may be the feel-good story of this season. The 26-year-old has spent most of the last five seasons at various levels of minor league hockey, fighting tooth and nail to earn his shot at the big time. It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly hasn’t been linear, but Brazeau is now a staple in the Bruins’ lineup, and if the organization is smart, he shouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

In the 15 games Brazeau has donned the spoked-B this season, he’s registered five goals, two assists, and seven points. In his last five games, he has four goals and one assist. Strictly from a production standpoint, Brazeau has been a crucial part of Boston’s offense since being promoted on February 19. But when you look at the player’s underlying metrics, it’s eye-opening how dynamic the Ontario native has been during his short stint in the NHL.

It’s one secret that the Bruins struggled to assemble a fourth line capable of impacting the game in the first half of the season. Head Coach Jim Montgomery tried various combinations of Johnny Beecher, Jakub Lauko, Oskar Steen, Anthony Richard, and Jesper Boqvist. Still, no amalgamation of those players could set the tone in the way your classic fourth line does or have enough influence on the game to justify keeping them together. Since Brazeau entered the fold, that trend has changed.

The fourth line Jim Montgomery has trotted out most this season is the trio of Jakub Lauko, Johnny Beecher, and Oskar Steen (if you go by time on ice and games played). In the 11 games that line played together, they had a Corsi for percentage of 32.06, were outshot 16-34, out-chanced 32-15, and opponents held a high-danger scoring chance advantage of 12-5.

Since his call-up, Brazeau has been part of several different line combinations, but most of his time (six games and 50 minutes) has been spent alongside Jakub Lauko and Jesper Boqvist. That trio has a Corsi for percentage of 64.86, is outshooting opponents 21-12, out-chancing opponents 22-9, and has a 10-5 advantage in high-danger scoring chances. Brazeau’s emergence has elevated the play of Boston’s other fourth-liners, established a more possession-heavy fourth line, and improved the team’s forecheck simply by entering the fray.

His impact on the team has been apparent, given that Boston was on a four-game losing streak before his arrival and has gone 9-3-3 ever since. But when you examine his advanced metrics, it’s almost wild just how effective Brazeau is. According to Natural Stat Trick, the 6’6″ right-winger is first (yes, first overall) among Bruins forwards in goals for percentage (71.43), expected goals for percentage (59.01), scoring chances for percentage (54.62), and high-danger chances for percentage (65.45). If those numbers don’t excite you, this will: Brazeau is tied for 37th in the NHL with the likes of Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby with 1.11 goals per 60 minutes played at even strength (MoneyPuck).

With ten games left in the regular season, I’m sure Don Sweeney, Cam Neely, Jim Montgomery, and the entirety of the Bruins organization has already begun prognosticating what their lineup will look like for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although that lineup will most likely include a healthy Pat Maroon, I’m here to tell you no fourth-line forward belongs on the ice more than Brazeau. The Bruins are a better team with him on the ice, and Brazeau’s brand of hockey is precisely the type of game Boston needs for playoff success.