By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73
The 2018-2019 season did not end well for Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Grzelcyk himself may not remember much of what happened after a hit in game two of the Stanley Cup Finals that sent his head careening off the boards and forcing him to be helped off the ice, but Boston fans surely do.
After that fateful hit, Grezelcyk was placed in concussion protocol. He resumed practicing with the team after a couple of games, but most of that time was spent in a red non-contact jersey. He was finally cleared to return to action for game seven and actually scored the Bruins’ only goal in a heartbreaking loss.
Interviewed after game seven, a visibly shaken Grzelcyk broke down in front of reporters when describing how it felt to be sidelined for so much of the series. Minutes after the series ended, the pain of the loss was still very fresh in the minds of Grzelcyk and his teammates.
The good news is (yes, there is good news here), Grzelcyk is raring to go for the 2019-2020 campaign. And, with so many questions remaining about the make-up of the Bruins’ defensive corps leading into camp, the 25-year-old Charlestown native is one piece of the puzzle that is solidly in place. He recently said that he took some time off after the season to let himself fully recover from any lingering effects of the concussion he suffered, but he now feels good and ready to go.
Heading into the final year of a two-year deal signed in July 2018, Grzelcyk is in a great position to have a break-out season. With captain Zdeno Chara returning for at least one more season, but likely to see reduced minutes as he approaches his 43rd birthday in March, Grzelcyk is a prime candidate to share some, if not quite a bit, of that extra load. With injuries dominating the blue line throughout much of the season, he’s already shown that he is more than capable of stepping up when needed.
Of course, last season was a tough one for Grzelcyk himself from a physical standpoint. In addition to the concussion suffered in the final round of the playoffs, Grzelcyk missed a few weeks with an apparent arm injury suffered March 10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Although the team and fans were relieved that tests revealed no broken bones or significant structural damage, the injury still kept Grzelcyk out of the lineup during a key stretch of the season.
Grzelcyk played 66 of 82 games in 2018-2019, but still managed to increase his points total to 18 points last season from 15 scored in his first season in Boston, in which he played in 61 games. Those numbers aren’t staggering, but considering that Grzelcyk played most of the season on the third pairing with a revolving door of defensive partners, they are solid. Also, he stepped up big in the playoffs, including a two-goal effort in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Bruins fans also know that statistics don’t tell the whole story. Grzelcyk is known for his ability to move the puck, and that trait can be invaluable. Even though he has suffered injuries, listed at 5′ 9″ and 174 pounds, Grzelcyk has shown that he does not shy away from puck battles or hits from larger players. If he can stay healthy, I expect Matt Grzelcyk to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way in the upcoming season.