Injuries created an opening for a couple of young Boston Bruins players to step into the NHL lineup this weekend and the end result was a good one: Two points in a 4-3 win for the Black and Gold over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
Oskar Steen picked up his first NHL point when he picked up the primary helper on Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the second period, a pass that luckily bounced off DeBrusk and onto his stick before he buried a top corner shot. Jack Studnicka played an effective 11:10 of ice time centering the fourth line of Karson Kuhlman and Trent Frederic and finished with a shot on net and won 4-of-8 faceoffs for the Bruins.
It wasn’t a spectacular day for either rookie stepping in for injured players Nick Foligno and Craig Smith, but they were solid and ultimately got the thumbs up from their coach.
“Steen, the puck was following him tonight. He’s got to learn to shoot the puck coming off the wing. He did it once late in the period, but other times he had opportunities and he was deferring,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We talked about that. Young guys, at some point, have got to attack the net and be a little selfish when the puck is on their stick in terms of getting it to the net. But he worked hard and was in good spots.
“Studs, I didn’t notice him as much. Probably was good defensively if that’s the case. Offensively, I don’t know if their line [did a ton]. Kuhlman had a few good rushes there, so he made a few plays. We’ll look at it, but I think they came up and did their job.”
Cassidy was fairly critical of Steen in his final preseason game in Philly earlier this month for the same deferential, passive approach to his game, so the advice seems pretty clear for the 23-year-old Swedish forward at this point. The good news is that Steen has shown offensive skill and some decent grit throughout his hockey career, so those should translate after four NHL games under his belt at this point.
Both Steen and Studnicka were sent back down to Providence on Monday in a salary cap savings move, but it remains to be seen if they will be needed for the two-game road trip through Florida and Carolina that’s coming later this week. The bottom line, though, is that the B’s forward group continues to be all kinds of banged up and that means there will be more opportunities for Steen, Studnicka and perhaps other healthy P-Bruins bodies to help out in Boston over the short term.