Could Nick Foligno be turning a corner for the Boston Bruins after struggling the first half of the season with injuries and adjusting to a new team dynamic?
The 34-year-old couldn’t pull the Bruins out of an eventual 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, but he did enjoy a breakout game with a Gordie Howe hat trick while very nearly pushing the B’s to at least salvage a point on a night that clearly wasn’t their best. With less than two months remaining in the NHL regular season, it’s exactly the time of year when a grizzled vet like Foligno would begin elevating his game when the trench battles and the experience factor takes on a higher level of importance as the action begins to slow down.
“That’s the way I play,” said Foligno following the game where he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 rating and four shots on net to go along with six total shot attempts in 10:58 of ice time. “That’s the way I need to play for this club. I’m always trying to be physical. Some nights it works a little better than others, but that’s something that I can bring and will continue to bring — especially in the latter half of the year and in the playoffs. That to me is crucial playoff hockey.
“I’m liking that my game is gearing up toward this time of year. Like I said, you want to help and contribute any way you can. Sometimes it’s on the score sheet, sometimes it’s not, it’s in other ways. I think the guys in the room know what I can bring and try to bring every night, and it’s a fun group to go to work with.”
Certainly, it was a good sign to see Foligno challenge Sam Carrick to fisticuffs after Carrick dinged him pretty good in their last tangle a few weeks ago in a frustrating Bruins loss to Anaheim at TD Garden.
Nick Foligno drops the gloves with Sam Carrick: pic.twitter.com/SFvJrkoxqd
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 2, 2022
After an opening few months where Foligno was in and out of the lineup with injuries, he’s now played in 11 straight games for the Black and Gold and is gelling with Tomas Nosek and Jesper Froden as a solid fourth line option.
Some were simply writing off Foligno as another aging mistake-signing like David Backes before him, and it was tough to argue when he managed just one goal in the first 36 games and is tied with Charlie Coyle for a team-worst minus-8 mark this season. But the season isn’t over yet and Foligno’s may be the exact kind of veteran player that noticeably elevates their game once the Stanley Cup playoffs get going in late spring.
Now it’s just a matter of kicking in offensively a little more often while consistently bringing the physical element that the Boston Bruins so desperately need on a roster that’s tilted more toward speed and skill than crash-and-bang. Foligno sparked hopes this week that he’s capable of more than he showed in the first half of the season, and now would be a great time for him to elevate his game for a Boston Bruins that needs all hands on deck.