BRIGHTON, Mass – Give Boston Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly credit, once he got back into the B’s lineup, he certainly played like he didn’t want to come back out. And Reilly will stay in Boston’s lineup, after being a healthy scratch since shortly after the Hampus Lindholm trade, for Saturday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden.
The left-shot Reilly will play on the right side in a third pairing with shutdown guy Derek Forbort after finishing with an assist and a plus-2 rating in an active game during the Boston Bruins 8-1 blowout win over the Devils on Thursday night. Reilly made plays with passing seams in his 19:25 of ice time, minimized mistakes with the puck and showed a spark of emotion as well when he stepped up and dropped Miles Wood after his takeout hit on Charlie McAvoy along the end boards.
Miles Wood with a big hit on Charlie McAvoy, and Mike Reilly responds. pic.twitter.com/XpWOx3LL00
— Patrick Donnelly (@PatDonn12) March 31, 2022
It was a clean, punishing shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Wood that sent McAvoy crashing into the end boards, but Reilly’s statement was a necessary response that Boston’s best players aren’t to be messed with. Reilly said that kind of reaction was pretty automatic when Wood targeted Boston’s “horse” on the back end and is exactly the kind of thing Boston has needed more of this season when opponents take runs at their best players.
“It’s pretty early in the game and I know that Miles Wood is a pretty heavy guy, a pretty physical guy. It was early in the game, and he knocked our best defensemen down, so it was kind of an instant kind of reaction to step in there a little bit. Charlie is our horse on the back end, so it was kind of an instinct play,” said Reilly. “I’ve been here for a year now, and the guys and the coaches talk about that in the locker room a lot. It’s just kind of the Bruins way a little bit. Not saying every single hit deserves that kind of attention. That’s not the case at all. But there are times in the game where you get the guys going a little bit. But that’s something that’s been a staple here for many, many years.”
It’s something the coaching staff applauded too as Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy lauded Reilly for it following the game.
“It’s good for Mike to do some of that stuff. And it’s what we talk about when it’s your turn, it’s your turn,” said Cassidy. “The greasy, hard parts of hockey whether it’s blocking a shot, coming to the aid of your teammate or taking a hit to make a play.
“He’s been out of the lineup, so he’s probably going to do whatever he can to stay in the lineup, but our guys will do it even if they’re in the lineup every night. It’s good to see the team coming together this last little stretch and in situations like that. Good for Mike stepping up and everybody in that room will notice.”
Reilly also made it clear he feels like he’s an everyday player after sitting up on the ninth floor for the last few Boston Bruins games, so there’s motivation there now with a crowded back end full of options for the B’s coaching staff.
“I’m just trying to keep doing what I’m doing and just play. Don’t want to think about it too much and I was able to do that,” said Reilly, who had two assists and a plus-3 in 11 games while averaging under 19 minutes of ice time per game during the month of March. “There wasn’t much conversation with us about what exactly we needed to do to stay in, but I feel like I should be an everyday guy. You’re a defenseman first and you’re defending, but If you break the team out and get the play going then you’re going to be defending less and playing in the other zone more.
“It makes your life a lot easier. If you’re able to do that, it’s a successful plan. But for me it’s digging in, trying to be aggressive, get on guys quick and trying to take them away quick. I felt like I was doing that before the trade deadline, so just keep doing what I was doing I guess.”
At some point it’s going to come down to a tough decision sitting Connor Clifton, Derek Forbort or Reilly, to not even mention Brown, when the B’s are fully healthy, but that’s the situation when a team has good back end depth.
Josh Brown was the other new defensemen in Thursday’s lineup against New Jersey, and he showed some snarl too in scrapping on his first very first shift.
Josh Brown winning over the fans INSTANTLY. Dropping ‘em in his first shift. pic.twitter.com/KSnq138piK
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) March 31, 2022
Brown is out for the weekend after suffering an upper body injury during the New Jersey win, so that’s why Forbort draws back into the lineup for the Black and Gold. But Cassidy indicated that Brown could be an option for the Boston Bruins next week when they resume game action following Saturday’s game vs. Columbus.
Here’s the projected Boston Bruins lineup vs Columbus on Saturday night based on morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena: