The Boston Bruins made a flurry of roster transactions on Saturday ahead of their looming first round playoff series, but the one move they didn’t make was a notable one. Veteran fourth liner Chris Wagner remained with the big club in Boston this weekend after playing brilliantly in Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.
Wagner finished with an incredible 11 registered hits and three shot attempts in 15:54 of ice time while looking solid all-around in his first NHL action of the season.
Hi Wags 👋🏼 pic.twitter.com/eyXvrXQk7k
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 29, 2022
The veteran forward had toiled in the AHL all season after being of the last cuts in NHL training camp but remained a good pro the entire time and posted 15 goals and 27 points in 62 games for the Providence Bruins.
Certainly, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had nothing but good things to say about the Walpole native in his first NHL look.
“I thought [Wagner] played very well,” said Cassidy following the Toronto loss. “He played to his strengths. He finished every check, was around the front of the net and he had a few looks around the front of the net.”
The Bruins also gave Wagner a few minutes on the penalty kill as well where he showed what he could bring to the table if needed in a pinch during the playoffs. All in all, it was an accurate portrayal of the kind of energy and grit that Wagner could bring if the Boston Bruins run into injury issues during the Stanley Cup playoffs with their botton-6 forward group.
Wagner certainly could have helped the Boston Bruins at times this season, but his demotion was a bit of a cap consideration with other fourth liners like Anton Blidh, McLaughlin, Curtis Lazar for Boston this season sitting at half of Wagner’s $1.35 million cap hit.
Certainly, Marc McLaughlin was exposed a bit in the Toronto game where he finished a minus-3 and had a rough turnover that led to a Maple Leafs goal. The rookie was one of four players (McLaughlin, Jack Ahcan, Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen) that were sent back to AHL Providence on Saturday with both the Bruins and P-Bruins headed to the postseason in short order.
“We kept Marc (McLaughlin) around for a while here as a young guy and gave him some looks, and he responded early on. So a little of that was evaluating where he was in his pro career. It’s a big ask [for a young player] to go into the playoffs, but he was here to get experience,” Cassidy said. “Wags has played in those situations before, so we have that in the back of our mind. We’ll make those calls in the next couple of days, but I certainly think he was one of our better players tonight in terms of playing a complete 200-foot game.”
Nobody should expect Wagner to push his way into the Game 1 lineup while supplanting somebody like Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek or Lazar, but it does set up for Wagner to potentially get some time down the line if injuries chew up Boston’s forward group. It also allows for Wagner’s leadership, presence and professionalism to be a positive influence around the Boston Bruins group at this important time of year.
Wagner’s ability to play an effective, hard energy game in Game No. 82 of the regular season for the Boston Bruins might have just enabled the 30-year-old to get a look-see or two during the Stanley Cup playoffs.