The Boston Bruins have been a lot of things over the last few years and most of them highly successful, but one they’d been sorely lacking was real energy, physicality and production from their bottom-6 forward group on a consistent basis.
Some of it has definitely been about the personnel, and some of it might have been about the deployment from the coaching staff. Certainly, it was a bone of contention between Nick Foligno and Bruce Cassidy last season and it’s the reason why there are new faces like AJ Greer and Jakub Lauko in the mix this season.
Both players have stepped up in the early going this season along with a number of their bottom-6 brethren and Greer finished with a pair of goals in Saturday night’s 6-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes at TD Garden. For Greer it was a continued affirmation that he’s finally found his home in Boston after paying his dues in the AHL while working through the New Jersey Devils organization and the Colorado Avalanche team that drafted him in the first place.
It all came through beautifully when Greer scored his first goal and grabbed the Spoked-B logo on his jersey while giving it a big kiss before getting into a group celebration with his teammates. That’s something that’s going to resonate with the fans.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 16, 2022
“Even in the preseason I was telling my fiancé [and] my parents, how energetic this building is and how fun it is to play here,” said Greer, with a smile on his face in the Boston Bruins postgame dressing room. “Just playing for the Bruins is very special because it’s an Original Six team. It’s such a special organization and I’m so grateful for myself to be in this position.
“I was overwhelmed when I scored that goal and I just wanted to show my love for the Bruins and for the fans, because without them the energy’s not there. It was such a great building tonight. It was an awesome evening, even just getting my name introduced at the beginning, it was awesome.”
It was a hugely successful night overall for that group with Greer potting a pair of goals, Foligno adding a goal and two points and even Lauko appearing to score his first NHL goal before it was called back due to an iffy goalie interference call.
But it was a monster night for Greer, who finished with two goals, three points and a plus-4 rating in 12:45 of ice time to go along with six shot attempts, six hits and a blocked shot in a full-throated energy forward performance. Derek Forbort broke a 3-3 tie in the third period for the eventual game-winner and it was Greer that kicked off both the insurance goals to make the Boston Bruins comfortable down the stretch against a Coyotes team they absolutely should have beaten.
It continues a love affair between Greer and the city of Boston that began during a couple of years when he went to Boston University to play hockey and is now continuing with the Bruins and their passionate fan base. For a player that wants to hit, score goals, make things happen, create energy and even drop the gloves to protect his teammates, it’s exactly the kind of player that Boston Bruins fans have been clamoring for over the last few seasons.
“You look at Boston in general and they’re energetic people. They are people who are passionate…passionate people. I lived here when I was at BU. I went to the Sox games, I didn’t get to the Patriots game, I went to a few Bruins playoff games, and just the culture and energy that the people bring here and the passion and the love they have for their sports teams,” said Greer, who played at Boston University from 2014-16. “For me I create energy, I’m a power forward, and I hit, I skate, I try to do everything I can at 110 percent. For the people here to appreciate that, that’s love for me. Yes, there have been a lot of guys in the past…you look at guys like [Sean] Kuraly, [Milan] Lucic, obviously. But for me I’m just trying to play my game.
“I built my game up to a certain level where I’ve matured. I’ve understood what it means to play in those three zones, and to be reliable and to have success. It wasn’t easy. I went through ups and downs in my career at the beginning, when I was kind of lazy in the D-zone and I needed to be checked and, fortunately, I played for great coaches in the American League, coaches that cared about me, that not only cared about the player I was, but about the person I was. I really built my game up and I got it to a point last year where I felt I was comfortable with getting that success and making sure I’ll be ready for that opportunity when it comes in the NHL.”
It’s really doubtful that Greer is going to become the fist-throwing folk hero that Milan Lucic was at his height in Boston when he hit the 30-goal mark, or that he’s going to even become a regular top-6 winger at the NHL level. But even if he comes anywhere close to the 20-goal, 50-point and 100-penalty minute levels he reached in the AHL last season, it will be exactly the kind of player that Boston has wanted, and needed, among their forward ranks in the last few seasons.
To hear that the connection between Greer and the Boston Bruins Way is already so strong portends some really good things to come for him, and a beautiful friendship between old time hockey B’s fans and the type of player they have always historically appreciated in Black and Gold.