Nick Foligno is talking and playing like he doesn’t really want to think about last season anymore. The affable, accountable Foligno will answer the questions as they come, obviously, but the 34-year-old chipped in his third goal of the season in the Boston Bruins 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon.
The former Blue Jackets captain now has more goals (three) in six games this season than he did in 64 games played for the Boston Bruins last season (two) and has really found a role as a veteran, grinding fourth line presence for the Black and Gold. The timing of Saturday’s goal was huge too as it came after a dreadful power play possession where the Bruins let up a shorthanded goal and got nothing in terms of puck pressure or scoring chances from the top PP unit.
And the goal itself was an absolute snipe.
Nick Foligno has surpassed last season’s goal total through six games.
1-1 game. pic.twitter.com/ss5iAkbP2z
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 22, 2022
So much so that it has a lot of Boston Bruins fans giving some big time mea culpas after many wrote him as simply washed up last season.
Me apologizing to Nick Foligno pic.twitter.com/GX7gnVrb3g
— Meth Bear (@meth_bear) October 22, 2022
Obviously Foligno will need to avoid the troublesome back issues that have nagged at him the last couple of seasons and weather whatever challenges come for the bottom-6 six group, but there’s a ton of optimism he’s now looking like the guy Boston thought they were getting last season.
“He’s just playing really good hockey,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “Outside of the production, I don’t know if you noticed after he scored the goal, but he is skating the puck down low below the tops [of the circles] and he was escaping from people, so you can see that his health is a lot better.
“That’s adding to the fact that he’s skating better. He’s just done a terrific job being a leader of those bottom six forwards night in night out.”
There’s no doubt that last season’s disappointing individual result coupled with being put on waivers to start this season put Foligno on notice that things had to change. The message was received and has turned into standout play on the ice and in a leadership position with a young bottom-6 group of forwards that could use that steadying hand.
“I think I’m just excited about contributing any way you can,” said Foligno, who had his children Landon and Milana with him while talking to the media postgame on Saturday. “I think last year obviously was different. This year it’s trying to contribute on the scoresheet but also just the way I play, how I’m [trying to] help drive the bottom-6 here and make sure we have an identity each and every night.
“That’s the reason why we’re having success as a team, is everyone’s contributing, not just myself. There are so many guys that have made really good plays throughout the start of the season. You’re motivated to prove to yourself. It’s six games in. I’m not gonna get too excited about anything and just continue to do what I do and come here and be in the moment and be excited about what we’re trying to build here as a group. Like I told you guys before, I love being a Bruin. I love playing with this group. It drives me every day to try and bring my best.”
Provided he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think Foligno can’t maintain what he’s doing right now while making smart, supportive plays with the puck, and being a guy willing to grind in the greasy areas around the net. That was the hope going into this season and he’s living up to it in every single way right now for a Boston Bruins dressing room that feels like it’s coming together really quickly this season.