While Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron’s health remains in question, the Bruins do have a healthy option on the back end that could definitely jumpstart an offense that has gone somewhat stale through the first two games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series with the Florida Panthers that’s headed to Florida tied at one game a piece.
Despite a solid bounce-back season, Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has been a healthy scratch for the first two games of this first-round playoff series. On Thursday, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery essentially said that his team has missed what Gryzelcyk brings to their system and attack.
“We haven’t met as a staff; we’re going to talk on the plane about those things, and then we’ll make a determination up front and on the back end,” Montgomery replied when asked if he had made any personnel decisions for Game 3 (7:30 p.m. ET, NESN, ESPN) Friday in Sunrise, Florida. “We’re going to look at every option.”
One of those options is re-inserting Matt Grzelcyk back into the lineup and potentially taking out defenseman Derek Forbort, who has struggled in his first two games since he suffered a lower-body injury back on March 6. Whether or not Montgomery has already decided to put the slick puck-moving d-man back into the Bruins’ lineup is yet to be seen, but it sure sounded like he was leaning that way on Thursday.
“I think transition hockey, and I think the one thing about Gryzzy’s game that is very underrated is how he kills plays before they end up in our own end,” Montgomery pointed out when asked what his team could use from Grzelcyk getting into his first game of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“His great feet, angles, and ability to gap up on people force turnovers or maintain pucks in the offensive zone or three-quarter ice, which really allows us to get to our game. So I think he can benefit us in those areas.”
In a one-on-one with Boston Hockey Now on Wednesday, Matt Grzelcyk admitted he’s frustrated that he hasn’t drawn into the playoff lineup after a very good season that saw him score four goals to go with 22 assists in 75 games and finish second only to Boston Bruins teammate Hampus Lindholm (+49), with a +46 plus-minus rating. Fellow Bruins defenseman and Lindholm’s most common partner, Brandon Carlo was third in the NHL at +44.
“Yeah. Yeah, it is,” the 29-year-old, 5-foot-10, 176-pound defenseman replied when asked if he was frustrated. “But I know the reality of the situation. We have a lot of good players, and we have guys in and out of the lineup there at the end of the regular season, so it wasn’t too much of a problem, but I knew it was coming. Obviously, you want to be in there, but I need to be a good teammate and try and stay focused if that chance happens. Hopefully, we go on a long playoff run, and I’ll be ready for that opportunity.”
Grzelcyk, who had shoulder surgery in last offseason, said he’s fully healthy, and felt he did what he had to do to prove himself to a new head coach in Montgomery.
“The year before was tough there,” Grzelcyk said of his 2021-23 season in which he had four goals and 20 assists and finished at a +22 in 73 regular season games but then had no points and was a minus-6 in five playoff games. “I didn’t really feel like myself the second half of the season with the shoulder. So just come back, and with ‘Monty’ coming in and sort of encouraging our D to get up in the play more, I think that not only for me, but I think that that excites the rest of the D core. So, I feel like I fit in that way and always can improve defensively, but I was really happy with how the year went, and hopefully, if I get in, I can continue that play.”
Grzelcyk does feel that he improved defensively and wants the chance to apply that in the playoffs.
“I think just understanding how I need to play,” he replied when asked how he did that. “I think being a smaller guy, focus on taking time away, maybe with my smarts more than anything. I think our D as a whole has done a good job this year of having better gaps, which I know I can do successfully now.”