On Wednesday, Boston Bruins forward Matt Fraser was twiddling his thumbs and eating Chipotle. A day later, he scored the kind of playoff goal he must have dreamed about as a kid when his 1-0 overtime winner tied the Bruins’ series with the Montreal Canadiens at 2-2.
It was his first-ever NHL playoff game and first-ever playoff goal on his second career postseason shot.
To give you an idea of how rare this is, consider these bits of history:
As exciting as those factoids are, the thing that makes this story especially compelling is how much the 23-year-old’s situation has changed in the past 48 hours. The funny thing about all the “dream” talk is that he might not be doing much of that for a little while.
During his post-game interview with Pierre McGuire, Fraser noted that “words can’t describe” the feeling of scoring that goal in that moment (and that he dreamed up such scenarios on friends’ outdoor rinks many times).
Fraser also mentioned a little guilt about eating frozen yogurt before Game 4, and with that Chipotle admission, some might wonder about his diet if he wants to continue to make an impact during this postseason. (Then again, Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma’s Qdoba ritual became a big story during their Stanley Cup run, so maybe this will be the next Tex-Mex superstition of note for the NHL …)
Getting to know Fraser
For some, the question is: can this young forward make an impact beyond Game 4?
Here are a few noteworthy things about Fraser:
- He isn’t afraid to get physical. He registered three seasons at or above 115 penalty minutes in the WHL. Despite playing just 14 regular season games with the Bruins, Fraser dropped the mitts twice. His fight against Buffalo’s Marcus Foligno didn’t go too well, but still:
- Fraser scored two goals in those 14 games at the NHL level and had 30 points in 44 contests with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. He scored five points in five AHL playoff games too.
- He’s undrafted and came to Boston via the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas and brought Loui Eriksson (among others) to the Bruins. Being that it took this long for him to get some playoff action, expectations probably aren’t that high … but his line with Eriksson and Carl Soderberg showed some promise.
It’s unclear if Fraser will make much of an impact beyond Thursday’s big goal, but even so, it’s better than sitting around eating burritos.
(Although that’s pretty fun, too.)
Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.
Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.
“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.
“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”
According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.
The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).
Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.
The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.
St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.
Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.
The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.
Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.
Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.
Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.
— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.
— Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.
— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.
The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.
Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.
“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.
“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”
Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.
Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.
Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury
As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.
The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.
Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.
Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’