BOSTON – It’s hard to decipher exactly what clicked in for Jimmy Hayes on Sunday afternoon like it hadn’t for many of the 30 plus games for the Bruins this season. But the 6-foot-6 winger did his job and did it well in a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings where he made an impact in front of the net with his size and strength, won battles and became a positive factor when he’s been invisible or worse for the B’s so often this season.
Hayes was not invisible in this one, scoring the game’s only goal for his second point in his last 42 games, and acting as a difference-maker for the Black and Gold when they needed somebody to step up offensively. It was just one performance, of course, but Claude Julien noted that it felt different to him than many of Hayes’ 28 games played this season.
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“[Hayes] was better tonight. I liked his game a lot better,” said Claude Julien. “He resembled probably the older Hayes that we had at times last year than the one we’ve seen this year. You’re hoping a guy has kind of turned the corner, and is starting to find their game here a little bit.”
Hayes didn’t waste any time with the Bruins down a couple of bodies in Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak, and jumped into some first period action after a Dominic Moore face-off win in the offensive zone. Hayes worked the puck up to Colin Miller at the point, and then went directly to the net as Miller unloaded a point shot directly at the Los Angeles net.
Hayes got the shaft of his stick on the Miller bomb from the point, and redirected it past Peter Budaj to give the Bruins an early lead. The fourth line right wing seemed to be feeling it a little bit as he fed a trailing Miller later on in the first period as well for a pretty good scoring chance that Budaj eventually kicked away.
Hayes finished with the goal and a plus-1 rating in 7:18 of ice time, and added a couple of registered hits and a couple of shots on net in nine influential shifts during a heavy, hard-hitting game against the Kings. It was part of an encouraging stint for Hayes with Moore and rookie winger Anton Blidh making up a hard-working fourth line, and perhaps another step forward climbing out of what’s been a giant hole for him this season.
“A guy like [Pastrnak] who’s been scoring for us, scoring some big-time goals for us and on a regular basis though, you’re going to need other guys to step up,” said the 27-year-old Hayes. “That’s going to have to be the mentality going forward. You try to help the team whenever you can. Today I got the opportunity, so it’s nice to cash in on one.
“That’s what it’s going to take to stay in the lineup every night and [you’ve got to] find a way, you’ve got to battle hard. That’s what’s expected from Claude [Julien], and I expect that from myself.”
The whole key for Hayes to have more offensive effectiveness with the Bruins is getting to the front of the net, and then being ready for the puck when it comes his way. In his last game vs. Pittsburgh he had a couple of setups in front of the net, and couldn’t even get the puck on net while camped out in front. This time around he was ready for the Miller sizzler as it came down from the point, and it was like many of the goals around the paint he scored (19) for the Florida Panthers a couple of years ago.
“If you go back and look at a lot of my goals that I’ve scored in my career, probably all are right around that area,” said Hayes, the proud owner of 51 goals in 271 games during his NHL career. “I’ve just got to continue to find ways to get on the inside and bang them home.”
It sounds simple and it actually kind of is, but the Bruins need a lot more games like Sunday’s performance on a consistent basis from Hayes before he becomes somebody the B’s can consistently count on for that interior offense.