BOSTON – Given the short notice involved, Matt Grzelcyk wasn’t able to fly his parents down to Pittsburgh for his NHL debut with the Bruins against the Penguins on Wednesday night.
But you can be sure the entire Charlestown, Mass. contingent will be at the Garden on Thursday night to watch Grzelcyk make his home NHL debut as a member of the Bruins when they drop the puck against the Anaheim Ducks.
Grzelcyk was perfectly fine in his debut in Pittsburgh under challenging circumstances once a Kevan Miller injury dropped the B’s to five healthy defensemen in the second period, and played the expected role of creative, skilled puck-moving defenseman. The former Boston University standout finished with three shots on net, four shot attempts and a blocked shot in14:34 of ice time, and looked pretty comfortable with a couple of minutes manning the Bruins power play.
It could be a whole different animal on home ice, however, in front of friends and family, and with that in mind Grzelcyk is trying to keep things as low key as possible.
“It's obviously a surreal experience. I don’t know if it's even sunken in yet, but I'll try to go out there and treat it like it’s another hockey game,” said Grzelcyk, who is expected to be in the lineup again for the Bruins with Kevan Miller out with ‘flu-like symptoms.’ “I kind of made it a point since coming up to not make as big a thing out of it as I did in camp and stuff like that. I’m just trying to do my best to keep my mind off it right now.”
It will be interesting to see how things shake out after the Bruins get this look at Grzelcyk ostensibly playing in place of the inconsistent Joe Morrow. The Bruins could certainly utilize another source of offense on the back end in Grzelcyk if he can handle the defensive responsibilities as a 5-foot-10, 176-pound D-man that’s never going to be a shutdown guy.
That will ultimately be the thing that opens the NHL gates for him after a solid college resume at Boston University and a good first couple of months at the AHL level, and he’ll get a good test against a big, strong and physical Anaheim Ducks team.
It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.
Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.
“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”
Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.
Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.
Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.
*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.
*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.
*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.
*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.
*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.
*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.