TORONTO – Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, and many of his players for that matter, are wont to say that the current plague of injuries are also opportunities for others to step up and show what they can do.
Sometimes, as with Torey Krug in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final run when he was first given his shot, it can be the kick-start an NHL career might need. Other times it can be confirmation that there’s no replacing the injured player that’s out.
“Everyone that gets the tap on the shoulder gets more responsibility, get more ice time out of it," said Patrice Bergeron. "You've got to go out there and do the job. I can't tell you one guy [that has to step in]. I think it's everybody really. We all might be asked to do a little more for the team, and you have to answer."
Jordan Szwarz has certainly answered since getting called up from Providence. He hasn’t been an eye-popping dazzler of a player since coming up from the AHL, but what he has been is pretty effective and pretty efficient.
Szwarz, 26, who picked up the primary assist on David Pastrnak’s third-period goal in an eventual 3-2 OT loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre Friday, has been solid in a high-effort, no-nonsense kind of way. He competes in the face-off circle, he jams in front of the net as he did with his power-play time leading to the Pastrnak goal, and he plays with the kind of tireless motor you’d expect from a kid that doesn’t want to go back to the AHL.
All of this has led to three assists in five games since his call-up and an active 11 shots on net while getting a pretty good look from the Black and Gold.
“He competes hard. He’s on the right side of battles. He does a lot of little things well. That’s as advertised. We were told that he could do a little bit of everything. How’s he going to stay here? Will he have an element of his game or...right now, we’re okay because we have a lot of injuries so he’s going to get an opportunity to play in different situations,” said Cassidy. “The more efficient he is, the more minutes he’ll get, and tonight, good for him. He’s a hard-working guy. Very quiet, goes about his business, just a solid guy.
“He has earned another chance and he’s getting it now. The secret for those guys is to do it – if you want to stay – is it’s got to be consistent. I’ve liked his game. He’s had young guys on his wing and he’s doing a good job with them.”
It really shouldn’t come as much surprise, at all, that the Burlington, Ontario kid is showing some fight to get noticed. Szwarz was on a minor-league contract with Providence last season with no hope of getting called up no matter how well he played. Yet he put up 22 goals and 54 points in 65 games last season.
It was a long couple of years between this Bruins stint and his time with the Arizona Coyotes, where he managed just four goals and was a minus-8 in 35 games.
“It was a wake-up call getting sent down [from Arizona] and spending the last two years in the American League,” said Szwarz. “I think I’ve developed a lot as a player. I’ve learned a lot, especially defensively. I was always a player that leaned toward the offense, but I learned that you need to play strong ‘D’ if you want to be at this level.
“A guy like me is always waiting for that opportunity and now the time has finally come. I have my work cut out for me to open some eyes, and to hold onto the job for as long as I can.”
Last season’s offensive fireworks didn’t lead to an NHL shot last season, but they did lead to a two-way NHL deal this season that would allow the former Arizona prospect a shot in Boston if injuries opened the path for him.
That’s exactly what has happened and now Szwarz has been entrusted with centering a couple of young, inexperienced wingers in Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork. That’s usually something left to a veteran player, but it speaks to a couple of things with the Bruins: A) they clearly have a trust factor already with Szwarz and his ability to play smart at both ends of the ice and B) they have been thoroughly decimated by injuries down the middle of the ice in their forward group and really don’t have too much of a choice.
It remains to be seen how long Szwarz will remain with the team once Ryan Spooner and David Krejci, who are both skating again, are ready to return, but he’s shown the Bruins a little something over the past couple of weeks. He might just end up being one of those players who stepped up and seized the opportunity when injuries hit.