Amid injuries, Szwarz a pleasant surprise for Bruins


Amid injuries, Szwarz a pleasant surprise for Bruins

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. 



What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 comeback win in over the Oilers on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

1) The Bruins continue to be a dominant force in the third period.

That's a testament to their superior conditioning this season and the way they use their depth to overwhelm opponents in a 60-minute game. The Bruins scored their three goals in the third period to come all the way back from a two-goal deficit and have now outscored opponents 68-38 in the third this season in a jaw-dropping statistic. Basically, the Bruins are a plus-30 in goal differential at the time it matters most. They outshot the Oilers 14-6 in those final 20 minutes and continued pouring it on after they’d hit a couple of posts and missed some golden scoring chances earlier in the game. Some of that was certainly a testament to their resolve and character as they just keep on coming even when they’re getting a little frustrated by the game’s circumstances. Still, some of it is also about a clear time in the game where the Bruins have owned just about all their opponents this season. The third period is theirs.

2) Noel Acciari is finally looking healthy and back to form on the fourth line.

Acciari went through a 10-game scoreless drought and wasn’t playing up to his usual physical standards while he was playing through a lower-body injury in January. Acciari sat out for a couple of weeks to rest the injury, came back midway through February and in the past couple of games is finally back to the hard-hitting, hard-charging factor on the energy line (two hits and a couple of takeaways in his 13 minutes of ice time) that can actually provide a little offense. Acciari’s wraparound goal in the third period was important, too, as he spearheaded the three-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes. The Rhode Island kid now has seven goals on the season and has a legit chance of hitting double-digits this year if he can remain healthy down the stretch, which will always be a challenge given his no-holds-barred style.

3) It’s time to stop fooling around with the trades for left-shot D-men and sign Zdeno Chara to a contract extension.

Chara was immense shutting down Connor McDavid and holding him to two shots and continues to play excellent shutdown defense the past month against some of the top scoring stars in the league. Who can forget the way he completely smothered Auston Matthews in Toronto’s last trip to Boston as the B's gear up for another meeting with the Leafs on Saturday night? Chara has been an excellent warrior, leader and sort of an on-ice coach for the young D-men on the Bruins this season. He’s done everything that Boston has asked of him. Before making a blockbuster trade for a Ryan McDonagh or any other left side D-men that could ostensibly be seen as a long-term replacement for the Bruins captain, they should take care of things with Chara and try to get him locked down ahead of the playoffs. Nobody suspects it’s going to be an issue for the player in any way, shape or form and clearly, a contract year has brought out the best in a player who's a team-best plus-26 on the season. But I don’t think there’s that much more for Chara to prove about their still being gas left in the tank. It’s a reasonable assumption that he can play to this level next season at 41 as well. Certainly, he’s going to have his rough moments when the Bruins play 16 games in March and the playoff grind will always be a challenge for a 40-year-old, but Chara has already proven that Tom Brady isn’t the only 40-year-old ageless wonder still doing his thing in Boston these days.


*Bruce Cassidy deserves plenty of credit for switching out Riley Nash and David Krejci in the third period while still trailing. That proved to be the impetus behind the B's final two goals. Nash fed a crashing Matt Grzelcyk for the tying strike with his new linemates, and then Danton Heinen fed Krejci for the winner to put the B’s on top for good. Those are masterful adjustments from the B’s coaching staff.

*Chara played 22:39 of ice time while completely shutting down McDavid, had five shots on net and five blocked shots in a yeoman’s effort on the second night of back-to-backs. You know, 40-year-old players aren’t supposed to be able to do that stuff. Impressive,

*David Backes won a key one-on-one battle with Drake Caggiula along the side boards to set up Krejci’s goal, had five shots on net and was a stalwart, physical beast for the Bruins against a pretty rough-and-tumble Oilers crew.


*No shots on net in 13:22 for Milan Lucic. He did have six registered hits, but he wasn’t noticeable at all in a game where you’d expect the motor to still be running high.

*The same can be said for Patrick Maroon, who had a shot on net and a hit along with a minus-1 rating in 17:23 of ice time for the Oilers. If that was an audition to be a member of the Bruins, he didn’t really do a heck of a lot to impress them after killing them the past few years.

*One shot on net in 13:43 of ice time for Ryan Spooner, who was dropped to the third line with Nash in the third period. The Oilers might be a tough match-up for Spooner given their size and strength, but he’s got to find a way to be effective against those teams down the stretch.



Morning Skate: Team USA's medal dreams dashed

USA TODAY Sports photo

Morning Skate: Team USA's medal dreams dashed

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while disappointed at the whimper that Team USA went out with during a shootout loss to the Czech Republic.

*Here’s the aforementioned rundown on the Team USA loss just ahead of the medal round with the Americans going 0-for-5 in the shootout after battling to a 2-2 tie. Team USA had their chances and Ryan Donato scored another goal, but it’s clear they weren’t one of the more talented teams in the tournament with no current NHL representation.

*Marc Savard is back with another one of his DIY stick-taping videos where, this time, you can learn how to do a candy cane-style tape job just like Phil Kessel on your hockey stick.

*Down Goes Brown has the most annoying things that NHL GMs will say or do around the NHL trade deadline.

*Brad Treliving insists that it was just a coincidence that the Flames’ trip to Las Vegas coincided with the players’ mothers visiting for a road trip.

*Ryan Suter might be getting up there in terms of age and games played, but he is still every bit the workhorse he’s always been while in Minnesota.

*Braden Holtby is going through a tough stretch for the Washington Capitals as the losses are stringing together against him.

*For something completely different: MC Hammer has still got it after all these years.