BRIGHTON -- It continues to be a charmed existence for Bruins fourth liner Tim Schaller, who is living the dream as a New Hampshire kid playing for the hometown hockey team.
Schaller came into Bruins camp this fall with very little fanfare after a standout career at Providence College and a solid stint with the Buffalo Sabres organization over the last couple of years. Clearly there was some talent and some accomplishment at the pro level with a season of 14 goals, 43 points and 116 PIMs for the Rochester Americans giving a pretty good indication of his credentials for a bottom-6 role at the NHL level.
Clearly there was also strong motivation for Schaller to excel for the NHL team in front of his friends and family, and become teammates with guys like Patrice Bergeron that he grew up watching on TV as a hockey crazed NH kid.
All that being said, Claude Julien wasn’t sure what he had with Schaller when he arrived in camp in mid-September.
“He’s one of those players that can certainly score. He’s got a good shot. You saw it against [Winnipeg] as an example,” said Julien. “He’s a good player. He plays hard, he grinds it out and he’s not afraid to go to the front of the net. So definitely he’s been a good player for us.
“Has he surprised me with the scoring? I can’t really tell you that because the few times he played us with Buffalo I can’t really tell you [a scouting report] and I don’t scout the American League. You kind of go with what you’re given and you make your own assessment, and by the time I got here for the World Cup I liked what I saw. He had a chance to come back [to the NHL team] and he’s played fairly well.”
The 26-year-old hadn’t done much at the NHL level in Buffalo in each of the last couple of seasons, but that’s changed this season for the Black and Gold. He was one of the last cuts in B’s training camp, but was quickly recalled prior to the start of the season when Patrice Bergeron suffered through his early year lower body woes.
The rest is pretty solid history for Schaller and a very good body of work for Boston’s rebuilt fourth line this season.
The former Friars hockey forward scored his third goal of the season in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at TD Gardenon Saturday night, and now has three goals, five points and 13 penalty minutes in 15 games as a fourth line staple.
The score on Saturday night was a beauty as Schaller bombed down the left wing, took a long stretch pass from Torey Krug and launched a rocket off the rush that beat Michael Hutchinson high to his glove hand. The score showed some pretty good hands, a pretty good shot and some very good wheels that give Schaller plenty to work with at the NHL level, and he’s also already shown as well that he can handle himself if things get a little rough and tumble.
“I think I’ve been playing well. I’ve been moving my feet and I think that always creates good things, and I’ve been able to capitalize on some of the chances I’ve gotten,” said Schaller. “They’ve given me some pretty good opportunities here, and I think I’ve made the best of my chances. Hopefully I can keep it going. Hopefully I can keep my feet moving, and keep beating D-men wide.
“It’s helped me knowing what my role was coming in here, and I’ve focused on killing penalties, being good defensively and things like that. It’s good to know the role, and I’m playing well. I got a little time on the power play last night, and that was nice. I’m just building Claude’s trust and hopefully I can keep building it more.”
The only knock against Schaller was a stretch of handful of games where he took some minor penalties, but the 6-foot-2, 219-pounder has also now gone eight games without taking any kind of penalty while still playing with some good energy. Making that kind of self-correction is one of the best ways to earn Julien’s trust, and just adds to the good things that the Merrimack, New Hampshire native has brought to the B’s table this season.