ST. LOUIS – It was unexpected that rookie winger Karson Kuhlman was going to be injected into the Bruins lineup for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final after not having played since all the way back in the second round on April 30.
Bruce Cassidy had a hunch that the rookie’s skating speed and two-way ability would play in the series against a big, physical Blues group, and the B’s bench boss’s hunch proved correct. Kuhlman scored a goal in the B’s 5-1 win over the Blues at the Enterprise Center to even the best-of-seven series at three games apiece, and he helped speed up a Bruins second line that hadn’t done much in the previous five games in the Cup Final.
For the even-keeled Kuhlman it was a dream come true getting to parachute in to the Stanley Cup Final after staying ready over the last six weeks while not getting in the lineup. Once it was decided on Sunday morning that the B’s were going with the quick Kuhlman over the big, powerful David Backes, it was laser focus on the task at hand.
“It was just taking it day-by-day and staying mentally engaged. [I was] waking up every morning thinking I would be in even if it I was out, and that helped [ahead of Game 6] with my routine,” said the 23-year-old Minnesota-born Kuhlman, who has a goal and three points along with a plus-2 rating in seven games during these playoffs. “It’s awesome. At the end of the day you’re playing in the Stanley Cup Final with an excellent team. I’m just trying to come to the rink every day and contribute whatever I can.
“It was awesome to see it go in the net. It had been a little bit. I just come into every game working hard and it was great to see one go in.”
Cassidy wasn’t going to hog up the credit after the game was concluded and the B’s Cup hopes were still alive, but once again he pushed the right button and pulled the right lever for the Bruins team in the postseason. Kuhlman became the 21st Bruins player to score in this Stanley Cup playoff run, which ties the all-time record set by the Philadelphia Flyers way back in 1987 and speaks to the depth that Boston brought to the table in this postseason.
It was Kuhlman that really put the game out of reach in Boston’s favor when he snapped a wrist shot past Jordan Binnington on his blocker ride, a sight that the B’s coach has seen a few times already in his Bruins career.
“He gets in on the forecheck with his footspeed,” said Cassidy. “[Kuhlman] can make some plays as well. That shot is sneaky, his wrister. He’s scored a couple times that way, across the body. Most righties want to go glove side, he’s able to go blocker side.”
The Bruins will get to see even more as Cassidy has already said that Kuhlman is expected to be in the lineup for Game 7 on Wednesday night, and he’ll get another chance to flash the speed and assertive style of play that was so effective in a do-or-die Game 6 for the Black and Gold.
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