BOSTON -- Brian Gionta was certainly not viewed as a key piece brought in at the NHL trade deadline, not with players like Nick Holden and Rick Nash, not to mention Tommy Wingels, coming into the B’s fold.
But the 5-foot-7, 39-year-old Gionta has been an impact player for the Bruins since signing with the Black and Gold, and that continued on Saturday afternoon while scoring the game-winning third period goal in a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. Gionta finished with a goal and two points in the win over the Hawks, and now has two goals and six points in five games since signing on with the Bruins and immediately jumping on with the third line as the injuries hit Boston up front.
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It was fitting that the smallest guy on the Boston roster was the one camped at the net front that jabbed in the rebound of a Jake DeBrusk tipped shot from Matt Grzelcyk at the point spot. Gionta and the rest of the Bruins decided to start grinding away around the net in the offensive zone in the third period, and ended up scoring three goals in less than three minutes to blow the Blackhawks out of the water.
The fact that Gionta already looks to be in midseason form in terms of his timing around the net and his battle level is absolutely impressive no matter how many years of his experience are under his belt, and no matter how modest the expectations were when he first signed on with Boston.
“I’ve been skating all year and obviously felt pretty good about where I was conditioning-wise and stuff like that. But when you’re coming into an established team like this…a team that plays well? It’s easy,” said Gionta, who now has two goals in his last two games for the Bruins. “You want to get in and, you know, establish yourself and see where you fit in.
“I said it coming in that, you know, I was willing to come in and play whatever role was asked. I’m still enjoying being around the guys, and it’s been a good group coming in. The four of us new guys that have come in have worked seamlessly because of what a tight group they have.”
It’s actually nothing short of amazing that Gionta has enjoyed that kind of impact he has over the last couple of weeks after sitting out the entire NHL season, and using just last month’s Olympic tournament as a springboard back into the NHL. More than anything else it’s a testament to the stone cold pro that Gionta has become over the course of 15-year career, and how that’s allowed him to just mesh quickly with a moving Bruins train.
“Gio comes in – a true pro and looks like he hasn’t missed any time. I don’t know how you do that at this level, any professional hockey level, not being rusty,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s done a great job with that.
“You know, he’s smart. He’s been around, so to be able to come in and the everyday battles that go along with being an NHLer, a professional player, time and space, little plays? It looks like he hasn’t missed a beat at all. So, it’s really a bonus for us when you talk about losing [Patrice Bergeron] and now [David] Backes, and you can plug a guy like that in. We had help earlier in the year. [Austin] Czarnik and [Jordan] Szwarz did good jobs. No disrespect to them, but here’s a guy who’s played, you know, 15-plus years and played it well. It’s a real nice addition to the team.”
The interesting dynamic for the Bruins will be the play of veteran guys like Gionta and Wingels come playoff time with rookies like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen facing elevated intensity late in the season, and only so many spots to go around in the game day lineups for the Black and Gold.