With the regular season officially over for the Boston Bruins, it’s time to shift gears to the playoffs. The Bruins are set to open the first round on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes. Game one is set for Monday, May 2nd, as the Bruins look to set the tone early and establish themselves as a legitimate threat. Three things always surround a team in a playoff race: quality depth, experience, and great goaltending. For the Bruins and head coach Bruce Cassidy, we know they have the experience and seem to have the goaltending with Linus Ullmark, but what about depth? These three things usually decide a playoff series and a run at the cup.
After playing the whole season at Boston’s AHL affiliate Providence Bruins, winger Chris Wagner made his first appearance of the season for Boston last night in game 82. This was the first-time Wagner wore the spoked B since last year’s playoff game six against the New York Islanders in the second round when Boston was eliminated.
In his first game back with Boston, he amassed a game-high 11 hits in 15:57 of ice time. While he didn’t make it onto the scorer’s sheet with any points, he did impress head coach Bruce Cassidy as he had many positive comments after the game. “He played to his strengths. He finished every check, was around the front of the net, and he had a few looks around the front of the net.”
The main reason for Wagner not playing in the NHL this year was salary cap issues that kept him down in Providence after being waved prior to the first game of the season. But now, with the playoffs arriving and the salary cap concern no longer an issue, fans could see Wagner return to the lineup to provide depth and experience. Cassidy has made it known that the four lineups he’s been using will remain the same as long as everyone stays healthy.
“We kept Marc (McLaughlin) around for a while here as a young guy and gave him some looks, and he responded early on. So a little of that was evaluating where he was in his pro career. It’s a big ask to go into the playoffs, but he was here to get experience,” Cassidy said.
Only time will tell what Cassidy decides to do regarding Wagner but having him there as an option is a positive for this team. Having the prior playoff experience may be in Wagner’s favor as Cassidy understands the pressures a playoff run can have on a rookie. “Wags has played in those situations before, so we have that in the back of our mind. We’ll make those calls in the next couple of days, but I certainly think he was one of our better players tonight in terms of playing a complete 200-foot game.”
With the Bruins finally healthy and looking hot to end the season, things look bright as they face Carolina in what surely will be a highlight reel-filled series. Carolina is struggling with injuries at the goaltending position, giving the Bruins some good news as they look to win early and often in this seven-game series.