Kalman: First-time scorer Lauzon among young Bruins experiencing confidence surges

Matt Kalman
November 12, 2018 - 12:27 am

Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy’s favorite way to describe rookie defenseman Jeremy Lauzon is to say he “eats pucks.”

Lauzon fortuitously didn’t eat Sean Kuraly’s shoot-in from the red line that went off the end wall and eluded wandering Vegas goaltender Malcolm Subban in the first period Sunday.

Instead Lauzon, who was recalled from Providence of the American Hockey League earlier in the day , slapped it from the left hash marks into the open net for his first NHL goal – the game-winner in a 4-1 Boston victory at TD Garden.

“I saw an opening on the rush, so I took it,” explained Lauzon, who played the fifth game of his NHL career. “Kuraly had a lot of speed too, and he just chipped it and I saw that I was going to beat the two defensemen so I just continued straight and got a good bounce right on my stick and the [net was open] so I just finished it.”

Lauzon, who has become more of a defensive defenseman since turning pro (one goal last season with Providence, one goal this season so far in the AHL), didn’t hesitate joining the Bruins’ rush after his defense partner on that shift, John Moore, broke up a pass at the top of the Boston crease. There were even strides where Lauzon was a little ahead of the puck-carrying Kuraly.

That’s the type of confidence the Bruins want to instill in all their young players. And they similarly want all their young players to not feel hemmed in by labels, like stay-at-home D-man or speedy wing. Everyone should be striving to be as complete a two-way player as he can.

Against the defending Western Conference champion Golden Knights, and all weekend, including the 5-1 win against Toronto on Saturday, the Bruins’ young players showed signs of increased boldness and willingness to get outside of their comfort zone.

We saw it on the Bruins’ first goal of the game, a tip-in by Danton Heinen at the end of a rush up ice with fellow second-year NHLer Anders Bjork. Bjork threw a hit along the wall in the defensive end and center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, playing his second NHL game of the season, angled a Vegas player so that the puck squirted to Bjork to start the breakout. Heinen showed no hesitation going to the net.

“It wasn’t a fluke,” Cassidy said. “It was the right way to do things, and they got rewarded for it. So, hopefully that reminds them how they need to play.”

We saw Matt Grzelcyk step up and serve as an effective defense partner for Zdeno Chara on Boston’s top pair in both weekend games, including Sunday when the Bruins were missing Brandon Carlo because of an upper-body injury. We saw Kuraly begin to assert himself again and make more of the straight-line plays that made him an effective fourth-line center as a rookie last season.

Lauzon was a late addition to the roster Sunday because of Carlo’s injury. Once a 15-goal scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Lauzon has accepted that it’s much harder to make plays and get points in the pros. However, he hasn’t forsaken his offensive game, he just has a more mature outlook on points beyond his 21 years of age.

“I think last year it bothered me, but this year I don’t think it shows how you play,” Lauzon said. “For sure it’s nice to see, but I think personally last year I did so many little things, worked on so many little things defensively and my gap. I think this year it shows and after that the offense will come easier.”

Offense wasn’t coming easy for the Bruins through the first 13 games of the season, but after opening this homestand with a 2-1 overtime win against Dallas, Boston has scored 14 goals the past three games (two wins, one loss). With the exception of the 8-5 loss to Vancouver on Thursday, the defense hasn’t slacked off much (Jaroslav Halak was back to his old self this weekend with 40 saves against Toronto, 37 against Vegas) and much of the increased offense has come, as Lauzon and the Bruins always hope, from smart, solid defense.

Lauzon will continue to “eat pucks” (a way of saying he'll block shots and sacrifice his body) as long as he’s in the lineup in Boston or Providence. But he now knows other parts of his game translate to the NHL, and his younger teammates are also learning how far they can stretch their games at the sport’s highest level. And that bodes well for the Bruins hanging tough near the top of the competitive Eastern Conference.