Chris Wagner continues to prove he was a wise investment by Don Sweeney

Matt Kalman
March 05, 2019 - 11:50 pm

Tim Schaller used his 12-goal season with the Bruins to get a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $1.9 million last summer.

With Schaller gone the Bruins decided to invest $1.25 million over two years in Chris Wagner, who was coming off a seven-goal season with Anaheim and the New York Islanders.

Unfortunately for Wagner, he’s got security but he might turn out to be underpaid.

“I love it here though,” said Wagner after he scored his career-high 10th goal of the season in a 4-3 overtime win against Carolina at TD Garden on Tuesday.

The victory, which came on a David Krejci overtime goal, extended the Bruins’ point streak to 17 games (13-0-4).

After the Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the second period, Wagner banged in a rebound of a Brandon Carlo shot to turn momentum in Boston’s favor. Although coach Bruce Cassidy said after the victory that the Bruins had Wagner pegged for “10, 12 goals” if he played around 15 minutes a game, no one could’ve predicted this type of production when Wagner scored two goals in his first 31 games of the season.

Despite the celebration over the return home of the Walpole native, he was scratched three times, including for a Dec. 6 showdown with Tampa Bay. Wagner returned to the lineup against Toronto the next game and threw his weight around. But he didn’t score his next goal until Dec. 14 in Pittsburgh, his 32 game of the season.

Already traded once and claimed on waivers twice in his career, the 27-year-old Wagner could’ve panicked that maybe his homecoming wasn’t going to go as rosy and could be short-lived. Instead he concentrated on doing things over than scoring and stay positive that Cassidy’s trust in him and his linemates would pay off.

“It’s such a long year, you never know,” Wagner said. “That kind of happened to me, I got hot at the beginning of last year and cooled off. So it’s kind of been the opposite. And honestly I’d rather have it go this way and see it going good into the playoffs. For depth guys, you don’t take it for granted, scoring, that’s probably why we get the most excited.”

Wagner, Acciari and Kuraly (who had been replaced by Joakim Nordstrom while out with a concussion) are a fourth line based on reputation only. For months they’ve been matched up against top-six lines and more than held their own, often wearing out those lines over the course of the Bruins’ point streak and even before this magnificent run.

This is why general manager Don Sweeney, once he missed out on top free agents Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares in July, moved quickly to solidify his bottom six by signing Wagner and Nordstrom for a little more than $2 million combined. Every team needs versatile character players and when a team targets a couple through scouting and accumulated data its wise for them to sign those players rather than hoping they can get players on the cheap or rely on younger players to emerge in these difficult roles.

There’s no telling if Wagner will surpass Schaller’s goal total from last season or be stuck on 10 or if he’ll contribute in the playoffs. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back with the Bruins for year two of his deal. But for now he’s going to continue to marvel at the fairy tale experience he’s enjoying.

“I mean the team is unbelievable. … Ten goals, I don’t know if I could’ve ever dreamt of that when I was 16 playing at Xaverian, but yeah, it’s pretty crazy,” he said.

Marchand mentions Marner

Brad Marchand set up Patrice Bergeron’s shorthanded goal in the third period. Then after the victory he tried to clarify what his much-talked-about tweet about Toronto’s Mitch Marner from Monday meant.

"You people really took that the wrong way,” Marchand said. “You got to give the kid credit, he's a great player. That's all I was trying to get at. He's having a great year, it's a big milestone for him. I was just giving some credit where credit's due, that's all"

Halak streaking too

Tuukka Rask has a 17-game point streak (14-0-3) but Jaroslav Halak got the start against the Hurricanes. He made 34 saves and extended his point streak to seven games (5-0-2).

Halak is 18-9-4 with a .924 save percentage in 33 games, far surpassing what the Bruins could’ve realistically expected from him for his $2.75 million.

“Well, I knew Zee [Zdeno Chara>, and I knew they had a really good team and obviously it’s a long season and the team goes through ups and downs,” Halak said about joining Boston. “We had those at the beginning and throughout the season. But I think for the most part, guys responded well after losses or after tough losses in overtime or shootout. We responded well the next game and I think that’s really good.”

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