Sean Kuraly’s ‘competitive spirit’ has come back just in time for the Bruins

Matt Kalman
February 07, 2020 - 4:44 pm

Over the course of his NHL career, Sean Kuraly has developed into more than just an energy player.

But when other parts of his game aren’t going well, the Bruins forward can usually count on his energy and tenacity to keep him in the lineup.

So when coach Bruce Cassidy made Kuraly a healthy scratch last Saturday in Minnesota and referred to the 27-year-old’s need for more consistent “competitive spirit” the words cut a little sharper than most. Kuraly told he didn’t hear those exact words from his bench boss, but still received the clear message about what he had to do to get back in the lineup after sitting out for the first time in the first 53 games of the season.

Kuraly has responded with one goal, one assist and six hits (five in one game against Vancouver) the past two contests and he’ll be back on left wing with center Charlie Coyle and right wing Anders Bjork to start Boston’s next game Saturday against Arizona. The Bruins will be looking for their sixth straight win.

“Yeah, it doesn’t sit well. It doesn’t sit well at all. He probably knows that,” Kuraly said about Cassidy’s “competitive spirit” remark. “And yeah I think I never want to be scratched and I don’t want to ever be scratched again. So I keep working hopefully to not. Sometimes it’s not always in your control, but I guess it hurts the most when it comes out that it could’ve been.”

Kuraly, who has five goals and 14 assists in 54 games this season, didn’t need a tongue lashing to help him get his act together. But he did need to improve his frame of mind in addition to physically asserting himself more between the whistles. So he turned to the people he usually leans on, both professionals and personal relations, to help him work out what had been going wrong. He had had just two points (one goal, one assist) in 12 games before the scratch, but more telling about his game was the cut in his ice time and his removal for stretches from the penalty kill.

“Yeah, you definitely have people you lean on. There’s kind of like your core people over time you lean on to get advice and stuff,” he said. “Yeah, I definitely do and I think the advice this time was: ‘get back, play your hardest and try to earn the trust back.’ And one of my probably my best qualities is my work ethic, if I’m using it. And usually if … I do it then it can be effective.”

Moving to the wing has helped Kuraly focus on playing more of a straight-line game without worrying about the many defensive responsibilities of a center. That's something we've seen work for Kuraly inthe past.

And with the more offensive-minded Coyle and Bjork, Kuraly’s rededication to working hard comes with more scoring opportunities.

“You know what I haven’t bene thinking offense more lately,” Kuraly said. “I’ve just been thinking the things that you’ve seen like hold on to the puck, forecheck, skate.”

Coaches always preach that offense should come from defense and strong play away from the puck, and Kuraly’s been living proof of that.

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