By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy found himself in an unfamiliar spot Saturday night at TD Garden: He actually wanted to give his third-line, which has been a season-long black hole for the Black and Gold, more minutes in the club’s 5-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. A desire that came back to the strong play of recently P-Bruins recall Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
“He was good,” Cassidy said of his newest third-line center. “I would’ve liked to get him more minutes as the game went on, but we tried to keep with the matchup, that line, [against] Johnsson. We thought it would be good for him.”
Though the 22-year-old finished Saturday’s victory without a point, there was no denying the obvious improvement Forsbacka Karlsson showed from what was a disappointing training camp and unsuccessful push for an Opening Night paycheck.
In what finished as an 11:19 season debut, Forsbacka Karlsson won six of his nine faceoffs, had a team-high 71.43 Corsi-For percentage, and was on the ice for five scoring chances at five-on-five while surrendering just one. ‘JFK’ also seemed to play a style that allowed his wingers — the slumping Anders Bjork and slightly-warming Danton Heinen — to play a style that suits their strengths infinitely more than the one asked out of them when the line was centered by David Backes.
Oh, and he nearly connected for what would have been the first point of his NHL career with a great pass to Jake DeBrusk.
“He made a great play to Jake backdoor, winning the puck, being strong on it,” Cassidy recalled. “I thought he was in the middle of the ice well, won some board battles. The message to him, I think we talked about it the morning, was similar to the [Matt Grzelcyk] comparison. We took Grzelcyk aside, they played together at BU; ‘Hey, Grizzy explain a little bit how it worked out for you,’ because they are buddies and teammates. Sometimes a player translating those thoughts is easier than a coach.”
The message worked, it would appear. At least enough to earn an extra look Sunday night against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“He skates well enough, thinks well enough, has NHL skills. It’s just a matter of play the game, play to your strengths,” Cassidy said of Forsbacka Karlsson. “Tonight, was step one. I think he was better than I’ve ever seen him in that area, and [Sunday] hopefully he gets a little confidence from it, and he’s able to translate.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.