Boston Bruins

Mar 3, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) knocks down Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After struggling to do much of anything in his first NHL showings, Bruins forward Trent Frederic has stormed into 2021 and found his role.

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the league.

Establishing himself as a bottom-six nuisance since things first got underway with Frederic getting in P.K. Subban’s kitchen, the 2016 first-round pick’s 2021 stock has been bolstered by a fight with Tom Wilson, a developing feud with the Rangers’ Brendan Lemieux, and now an encounter with Capitals legend Alex Ovechkin.

After unsuccessfully challenging Ovechkin to a fight, and chirping Ovechkin as he made his way back to his own bench, Frederic and Ovechkin found themselves face-to-face in the Caps end. And after a pair of crosschecks from Frederic, Ovechkin finally decided that he had enough and sent a stick right to Trent’s Frederics.

The entire sequence was *chef’s kiss* for the Bruins, really.

Now, let’s first acknowledge Frederic trying to fight Ovechkin as legitimately hilarious.

It was a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Departed being explained that there’s certain guys you can’t hit, except if French was on the ice with the Bruins last night, he would’ve explained that Ovechkin’s definitely a guy you can’t hit. (Frederic wouldn’t have cared.) But the fact that Ovechkin’s stare and outright refusal to waste his time on a fight with Frederic in the third period of a tied game didn’t deter him from going right back at him the next time they were on the ice together? Oh, that was beautiful. And then that the spear didn’t stop Frederic from going at Wilson as soon as he was out of the box and back on the attack? Lovely. Just lovely.

“Slept well last night,” Frederic said of his Wednesday night scraps with Ovechkin. “Nothing really bothering me.

“I think I was just playing hard. He’s a good player, so anytime you can get a check on him, you’re trying to do that. He’s a big body, he plays hard, he finishes check. He gives it out just as much as takes it.”

My goodness. It’s impossible not to love this guy.

Isn’t this the exact thing the Bruins have missed in this feud with the Caps?

I mean, Frederic getting involved with Wilson sent Caps coach Peter Laviolette into a tizzy the first time around. I can’t imagine he was too thrilled with Ovechkin sitting in the box opposite Frederic late in a tied game. Laviolette probably punched the wall when he saw Frederic leave the box and go right back to the Wilson well.

And isn’t this an element of the B’s roster that the team has missed for years now?

“He’s come into the league and decided he’s going to be an agitator to a certain extent,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Frederic. “But [he] keeps his discipline so he’s not putting us at a disadvantage. I think he’s done a good job with it.

“We like that out of him. It’s a little bit of abrasiveness. It’s still welcome in the game. And he can continue to bring it as long as he doesn’t get off his game. If it gets other people off their game, then I think it’s a positive.”

(We shoulda known that this is what happens when you grow up with both Brady and Matthew Tkachuk as two of your best friends, as was the case for the Missouri-born Frederic.)

And Frederic’s efforts haven’t been lost on the last B’s player who struggled to find his NHL touch in limited showings before breaking into the NHL as an agitating presence.

“He’s been doing a great job,” Brad Marchand said. “He definitely brings energy to the group and we feed off of what he’s bringing [with] his physicality. And when he’s strong on pucks in the corner, it creates energy for the group. We need him to keep doing that. He’s a talkative kid, which is always great in the room and on the bench, and we can feed off of. I really liked his game so far this year and continue to grow.”

Growth, of course, is the next step.

A natural center, the Bruins moved Frederic to the wing down in the AHL last season in an attempt to build him into more a power forward in the attacking zone. The results were there down the stretch in the AHL, and his 2021 start has featured two goals and three points, along with 22 shots, through 20 games. Frederic has also excelled in drawing penalties with either his body or movement, with his 2.35 penalties drawn per 60 minutes currently the fourth-best rate among the group of 492 NHL skaters with at least 200 all-situation minutes this season.

“Everyone that comes into the lineup has to find a way, whether it’s through offense, physicality, steady defensive play faceoffs, penalty kill, power play, whatever,” Cassidy, who has bounced Frederic between the third and fourth line this year, noted. “He’s going to have to build his game offensively [and] he’s started to. I thought he could have shot a few more times [Wednesday]. He was in there once, handcuffed him a little bit.”

The obvious hope is that the points will begin to flow at a rate similar to that of Frederic’s poop-stirs per 60. Moving him up to the third line on a consistent basis speaks to that. But there’s also no denying that this is one hell of a (real) start to Frederic’s NHL career. And one the B’s are feeding off in a rival-friendly 2021 season.

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