Bruins defenseman Jakub Zboril is never going to escape the 2015 NHL Draft.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t take his latest chance with the Bruins and absolutely run with it. And Wednesday’s win over the Sabres may have featured the 24-year-old’s strongest showing in that regard.
Deployed for 17:34 of action in the winning effort, Zboril rifled the shot on goal that led to Mike Reilly’s goal, and finished with two shots, three hits, and a plus-1 rating in addition to that assist. The Bruins also held a 15-to-6 on-ice shot advantage with Zboril out there at five-on-five, and his 65.7 percent corsi-for percentage was fourth-best among all Boston skaters.
There’s purpose with each shift, too, and Zboril has been to overcome mistakes much better than he did last season. There’s a noticeable uptick in Zboril’s confidence, according to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I think he’s understanding what it takes to play in this league,” Cassidy said of the No. 13 overall pick from 2015. “Like a lot of guys, it takes a while. We went through it with [Matt Grzelcyk] for a while there. He’d go back down and then come up, and he finally found what he would be good at.
“I just think he’s playing to his strengths. He’s handling the puck, making good plays, moving his feet, [and] shooting a little bit more. All stuff we’ve asked him to do and sometime it just takes a while for the player to get confident and feel like the coaches and teammates trust him.”
One thing Zboril has excelled at: Bringing a little bit of snarl to a backend that can always use it.
“That’s a big hit on [Kyle] Okposo. He’s a big man and he kind of bounced off it. There was one right in front of our bench before that,” Cassidy noted. “He’s willing to put his body in harm’s way when the opportunity’s there and he’s a 200-pound man. So you’re seeing a little more of that, which we need out of the group as a whole.”
Now the challenge for Zboril, as noted by Cassidy, is making sure there’s no dropoff that sends him back to the press box.
“[Consistency is] the next challenge,” Cassidy admitted. “We’ve got to make sure he stays in the moment and understands what he’s doing and doing well, and try to get that out of him every night.”
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-1 final in Buffalo…
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.