BOSTON — The Jaromir Jagr experiment in Boston has been pretty successful thus far, aside from the whole trying to figure out where to put him part. The Bruins may have gotten that answer Monday night against Carolina.
Jagr was one of the best players on the ice as the Bruins dominated the Hurricanes. He was once again strong on the puck, and he created space for his new linemates Brad Marchand and Gregory Campbell as the B’s rolled to a win at the Garden.
It’s been a work in progress so far for the B’s in finding the best place for Jagr. He began his Bruins career on a line with Marchand and Tyler Seguin last week. When Claude Julien was displeased with Seguin’s defensive play at the center position in place of the injured Patrice Bergeron, the Boston head coach shuffled the lines Saturday night. That sent Jagr down to play with Campbell and Daniel Paille for the evening. The future Hall of Famer then got another change heading into Monday night when was next to Campbell and Marchand.
The final combination may be the one that the B’s go with, at least for now. It’s tough to argue the results. The trio victimized some poor Carolina goaltending, but it looks like there is some chemistry there, especially between Jagr and Marchand. The two have now combined for three goals since Jagr’s Boston debut. Jagr assisted on both Marchand goals Monday night, while it was Marchand who found Jagr in the future Hall of Famer’s Boston debut last week against New Jersey.
The two really seem to complement each other’s game very well. While Jagr will never be able to skate stride for stride with a player like Marchand, he does other things to neutralize those differences in speed. Chief among them is Jagr’s ability to be so strong with the puck and not give up possession. We saw Monday night how that allows Marchand the time to get to the dirty areas of the ice to score gritty goals. That’s what happened on both goals he scored against Carolina, and both goals were spurred by Jagr’s relentless puck possession.
“When he’s on the ice and he’s got the puck, you’ve gotta put two or three guys on him,” Marchand said. “You put one guy on him and he’ll make a great play. In doing that, he seems to be able to draw everyone to watch him and we can kind of move around and get open. He’s not a guy you really need to support. He’s so big and strong that he can out-battle one or two guys and it definitely leaves some more space out there.”
It served as a reminder that not only does Jagr not need to be the Bruins’ savior, he doesn’t even need to score goals necessarily. Creating scoring opportunities for others would be more than enough.
“He’s finding seams, he’s curling back, and he makes his plays so quickly he knows what’s around him and what’s coming,” Julien said. “I think Marchand was pretty good tonight in being ready for those passes and those plays.”
But the Bruins need to give him the chance. What good does it do to put him on a line with Campbell and Paille? Monday illustrated why so many people were left wondering why Julien would put Jagr down on a bottom-six line. Those are two fine players who do their jobs, but their offensive skill — particularly the ability to finish around the net — just doesn’t compare to players like Marchand.
It will be especially interesting to see what Julien does with his lines if and when Bergeron returns. But what is becoming clear in the first few games of the Jagr in Boston era is that it appears that keeping Jagr and Marchand together will only continue to benefit the Bruins.