The last thought that Matt Grzelcyk will allow to creep into his mind is that he has locked up a spot in the Bruins’ six-man defense rotation.
Even if it certainly does appear that’s exactly the case.
“I know it’s a cliche,” said the B’s rookie blueliner. “But the second you get too comfortable and start settling in, all of a sudden the next guy is working a little bit harder than you are. So I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to do that.
“I’m just trying to take it game-by-game. I know it’s going really well right now. I don’t want to screw it up.”
In his second pro season, the Charlestown native, who turned 24 yesterday, might well have been just a short-term Providence (AHL) call-up, played a handful of NHL games and spent most of the season riding buses in the minors. But as with so many of his fellow first-year players, he showed the B’s coaches not only that he’s ready for the NHL but he can be a key contributor for one of the league’s hottest teams.
Heading into his 21st game this season tonight at the Garden vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, the 5-foot-9 Grzelcyk has one goal and four assists with a splendid plus-13. He has been consistently good in all phases — particularly at turning pucks quickly up ice on transitions out of the defensive zone via skating or passing.
“It’s his strength, and he has to play to his strength,” said B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s a good puck-mover once he comes out of that turn. He tends to separate well and he can see the ice. That’s certainly part of playing fast.
“We’ve talked about transition, how we wanted to improve that here. This year he’s been a big part of that. If he drags the puck back farther, he starts to run out of room; he’s bringing more forecheckers into the picture. A smaller guy getting stuck in your own end, that’s probably not the best recipe.
“So it’s very important being assertive and having the confidence to (turn the puck up ice quickly.) That’s what we’re trying to bring out of him. It’s something he had to buy into, and he’s done it.”
Grzelcyk gives credit to his veteran partner, Kevan Miller.
“He’s been great for me,” said Grzelcyk. “If I ever want to try and get up ice or do things like that, he always has my back. He can provide offense, too; maybe more than he has in years back. I try to make him feel comfortable if I can — that I have his back, too. It’s been a good balance. I’m really lucky to have him as my (defense) partner.”