(Photo: Krista Patronick)
On Saturday, the Boston Bruins were back on home ice taking on the Carolina Hurricanes and once again the opposing team was on the board first just a little more than seven minutes into the first period. Given the panic that had taken hold of the fans after the Bruins gave up a combined eleven goals between their two road games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens early in the week, it was perhaps surprising that those at TD Garden didn’t scream in mortal pain when the Hurricanes scored. However, once again rookie Seth Griffith would be in the right place at the right time and would read the play and ultimately tie the game.
Unlike his impressive between-the-legs goal that he scored on New Jersey Devils’ goalie Cory Schneider that began with his blocking a shot during the Bruins game on Monday, November 10, in Saturday’s case, Griffith happened to be the recipient of a bad backhand pass by the Hurricanes Andrej Sekera, and just like that he had popped it past Cam Ward. Sounds simple enough, but to those who truly understand the game, what Griffith has been able to accomplish in these two games has not only resulted in goals, but has also energized the Bruins in a way that they were sorely in need.
After the highlight reel goal against the Devils that had NESN play-by-play man Jack Edwards calling Griffith “the little engine that could,” Patrice Bergeron pointed out that while most people would talk about the play at the end, that it was, in fact, the play at the beginning that even allowed Griffith the opportunity to try and score.
“We were stuck in our zone for quite awhile on that shift. [The blocked shot] broke that sequence and went out,” Bergeron said. “It wasn’t a clear breakaway either. He was actually behind both [defensemen] and found a way to battle through and to get it in so it was a great play by him.”
Chris Kelly also alluded to the blocked shot of that play being the most important aspect of the entire sequence.
“I think a blocked shot is the best part of it. That’s the one that took the most thought,” he said. “Another part I think was just maybe a reaction there. He got in the lane on purpose. It wasn’t a play, so to me there was some intent and some thought put behind that, you know, getting in that shot lane, to kill that play, to get his feet moving quickly and obviously score that nice goal.”
High praise coming from players such as Kelly and Bergeron, who went on to respond to a question by media about Griffith’s play being a lesson in not giving up on the play.
“I think that’s something really important in hockey,” Bergeron responded. “I think not giving up on any play actually and always trying to battle to get the puck and that’s a perfect example.”
Having covered the recent first win of the Northeastern University Huskies, when asked after the game if it had been hard to keep the team motivated, head coach Jim Madigan said that it hadn’t; that the players showed up every practice ready to work and that perhaps it had something to do with being young. And maybe this applies somewhat to Griffith. Maybe his youth prevents him giving up on plays; wanting to look back and say he gave his all.
And it was Griffith’s not giving up as the Devils fell back into their zone that made him available when Sekera’s shot didn’t go where it was supposed to. Had Griffith not continued to follow that play, perhaps the game on Saturday would have had a different outcome.
After Monday’s practice, The Pink Puck had an opportunity to talk to Griffith. During training camp, head coach Claude Julien had mentioned being impressed with Griffith’s hockey IQ and The Pink Puck wanted to know how Griffith sees the ice when he’s out there; is he looking at where the play is or where it will end up?
“You do a little bit of both. When I’m looking at the play, I just try and read what’s about to happen and I think that just gives you a little bit of an advantage,” Griffith told The Pink Puck. “If you’re thinking ‘what’s gonna happen?’ then you can put yourself in a good area to get a scoring chance or make a defensive play or something like that.”
When asked if that was how he ended up being in the positions he was on the last couple of plays that resulted in goals for him, he didn’t forget to mention the lucky bounces.
“It’s just being in the right area at the right time when you get lucky bounces and stuff like that,” he said. “People say it’s lucky bounces at the same time, you know, it’s also being in the right position.”
However, much like Bergeron, he is not one to consider himself special, even when it comes to the hockey IQ that Julien said impressed him, bringing mention to the others in the locker room.
“Everyone has hockey IQ in here, so, you know, that’s why they’re at this level.”
Of course as with all other skills that a hockey player has and works to improve, there are those who are great at sniping, those who can withstand huge hits, and those who can see where plays are going before they get there.
Another skill that Griffith is honing is that of looking and listening to the others on the team. Watching him during practice it is clear that he is soaking up as much as he can from his teammates, especially the two with whom he played during training camp—Bergeron and Brad Marchand. So, what has he learned from Bergeron?
“He’s such a gifted player. You look at what he’s done. There’s no better guy to look up to than that,” Griffith told The Pink Puck. “You just watch the little things he does in the corner, how he protects the puck. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t get knocked off the puck and doesn’t turn the puck over and that’s why he’s such a good player.”
And like any young player who is studying someone he holds in high regard, Griffith is trying to emulate Bergeron in those little things. Of course Bergeron is taller than Griffith, so when it comes to not being knocked off the puck and being strong on the ice, Griffith turns to Marchand for some tips.
“He just uses his skating ability to away from guys. He’s one of the strongest guys on our team, and he’s not the tallest guy out there,” Griffith described Marchand. “He never gets knocked off the puck too easy, so I just watch his little spin moves and stuff like that and try and pick up tips that way.”
Griffith is eager to grow as a player and his youth affords him that mentality to not give up on anything. Having watched his impressive year with the Providence Bruins last season, it will be interesting to see what more he absorbs and how he progresses as his first season at the NHL level continues.