BOSTON — The Benoit Pouliot trade doesn’t receive a lot of attention, but it’s benefiting the Bruins’ offense early in the 2014-15 season.
The Bruins acquired a 2012 fifth-round draft pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of the trade, which they used to select London Knights (OHL) winger Seth Griffith 131st overall.
Griffith has become a fixture at right wing on Boston’s first line this season, a role occupied by veteran winger Jarome Iginla in 2013-14. The Ontario native scored his fourth goal of the season in spectacular fashion during Monday night’s 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden, once again proving he deserves a roster spot at the NHL level.
Not only did Griffith score with a backwards, between-the-legs move, he also had to outmuscle Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky, who was going to be called for a penalty on the play if the puck stayed out of the net. The sequence began with a good defensive play — a blocked shot.
“I think just my strength on the puck,” Griffith said when asked about the most impressive aspect of his sensational goal. “It wasn?t going my way a little bit, in the first, so I was happy to just stay strong on the puck and lucky enough the bounce went my way.”
Griffith wasn’t expected to stay with the first line this deep into the season. In fact, it was possible that he’d spend another full season with the Providence Bruins and build on his successful 50-point (20 goals, 30 assists) campaign as an AHL rookie last year. But his play has made it impossible for him to be sent down, and the Bruins need offense with David Krejci (undisclosed injury) missing his sixth game of the season Monday night.
“It?s been good,” Julien said of Griffith’s effort this season. “That?s why he?s still here and that?s why he?s still on that line, because he?s been good. We understand that there?s some areas that he?s trying to work on to get better at, but he?s been good. There?s been no denying that. I?ve never felt a real need to take him out of the lineup or even put him on another line because he?s done well with that line with (Milan Lucic), and when (David Krejci has) been there, or even with (Chris) Kelly.”
Griffith’s offense (four goals, two assists in 12 games) has been a bright spot, but he also plays responsible defensively, goes hard to the net, helps drive puck possession (52.65 Corsi-for percentage at even strength) and doesn’t make too many mistakes in vulnerable areas. For a winger who’s listed at 5-foot-9 and 192 pounds, Griffith still finds ways to make plays against taller, stronger opponents.
Griffith might not be the long-term solution at right wing on the top line, and he might not even finish the 2014-15 campaign in Boston, but his early-season performances certainly are encouraging. It’s also a good sign for what’s shaping up to be a quality 2012 draft class for the Bruins, one that includes prospects Malcolm Subban and Matt Grzelcyk.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images