As the Pepsi Center goal horn sounded for a second time Wednesday night, Jimmy Hayes launched into an exuberant, fist pump-filled celebration behind the Colorado Avalanche net.
“Boom!” the Boston Bruins winger bellowed as his teammates skated over to offer their congratulations.
It was the reaction of a man who no longer had a monkey attached to his back.
In his first three games for his hometown team, Hayes was all but invisible. One hundred eighty minutes of Bruins hockey for the pride of Dorchester, Mass., had produced zero goals, zero assists, a minus-5 rating and a just a single shot on goal. Though he was far from the only reason, Boston lost each of those three contests in its worst start to a season in 16 years.
Speaking with reporters before his team departed for the Rockies, Hayes was upbeat, stressing the importance of simplicity and channeling confidence that he’d soon shake his slump. He was right.
Hayes potted his first goal of the season Wednesday night — stuffing a rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot past goalie Semyon Varlamov — and assisted on three others as the Bruins blew out the Avalanche 6-2. The four points represented a single-game career high for the 25-year-old, who’d never recorded more than two in a game in his first four NHL seasons.
“I could see it coming in practice,” head coach Claude Julien said after the game in an interview with NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “He started shooting the puck a little bit more. I told him that he had to have confidence in himself, and that any time he had a chance to shoot, get in there and shoot those pucks. That first one’s always a tough one, but once you get it, all of the sudden you could see that the pressure was off him. He seemed to relax a little bit in his decision-making and have more confidence to produce for us (Wednesday night) in different ways.”
Hayes’ breakout performance headlined a banner night for Boston’s third line. In addition to the right wing’s production, the Bruins also got a goal from left wing Chris Kelly, a goal and an assist from center Ryan Spooner, and eight shots on goal from the line as a whole, including a game-high five by Hayes.
The line had produced a grand total of zero points in the team’s first three games.
“We needed to start contributing,” Hayes told NESN rinkside reporter Nikki Reyes. “That was our game plan.”
He continued: “I just think we (had) a lot of communication (Wednesday night) from our line,” he said. “We just simplified our game, big time. Just playing a north-south game and trying to execute plays, and finally, the execution was there. It’s a good feeling.”
After the week the Bruins just endured, some good feelings were exactly what this team needed.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@NHLBruins
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