BOSTON — Even as a veteran defenseman, Matt Grzelcyk could feel the butterflies going prior to the Boston Bruins taking on the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at TD Garden.
It was Grzelcyk’s first time on the ice with the Bruins for this campaign as his season debut was slightly delayed due to his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. But Grzelcyk looked like he didn’t miss a beat, leaving an imprint in more ways than one on Boston’s 2-1 shootout win over the Ducks.
“I felt good,” Grzelcyk said. “It was just fun to be back out there. Get a little anxious before the game, not sure how it’s going to play out. But kept reminding myself that I’m in a fortunate position, lucky to be back. Guys have been playing great and just wanted to make it as seamless as I could.”
Grzelcyk helped solidify Boston’s blue line, which allowed an astounding seven goals to the Ottawa Senators in a loss Tuesday. But Grzelcyk was reliable in his own end, blocking four shots in front of Linus Ullmark, who was the key difference-maker in the win.
Aside from his defensive presence, Grzelcyk did what he has become known for over his tenure with the Bruins and was an offensive threat. He registered an assist on Taylor Hall’s second-period goal and kept sending in shots from the point to pester Ducks goalie John Gibson.
“I just kind of wanted to play a little bit free tonight,” Grzelcyk said. “And trust that I’m still going to play smart defensively and not cheat in the game, for sure. Not putting too much pressure on myself to come back and have the best game ever. Of course, you want to play really well as a team. I didn’t want to try to do too much almost and hurt the team.”
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery certainly was impressed with what he saw out of Grzelcyk in his 20:02 on the ice. So much so that Montgomery didn’t wait around to promote Grzelcyk to the top defensive pairing with Hampus Lindholm after starting him out on the second pairing with Jakub Zboril.
“Really good,” Montgomery said assessing Grzelcyk’s play. “He was so good that we moved him up there 10 minutes into the game. Good hockey player. Good to have him back.”