Lost in the shuffle of the Claude Julien debacle on Tuesday was another news item: the Bruins recalling Peter Cehlarik.
After practicing with the team throughout the week, Chelarik, who had 33 points in 40 games with the Providence Bruins, made his National Hockey League debut on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks in the B’s second to last game before the bye week – and the second game of the Bruce Cassidy era.
Even with a different coach and a different league, the Bruins’ system hasn’t seen many changes from Julien to interim coach Bruce Cassidy and Kevin Dean down in Providence. It was a structure that suited Cehlarik well in Game No. 1 of his career.
“He understands our structure; Providence is very similar,” Cassidy said about Cehlarik pregame. “We’ve been told what his strengths are from Kevin [Dean]. I’m sure the players will give him a little advice as well.”
Certainly, Cehlarik had a couple of good linemates to work with to help overcome whatever nerves he had.
The third round pick in 2013 didn’t factor into the scoresheet of Boston’s 4-3 win. But Cehlarik’s solid skating, competitiveness in puck battles and playmaking ability on both ends of the ice during his 13:50 of ice time – that also included 82 seconds on the power play – proved to be a solid complement for David Krejci and David Pastrnak.
“Well, you don’t want to put too much on guys who are in their first year. Just got to let him be and not put too much pressure on him, and I thought that’s what we did,” Krejci said about his discussions with Cehlarik before his first game. “Obviously, we talked about some ideas we had [as a line], but other than that just let him play his game and I thought he did that and he did a pretty good job.”
“I liked his game,” Cassidy said about Chelarik postgame. “He complemented that [Krejci] line, good board work, I thought he got on top of pucks, made some plays, a couple pucks found him in the slot, you know so there were some nerves there as well and as he gets more comfortable, he should only get better. I thought he did a nice job for us.”
In a year where he jumped from the bigger European ice sheet to the smaller North American rink, Cehlarik’s had to make a few adjustments to the style of play.
Watching from Level 9 on Thursday after a couple of practices with the big club, Cehlarik got an idea of the speed of the NHL level compared to the minors.
“Yeah, obviously, it’s good to see the game from the stands. So, yeah, just to watch that positioning that the players have, they’re smart players here,” Cehlarik said about watching the Bruins’ 6-3 win over the Sharks on Thursday. “It’s not just up-and- down hockey. You have to get into good position on the ice and do the right things, obviously, so that’s what I tried to do.”
On Saturday, he got a closer look at the tempo and smarts of the NHL. He handled that, and all of the first game jitters, quite nicely.
“Yeah. I think he’s a great, big guy with skill and he makes plays. He made a couple of nice passes,” said Pastrnak, who tallied the game-winner with exactly two minutes left in regulation for his team-leading 25th goal of the season. “I think he did a good job and I’ll congratulate him on his first game.”