Matt Grzelcyk reaches ultimate TD Garden goal
Bruins’ rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk can almost hit his home with a slap shot launched from a clean TD Garden sheet. His dad – a member of the bull gang that transforms the Garden from basketball to hockey – also has a hand in that.
Life for the Grzelcyk family is rooted in Charlestown. And on the ice.
The hockey life of Matt Grzelcyk stretches from the youth leagues of Boston to Belmont Hill to the US National Team Development Program to Boston University to last spring with a few stints with the Providence Bruins after BU’s season ended and the recent Bruins’ rookie camp.
Those four years at BU from 2012-2016 included 13 games on the Garden sheet after adding up Beanpot and Hockey East Tournament appearances for Grzelcyk and his Terrier teammates.
Wednesday night, his 14th test was the biggest game of his life when the former Terrier captain donned the Black and Gold for the first time in the preseason game against Detroit.
“A few butterflies, a big step up from college,” Grzelcyk said after the morning skate, “but maybe a little bit added bonus playing on Garden ice. Maybe feel a bit more comfortable.”
No shortage of Grzelcyk supporters in the stands.
“Been a couple of ticket requests, but will try to block out the distractions as best I can,” he smiled. “Gotta try to keep emotions in check and play within the confines of your ability.”
That ability is one reason why Boston tabbed Grzelcyk in the third round of the 2012 draft at No. 85 overall. At 5-10 and 175, the new-age NHL is now defined by skill and speed. With a dire need for added blue-line support, Grzelcyk is the skating and physical morph of GM Don Sweeney from the past, Torey Krug in the present.
Every NHL roster has that profile somewhere on its blue-line corps.
In April, Sweeney inked the 22-year-old Grzelcyk to a two-year, two-way deal. His 26 goals and 69 assists for 95 points in 125 college games one major reason; a plus-49 rating the last two seasons another.
While he may end up in the AHL in Providence, Grzelcyk is focusing on 2016-17 to attempt the quantum leap from NCAA to NHL play.
“Need to try to use my capabilities to move the puck,” Grzelcyk said after Wednesday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “Pretty lucky to step into the situation this day and age. Twenty years ago this opportunity might not happen.”
Wednesday night, Grzelcyk’s opportunity came with a little different caliber of play from Agganis Arena. Donning No. 43, Grzelcyk was penciled into the starting lineup at left defense and paired with Adam McQuaid. Twenty-eight seconds into the game, Grzelcyk’s first shift was in the books — his professional career begun.
The Grzelcyk slate after 20 minutes was nine shifts with 6:53 playing time; a game total of a very respectable 19:49 and 26 shifts with a minus-1 in the 5-1 lackluster loss.
“It was a night where as the game went on he got better,” Terrier alum and Bruins’ assistant coach Joe Sacco (filling in for World-Cup based Claude Julien) said about Grzelcyk’s play. “I thought the third period was his best. Obviously, his first game in a Bruins’ uniform at home. He fought some nerves in the beginning, but it was a special night for him. I thought he got better as the game went on.”
Grzelcyk’s best shift? After watching goaltender Malcolm Subban get victimized on Detroit’s fourth goal midway through the second, Grzelcyk registered his first pro point when he and Ryan Spooner set up a nifty tip-in by Austin Czarnik at 13:20 to breath some life into the sedated crowd after Detroit jumped out to the 4-0 lead.
“There were a couple of plays I could have been in a better position,” Grzelcyk assessed postgame. “Can’t be caught puck watching. It was good to get the jitters out, Get that first one under my belt. I was able to skate pucks out of trouble. Hopefully, I can build on that going forward.
The biggest adjustment from the NCAA to the NHL?
“The speed of the game is noticeably faster; guys think the game a lot faster,” he said. “They play an honest game; you never see wild mistakes up the middle. As the game went on I was able to keep my feet moving and build confidence.”
That will be Matt Grzelcyk’s overall job the next few weeks as he sets his sights on being in the Bruins’ starting lineup on October 13 when the regular season begins.