Now or never for Jimmy Hayes
Most would agree that, so far, it has not been the ideal homecoming for Bruins forward and Dorchester’s own Jimmy Hayes. With 13-16-29 totals and a -12 rating in 75 games a season ago, things have taken an even further downturn for Hayes, registering only two points, both goals, for the B’s this season. The most recent coming this past Sunday against the Kings, a 1-0 home victory that saw Hayes receive the game’s first star after supplying the game’s only goal.
However, success like that has only come in glimpses for Hayes as the 6-foot-6 former Boston College Eagle and second-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs continues to find his way.
Due to the lack of production, Hayes has seen his playing time slip, as evident in Sunday’s game in which he only saw the ice for nine shifts and 7:18 of total time on ice. In the previous game against Anaheim last Thursday night, Hayes did not even dress.
But the Bruins aren’t ready to give up on Hayes just yet. As a matter of fact, Claude Julien is beginning to like what he sees in his big winger.
“He was better tonight,” the 10th-year Bruins coach said after Sunday’s win. “I liked his game a lot better tonight, he started to resemble the older Hayes that we had at times last year.”
But for Hayes to remain in the lineup and begin to see more ice time, he must continue to put forth solid efforts like the one one he had on Sunday. And with the absence of David Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey, the need for him to step up is now in even higher demand.
“That’s what it’s going to take to stay in the lineup,” Hayes said on Sunday. “You have to battle hard. That’s what’s expected from Claude and what’s expected from myself. [Getting contributions from himself and the rest of the team] is going to be huge, especially [replacing Pastrnak] who’s been scoring some big time goals for us on a regular basis, so you’re going to need guys to step up and that’s going to have to be the mentality going forward.”
In order to get his act together, Hayes figures to go back to the basics and stick with what he feels is his strongest attribute, being a physical presence in and around the goalmouth. His goal on Sunday was exactly that, as Hayes battled in front of King’s goaltender Peter Budaj and was able to redirect a Colin Miller shot from the point.
“If you look back at a lot of goals in my career, they are probably all around that area,” Hayes said. “So I just have to find ways to get on the inside and bang them home.”
Another strong component of his game that Hayes points to is the continuation of having a good forecheck.
“That’s key on the fourth line. You have to find ways to get on them and be disruptive. You have to keep the puck out of the net and get down the other end and create a little offense.” “With his size, he’s got to win battles along the walls and getting in front of the net, tipping pucks and finding those loose pucks,” Julien said, “Hopefully, (Sunday) is a confidence builder and he gets to become a better player moving forward.”
For the sake of a team trying to return to the playoffs, and for the sake of witnessing another Massachusetts-trained hockey success story, one can only hope Hayes can improve from here on out. This past Sunday, Bruins fans, coaches and management saw a glimmer of hope in Hayes’ game. And with several key players missing games, Hayes is certainly in prime position to boost his play, at a time when the team can really afford it.
“You try to help the team any way you can,” Hayes said on Sunday. “It was nice to finally cash in on one.”