Nordstrom makes strong first impression on second line
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy doesn’t consider himself much of a gambler.
Cassidy took a gamble Thursday night by scratching Ryan Donato, one of Boston’s most promising young talents, from the lineup and replacing him with third-line journeyman Joakim Nordstrom ahead of Boston’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
The move came as a motivational tactic to light a fire under Donato — who stated that he was “pissed off” during Thursday morning’s skate — as well as a chance to shake up the struggling middle part of the Bruins lineup in the early portion of the season.
The gamble paid off.
“Nordy wants to play. He sat out the last game and has got a lot of pride,” Cassidy said following Thursday’s game. “He scored, but not only that, he won a lot of pucks and played the game as advertised.”
Nordstrom notched his first goal of the season – and the first goal of the year for the entire Bruins second line – en route to Boston’s 4-1 win over the Oilers and third consecutive win of the season.
The Stockholm native picked up the puck along the boards in the neutral zone to start a two-on-one opportunity with fellow linemate David Krejci. Following a quick pass, Nordstrom cut hard to the net and was the recipient of a beautiful pass that led to an easy tap-in.
“I tried to chip it up the wall — I’m not sure if it would have gone out unless…[Jake] DeBrusk slashed across and basically battled two guys. I was able to pick it up from there, get it to Krejci, and then he made a world class play,” Nordstrom said about his tally. “It felt great. I’m just trying to help my team win and do whatever it takes. Maybe I don’t always contribute offensively by scoring goals, but its always a nice reward.”
His first-period tally was just a small piece of what Nordstrom brought to the table for the Black and Gold. Throughout the contest, he battled for loose pucks in the corner, backchecked with purpose, and made clean and crisp passes — one of which almost found DeBrusk for a back-door goal in the second period.
Both Cassidy and Krejci took notice.
“He’s up and down his wing, he manages the puck, he backchecks with purpose, and has a good stick in the defensive zone,” Cassidy said about Nordstrom’s effort. “He had about three or four plays in the slot that we are trying to teach to the younger guys; not to leave too early. And that’s just what he brings. So nice to see him get rewarded with a goal.”
“He’s a really smart player. He knows what to do in the defensive zone and is good on the forecheck,” Krejci said. “At the same time, many people don’t know about him because he’s only been here a short period of time. From what I have seen in practice, he’s very smart and can make good plays.”
The Bruins acquired Nordstrom during free agency this offseason and brought him in primarily to provide depth as a bottom-six forward. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound left winger is now playing on his third team in just six years in the league, with previous stops in Carolina and Chicago – where he won a Stanley Cup in 2015.
Nordstrom is not known for his offense, to say the least. In 284 career games, Nordstrom has produced a mere 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) with his highest season total of 24 points coming during the 2015-16 season with the Carolina Hurricanes.
However – albeit a single game – Nordstrom looked comfortable playing alongside Krejci and DeBrusk and should serve as a good second line option for the time being.
“I felt pretty good, we had some good opportunities,” Nordstrom said about skating with his new linemates. “We had the puck a lot, so for [a] first game, I thought that was definitely something we can build off of.”
Nordstrom’s performance leaves Donato’s status in limbo. Cassidy, for one, isn’t giving any indication about Donato’s plans as he tries to find the right balance among Boston’s third and fourth lines.