Jagr finds his playoff veteran tempo in Game 3

Jagr finds his playoff veteran tempo in Game 3
May 7, 2013, 7:30 pm
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TORONTO – Jaromir Jagr admitted that he wasn’t up to his own high standards in the first two playoff games for the Bruins, but the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer was much closer to the legendary mullet man in Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre.

Jagr played 14:53 of ice time and began to really develop some simpatico chemistry with Rich Peverley while teaming with him on the second-period goal in the 5-2 victory for the Bruins. The right wing simply picked Ryan O’Byrne clean behind the Toronto net, and fed Peverley for a goal scorer’s goal right at the doorstep. He also fired six shots on net and generated nine total shot attempts while also throwing out three hits in a hotly contested playoff game.

Jagr also explained why a slow start to the playoffs might not be such a bad thing after all of the lesson he’s learned while winning a pair of Stanley Cups, and playing in nearly 200 NHL playoff games throughout his career. Some wondered if Jagr was stuck in neutral a bit as others raised their game for the Stanley Cup playoffs, or if perhaps he was getting frustrated with his linemates as the offense wasn’t coming to him.

“I feel better every game, but I’m still not as strong as I want to be,” said Jagr, who had a flu bug at the end of the season that knocked him off his feet for 5-6 days. “In the first two games the young kids are crazy skating up and down, but it’s like a marathon. Some guys have a tempo that’s the same for the whole marathon, and some guys are running fast for the first few miles and then they [crap out]. Whatever you want to do, that’s up to you.

“I know I’m not going to play many more games. I’ll probably play another year or two if I’m lucky. But it’s not the same in Europe with 3,000-5,000 people. It’s so special here in Toronto and Canada where people love hockey so much, and even in our city in Boston. It’s something you need to enjoy. It’s an extra bonus for a hockey player just to be part of it.”

Peverley is clearly beginning to feel comfortable with Jagr now in his second game playing with the legend, and Chris Kelly is the perfect third linemate, capable of hanging back to cover for both forwards if things break the other way. It hasn’t been easy for any of the three to try igniting some instant connection just as they’ve started skating together in the playoffs. But they also showed just devastating the Black and Gold can be in the playoffs if they’re getting offensive contributions, and quality shifts, from each of their forward lines.

“He’s a great player,” said Peverley. “Jagr is tremendous on the puck, and we did a lot more talking before the game about where guys are going to be on the ice.

“It’s just one game, but Krejci and Bergeron’s lines have been doing it all year and you can’t say enough about [the fourth] line. They’ve been just awesome. Hopefully [the third line] can produce when it matters, and help any way that we can.”

One thing that hasn’t been an issue is Jagr’s attitude around the rest of the Bruins in a room that’s got a strong leadership hierarchy. There were definitely some signs of frustration in Jagr’s first couple of playoff games set in Boston as he didn’t quite feel “right”, but the smile was back on his face Tuesday afternoon after one of his typical games since arriving in Boston.

“He’s been good. He is different and he’s got his own ways of preparing himself. He loves to work out. When sometimes as a coach you want to give rest to players, he just loves to work out,” said Claude Julien. “It’s what keeps him going, and it’s pretty impressive to see a guy at his age still doing what he’s doing.

“The thing about him is that he’s a great individual. He’s funny and he likes to joke around. He’s a pleasant guy to have in your dressing room. A lot of people seem to think he’s maintenance, but he’s not. He’s high maintenance with himself. When we got him we just wanted to see him play to his strengths. He’s strong on the puck in the offensive zone, and can make things happen. All that we’ve told him is to go out and do that, do what you do best.”

He isn’t close to the fastest skater in the world anymore, but he’s incredibly strong on the puck and can carry defenders on his back while creating offensive chances for his linemates. That’s exactly what was going on in Game 3 as Boston’s third line finally came alive in the series.

The Jagr is back, and that’s bad news for the Maple Leafs already down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.