TORONTO – Jaromir Jagr was a wonderful shot in the arm offensively when he arrived in Boston at the NHL trade deadline. The 41-year-old Czech Republic legend had nine points (2 goals, 7 assists) in 11 regular season games after arriving from the Dallas Stars, and appeared to be the playmaking spark the Bruins needed on the power play as well as during five-on-five play.
But a flu bug knocked him out for the final two games of the regular season, and Jagr hasn’t been the same guy since. Jagr has played slightly more than 30 minutes combined in the Bruins-Leafs playoff series and has only a pair of shots with a minus-2 rating. Worse than that, he’s looked absolutely lost out on the ice skating with Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Kaspars Daugavins, and it looks like he hasn’t been able to elevate his game for the playoffs like all of the players around him.
The 41-year-old is far from a skating-speed burner at this point in his career, but the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder has appeared markedly slower as the pace has quickened. It's also seemed as though he's lost some of his ability to fight off defenders while he possesses the puck. There’s also the question of how much Jagr can create offensively with linemates in Kelly and Peverley who sometimes struggle to finish off plays.
“Right now it’s about trying to build some chemistry with some players, and we keep trying to find players to compliment him a little bit,” said coach Claude Julien. “At the same time, like I said, he battled a pretty tough flu there a week ago. I know that he’s not feeling 100 percent yet, but we’re certainly counting on him.
“The other part, too, is he’s been great for us on the power play, but we only had eight seconds [on the power play] in Game 2. So he’s not able to show too, too much with eight seconds of power play time. That’s one of his strengths, as well.”
The B’s are 1-for-6 on the power play in the series, and Jagr made little impact on the man advantage in Boston’s Game 1 victory. So the hope is that he’ll continue to get stronger and gain effectiveness as things develop in the first round.
But those that watched him in Philly last season said that Jagr appeared to really run out of gas once the playoffs began, and he managed just one goal and a minus-5 in 11 playoff games. One has to wonder if history is repeating itself with the future Hall of Famer unable to kick things into a higher gear at this time of year.
Julien is certain that Jagr will bounce back into the form that people saw from No. 68 at the end of the regular season in Boston.
“He was skating well. Certainly when he came here, you look at his first goal and he made a great pass and drove the net,” said Julien. “[The puck] went off his skates and into the net, but he was skating well. At the same time, we’re seeing teams have a tough time getting pucks off him, and that’s what he does, that’s what he does well.
“That’s why I say, it’s a little bit more than just the fact that it’s playoff time. It’s a little bit of, I don’t think he’s 100 percent yet, and I know he’s told us he doesn’t feel 100 percent yet, but certainly we hope to see that because he’s a good player.”
Jagr's also done some curious things on the ice of late. During one shift in Game 2 he simply decided he was done for the shift after losing his stick and returned to the bench when the Bruins equipment staff was trying to hand him a replacement to allow him to stay on the ice. Jagr also went through a couple of replacement sticks on the bench after breaking a stick in Game 1, seemingly as particular about his equipment as Marc Savard famously was during his time with the Bruins.
Nobody was able to get the future Hall of Famer’s thoughts on any of this because Jagr never returned to speak to the assembled media following Sunday’s Bruins practice after promising to do so while peeling off his equipment.
It will be perfectly fine if Jagr starts doing his talking on the ice rather than after a couple of weaker performances in the playoffs. That’s clearly what he and the Black and Gold are hoping for as the playoff series turns to Toronto for a couple of tilts this week.