Claude Julien killed all of the suspense following Friday’s practice at TD Garden, and formally announced that 23-year-old Matt Fraser would be in Boston’s lineup for Game 5 on Saturday night. As if there was any suspense about it after Fraser slammed home a loose puck for the overtime game-winner in his first NHL playoff game on Thursday night in Montreal.
It wasn’t just the greasy game-winning goal that will earn Fraser another look by the Bruins. He also was solid on the puck while generating four shot attempts, and playing the kind of heavy hockey that’s needed come playoff time. Peter Chiarelli and Don Sweeney had witnessed some of the recent AHL playoff games where Fraser posted three goals and five points in five games for the P-Bruins, so the B’s front office group knew they were recruiting a bit of a hot hand.
“We have always liked his skating abilities, his shooting abilities and his skill level is good. As I mentioned before, he has gotten back there and worked hard and his return, what I was told, is that he has been playing well in the playoffs for Providence,” said Julien. “This was an opportunity for him to come in and help us out and that’s what he did. This is a guy that if you give him the opportunity he can certainly put the puck in the net.
“He’s gotten stronger and he’s played a bigger game than he had in the past, and those are the improvements you look for in young players. He just had to improve in certain areas and when those guys do that, they see the results and they see what it can do for them. He seemed poised out there, and he made some good strong plays throughout the whole game.”
One day after burying the biggest goal of his professional hockey life and announcing his authority in these Stanley Cup playoffs, Fraser was still coming down from a high that included tales of his adventures with Froyo at Chipotle. But it’s clear the youngster wants to start establishing himself as an NHL left winger with the kind of deadly shot and release that will generate bushels and bushels of goals. That’s no easy task during the playoffs, but it’s clear the former Dallas Stars winger is peaking after a 20-goal AHL season in Providence.
“You never think it will happen to you. It was great plays by everybody else out on the ice, and I was just the beneficiary of it,” said Fraser. “I was sitting there in the weeds, if you want to call it that. He’s such a big goalie that you have to take advantage of it when you have those chances.
“Now it’s a day later, and it’s back to business for tomorrow. Everyone is so good here, and everybody here buys in. This is a team that’s built for the playoffs. The biggest thing is that you just don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. You want to be a guy that can contribute every night, so the coaches know you’ll bring something if you’re in the lineup.”
It may not quite be a one hit wonder for Fraser, but he’ll definitely get the chance to play again in Game 5 against the Bruins.