BostonBruins.com – Sitting in the press box for nearly the entire postseason, watching your teammates battle for the Stanley Cup can’t be easy. But the healthy scratches, and often for teams the 'Black Aces' or taxi squad from their minor league team, have to be ready for anything.
When Bruins Merlot Line center Gregory Campbell was lost for the remainder of the postseason with a broken right fibula, after blocking an Evgeni Malkin slap shot in Game Three against Pittsburgh, a spot in the lineup opened up. The Bruins had multiple candidate to fill the spot, but B’s Head Coach Claude Julien called upon Kaspars Daugavins to step in for Game Four.
Daugavins, claimed off of waivers from the Ottawa Senators on March 27, played six games for the B’s during the regular season, notching one assist – against his former team in the season finale.
The 25-year-old suited up for just one game in the playoffs – Game One against Toronto – before Game Four against Pittsburgh. But in the series-clinching game, the Latvia native didn’t disappoint.
Though he only played 6:46, Daugavins made an impact. The winger, who played alongside Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin, fit in seamlessly to the pace, firing two shots on goal and ringing another off the post early in the second period.
“I think he played a pretty good game for a guy who has been out for probably somewhere around a month,” said Julien after the B’s captured a spot in their second Stanley Cup Final in three years. “We know that the playoffs have a different intensity and everything else. For him just to step in there, when I say cold – four weeks without being in a game situation – he played a strong game. Strong along the walls, hit the post.
“Personally you're hoping he would get that goal because it would be a big boost for your team and for himself. I think he answered the call extremely well. I thought he played a solid game for us.”
The ability to play all four lines is one of the calling cards of the Black & Gold, and one of the reasons B’s General Manager Peter Chiarelli made the claim on Daugavins. Chiarelli, who always liked Daugavins’ game, knew the winger could provide depth, and with his youth and contractual status, it made the pickup a no-brainer.
“He’s got that puck possession mentality, puck protection mentality,” said Chiarelli. “He’s got some skill on the puck. We had, as we do with all our player decisions, we had a discussion. And we just felt, I felt, that I didn't know what we could do in the trade deadline. It was a really tight, tight market, and we had to get some depth. I liked him, he was a great contractual status. He’s young still, and I like the way that he played.
“His game [Friday] night, I thought, was really good for the time he was on. He likes to take the puck to the net. That was a terrific move protecting the puck with his right hip. That was a terrific move and hit the post, and he had another couple of shots and good cycle, good defensive plays. So he played well.”
While rust is always a possibility for a player who hasn’t seen game action for over a month, there is also the potential benefit of having fresher legs. In Game Four, the jump in Daugavins’ step was evident each time he hit the ice.
“I felt good,” he said. “I had a lot of energy at the start. I didn’t play that much, but every time I got out there I enjoyed every second of it. I tried to keep it simple because I hadn’t played in a while and it worked. Get pucks deep and try to start a cycle and back check, it worked well.
“It’s one of your opportunities in your career and I’m at the start of my career so I wanted to show that I can play in this league and in the playoffs, too.
“You have to be 100% ready because those opportunities might never come back if you don’t use it.”
The Bruins' depth has been a well-publicized strength. Teams that are deep not only in their 12-forward lineup, but also down the line and at the American Hockey League level, are the teams you see having success. That applies to the back end as well.
"We've always said we've got depth on this team," Coach Julien had said prior the Game Four, with Campbell out of the lineup. "We showed it when injuries crept up on defense. Now we've got an injury up front. [Daugavins is] going to have to step in and do his job."
Though the entire team needs to step up when injuries arise, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug can all be counted as blueliners who came in and made a significant impact in the series against the New York Rangers, with Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden all sidelined.
They all played their roles - and now it's Daugavins' turn as well.