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Kuhlman Provides a Spark

Rookie winger becomes 21st different Bruin to score this postseason

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BEDFORD, Mass. - All season long, the Bruins have relied upon contributions from up and down the roster. It is that depth that is one of the main reasons why they've made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
And there's one stat that displays the length of Boston's lineup better than any.

Rookie winger Karson Kuhlman, making his Stanley Cup Final debut in Game 6 on Sunday night, scored Boston's third goal in the 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues, making him the 21st different Bruins to score at least once this postseason. That tied an NHL record, set previously by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers.

"That was a big one for sure. It was awesome," Kuhlman said of his third-period tally. "Came into the game and just wanted to play my game and contribute to the game. Was fortunate to see one go into the net."

The ability of Kuhlman to contribute after not having played in over month was an impressive exhibition of the depth the Bruins have compiled over the course of the season. In search of some added speed and skill, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy opted to call upon the 23-year-old despite the long layoff.

"For a first-year player, he's very mature, responsible, great work habits, good pro," said Cassidy. "Coming into this situation, I think you've got to give him a lot of credit for how he's prepared over the last month. The coaches have been working with him to keep him on top of it…he has played for us, he knows our systems.

"He went in with [David] Krejci and [Jake] DeBrusk who he played a lot of games with, so there was that comfort level. He won last year in college, I think that helps…I'm not surprised."

Video: BOS@STL, Gm6: Kuhlman buries first playoff goal

An undrafted free agent signed by the Bruins out of the University of Minnesota Duluth last April, Kuhlman made his NHL debut in February and played 11 games for the Black & Gold. He acquitted himself well, tallying three goals and two assists while playing mostly alongside Krejci and DeBrusk.

Kuhlman's strong play down the stretch earned him a spot on the roster for the postseason, during which he suited up for five of the seven games in the first round against Toronto. The Minnesota native, however, had played just once since then (Game 3 against Columbus).

"Just took it day by day," Kuhlman said upon the Bruins' return to Boston on Monday afternoon. "Stayed physically and mentally ready. I was kind of preparing like I was playing the game even if I wasn't gonna be in. That made the routine [on Sunday] pretty easy."

Cassidy pointed to Kuhlman's maturity and winning resume (he captained UMD to a National Championship in 2018 and was named the tournament MVP) as further reasons why he was confident in making the lineup tweak.

"You can't replicate this environment, but I think he understands a bit about not getting ahead of himself, just play…he was good for us," said Cassidy. "It's not an easy decision taking him out [earlier in the playoffs]. We went that way against Toronto, won Game 6 and 7, went back against a physical Columbus team. Happened to work out [on Sunday night], he was a good add."

Taking the place of David Backes alongside Krejci and DeBrusk, Kuhlman used his "high motor," as Cassidy calls it, to get in on the forecheck and create space for his linemates.

"Give them credit, they've got big, lengthy guys," said Kuhlman. "At the end of the day, you've just got to work a little bit harder to win a few battles and move the puck a little bit more to find some space in the O-zone.

"I think we did a good job of taming the emotions after the first shift or so and just getting back to what we do well and playing our game. We were fortunate to see a couple pucks go in too."

Video: Kuhlman discusses big Game 6 performance

One of those pucks came off the stick of Kuhlman midway through the third period. Krejci picked up a loose puck off a St. Louis turnover at the Blues' blue line, before dishing a delicate backhand feed to Kuhlman at the tops of the circles.

Kuhlman took the pass and ripped a wrister bar-down over the right shoulder of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington to give Boston a 3-0 lead with 9:45 to go.

"I knew that he kind of slid over and challenged me a little bit more on that side," said Kuhlman. "I was just trying to get it off quickly and to that side of the net and ended up putting it kind of exactly where I wanted it.

"Kuhly can make some plays as well," added Cassidy. "That shot, he's sneaky with his wrister. He scored a couple times, that righty across the body. I don't want to give away state secrets here, but he does have that shot. Most righties want to go glove side and he's able to find the blocker side."

After picking up two assists across six previous playoff games, the marker was his first career postseason goal.

"He was good [on Sunday night], he was fast," said DeBrusk. "He's been practicing hard with us for a good amount of time…very eager to get back in there and for a young guy like that, especially, his first game of the Final, coming into Game 6, it's not easy to do.

"Just tried to talk to him and I think we read off each other well. He's good on the forecheck. It was a snipe, obviously a big goal for us at the time. Happy to see him contribute."

And it's likely Kuhlman has earned his right to contribute once again on Wednesday night as the Bruins aim to capture their seventh Stanley Cup title.

"Those are the types of people that you want in the locker room and that we've had in the locker room for a long time," said Torey Krug. "He's another guy that's stepped in, put the Bruins sweater on, and showed up in a big moment…we're all comfortable with whoever steps into the lineup and he brought it."

Video: Kuhlman scores in Final debut

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