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Trotman Ready to Use GWG as Momentum to Push Forward

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

WILMINGTON — One day later, the excitement had not yet faded, even though Zach Trotman tried his best to stave it off.

“I mean, it was pretty cool last night — I had a little trouble going to sleep — but it’s one goal,” he said, “and you’ve got to put it past you and move forward and now start working toward Saturday.”

Of course, when your first NHL goal is the game-winner in the final two minutes of a must-win game against Detroit, and you score it front of about 30 family and friends, moving past it is easier said than done.

“[There were] a lot of nice things about it,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said at Ristuccia Arena on Friday afternoon. “Obviously for him, for his first goal, his first goal being a [game-]winner, where he’s from… I think there was a lot of good things about that for a guy to score his first goal. It was a real important one for him and our team, and it was obviously in the right place.”

Trotman’s game-winner lifted the Bruins over the Red Wings 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night to cap off a three-goal third period comeback. With the victory, Boston pulled even with Detroit for third place in the Atlantic Division, though Detroit does have a game in hand.

At a time of the season when points are at their most critical, the two that Trotman helped deliver to the Bruins could not have been more significant — especially given the way the game had progressed over the first 45 minutes.

“It says a lot about the team — you get down two goals, and…everyone kind of turns it up a notch,” Trotman said. “We gave a lot of pushback and [had] a lot of perseverance to come back and win in that game.”

The aftermath of the goal was special — obviously. Trotman was flooded with congratulatory text messages. He held onto the puck that evaded Detroit’s Petr Mrazek, and eventually, he said, it will find its way into a trophy case in his dad’s Indiana home.

“It was special,” Trotman said. “It was something I won’t forget, and obviously it’s big for us moving forward.”

Though Thursday night’s goal will probably stand as the highlight of Trotman’s 2014-15 season, it does not define his season. There have been ups and downs, but from October until now, Trotman, in the midst of his second professional season, has grown into a bona fide NHL defenseman.

Trotman spent two lengthy stints with the Bruins earlier this season — one from mid-October to mid-November, coinciding with a knee injury that sidelined Zdeno Chara — and another that lasted from the end of November until the beginning of January.

There were growing pains, as there are with any young defenseman feeling his way around the NHL. There were nights he had to watch from press level. There was glory, but there were also mistakes.

When there have been injuries to Boston’s defensive corps, though, one thing has remained constant: Trotman has been reliable. Julien has been confident, with every recall, that Trotman can deliver when called upon. Over the course of 23 NHL games this season, the 24-year-old defenseman has grown, he has continued to get better, and he has continued to reward the coaching staff for slotting him into critical roles — including his present role as Chara’s partner.

“I just feel he moves the puck well. He sees the ice well. He makes that good first pass, and that’s been a real good thing that we’ve seen from him,” Julien said. “He’s also big and strong, and he doesn’t necessarily give you the crunching checks, but he’ll go in there and use his strength in the corners to battle, so he’s coming around.”

Since being recalled on March 22, following an undisclosed injury to Dougie Hamilton, Trotman has offered some much-needed stability to a defensive corps that is also missing Kevan Miller.

Looking back to his first lengthy recall of the season that began back on Oct. 24, Trotman, just like Julien, has seen himself grow. Some of his most significant areas of improvement lie in the minutia, but when you’re talking about fine-tuning your game, nothing is more important than the smallest details.

“Just [my] positioning [has improved], and I think a lot of it’s confidence — [learning] tendencies, and where everyone else is going to be, when to jump and close, when you kind of need to hold the net front,” he said. “Really, really small things, but it’s all mental, and it’s a huge part of the game.”

Part of Trotman’s recent uptick, however, is just as much about intangibles — or one intangible in particular — as it is about honing his on-ice skills.

“The confidence is a big part of this game,” Julien said. “You come to this league, and at first, might be a little bit intimidated, either by the players or by the speed. Then you start getting a little bit more comfortable, and then you start showcasing how good you can be in this league, and I think right now, he’s got a lot of confidence going his way.”

A game-winner in crunch time down the stretch will do that for a player.

“I’ve just been trying to play my game and keep it simple,” Trotman said. “What they ask of me is be a simple, strong, first-option defenseman, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Playing with guys like Zee and any of these defensemen, it helps. It helps tremendously.

“So I’ve just been trying to look at what those guys do, and learn from them, and try to keep it simple and strong.”

Confidence is big for Julien. He frequently lauds players who show stability under pressure, who don’t get rattled when they make mistakes, who can shake off an error and exercise a short-term memory on the very next shift.

It’s no surprise, then, that a player like Trotman is one Julien feels comfortable deploying, particularly at this time of year, when mistakes must be limited and, above all else, cannot snowball.

“He’s always done a good job when he’s been up with us, as far as moving the puck and that kind of stuff,” Julien said. “There were some areas earlier in the season when we had him that he struggled a little bit, but like I said, he just seems to be getting more and more confidence. The situation we’re in right now, with missing some of those right D’s — with Miller and now Hamilton — you’ve got to put a little bit more trust in him.”

Over the last six months, Trotman has learned a lot. He has learned to use his size to his advantage, he has learned to keep things simple and he has learned what it takes to become a mainstay in this league.

Over the course of the last two weeks, he has learned plenty about what it takes for a team to push its way into a playoff race, to sustain the kind of desperation that becomes critical at this time of year, to want it more than the team on the other bench.

“We’re definitely not comfortable,” Trotman said. “We’re not relaxed, but it’s a good mindset, and I think everyone’s on board to move forward here and to really push for not just a playoff spot, but hopefully we can move up [the standings].”

And on Thursday night, he learned how to be the hero.

“It’s exciting,” Trotman said. “Obviously we’ve done a really good job, so it’s cool to be a part of something special, and hopefully we can continue that.”

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