MONTREAL – It’s not often a former Bruins fan switches allegiances for the Habs, but that was the story behind Brian Flynn in 2015.
|Flynn grew up close to Boston, in nearby Lynnfield, MA.
A native of Lynnfield, MA, just a 40-minute drive from nearby Boston, Flynn – like so many others from the New England region – was raised by a family of Bruins fans. But the 26-year-old forward had no problem shedding his black-and-gold roots upon arrival in Montreal this spring.
“I’m not going to lie; I grew up watching a lot of Bruins games and going to Bruins games. It’s kind of a regional thing – depending where you grew up I think everyone does that – but not anymore,” admitted the former University of Maine product, who was acquired by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin from the Buffalo Sabres at the 2015 NHL trade deadline. “Once you become a pro you don’t really have a team you’re a fan of. You’re a fan of the team you’re playing for and you want to win. I was excited to come to this organization; I knew what it meant to put this jersey on.”
A restricted free agent as of July 1, the former NCAA All-Star would love to don the iconic jersey again next season, and not just to finally get the chance to partake in one of the legendary Montreal-Boston duels he grew up watching.
Although the added perk certainly doesn’t hurt.
Just as the Canadiens can be counted on to play some of their best hockey against the Bruins, the same can be said about Flynn, who has registered 40 percent of his career multi-point games to date against the longtime Original Six rival.
That’s a trend the American forward would like to build on with the Habs as he vies for not just a new contract this summer, but also a bigger role on the ice this fall.
“I feel like I bring some speed and I can skate well. I know the Habs are a very good skating team and hopefully I can fit in that,” professed the six-foot-one winger who was utilized primarily on the fourth line in Montreal, alongside former Sabres teammate, Torrey Mitchell. “I’m someone who competes every night and brings a consistent work ethic as a reliable, honest, two-way guy.”
Since signing in Buffalo as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Flynn has quietly established himself as a solid depth player who can also contribute on offense, enjoying his most productive season to date in Western New York – registering 17 points over 54 games with the Sabres – before arriving in Montreal on March 2.
But while Bergevin knew what he was getting in Flynn when he sent the team’s fifth-round draft pick in 2016 to Buffalo, Flynn for his part also had a pretty good idea of what to expect from La Belle Province.
“It’s the biggest hockey market. I knew that coming in, and I think that makes it more exciting. [Brian] Gionta and [Josh] Gorges had nothing but good things to say about everyone in the organization,” recalled Flynn, who spent six months playing with the former Canadiens captain and assistant captain following their offseason move to Buffalo in 2014. “They said there’s a lot of chemistry on the team and thought I’d fit in well. I think that gave me a bit of confidence and made the transition easier.”
Although the grinding forward ultimately dressed for just nine regular season games with the Canadiens down the stretch, he notably spent time on the penalty kill while also boosting his efficiency in the faceoff circle to 51 percent with the Habs, up from 48 percent in Buffalo.
“I pride myself on being a good solid two-way guy who you can count on to put out in the defensive zone, killing penalties late in games and things like that,” he described. “That’s when you want to be on the ice. I’ve tried to make that a big part of my game and I think it’s still getting better.”
Fittingly, the third-year NHLer saved his best with the Habs for when it mattered most.
|Flynn scored the game-winner in his playoff debut against Ottawa. |
Making his first career playoff appearance with the Canadiens in mid-April, Flynn would go on to score the deciding goal in Montreal’s series-opening win against the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s obviously one of the highlights, if not the highlight [of my career]. Playoff hockey is just a different animal than the regular season,” acknowledged Game 1’s first star, who also picked up a pair of assists in his three-point playoff debut. “I knew what to expect. I’ve watched the playoffs and played some games here in the past. A Saturday night game – Hockey Night In Canada – those are the kind of games on the schedule you look forward to. I knew it would reach another level in the playoffs but now having experienced it, I can say it’s much more intense.”
The change of scenery was indeed night-and-day for the playoff first-timer, who went from a Buffalo team in contention for the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to a Montreal team competing for first place in the NHL overnight.
“You walk around the streets here and every other person seems to have a jersey on. You really feel it in the crowd when you step out on the ice and see those towels going,” dished Flynn, who won eight of his 12 postseason draws. “Even from your stall before the game, you can hear the ‘Olé’ chants going on, so it’s definitely more intense but also more fun.”
If the question now becomes whether the good times will keep rolling for Flynn in 2015-16 – albeit with the team some of his friends still cheer against – the answer is clear.
“I want to win, that’s the bottom line. I’ll do whatever’s asked of me happily if it will help this team.”
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
Flynn scores Game 1 winner vs. Ottawa
In perfect health
Doing it all
A season to remember