Boston Bruins: Why Brian Rolston Can Be a Difference-Maker in the Playoffs

Al DanielCorrespondent IIApril 4, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 19:  Brian Rolston #12 of the Boston Bruins hands a fan his stick after being named first star of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs  at the TD Garden on March 19, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 8-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Not counting the long-injured Nathan Horton and Marc Savard, the average age among Boston Bruins forwards was precisely 26 years on the morning of Monday, Feb. 27.

By the time the NHL trading deadline passed by that afternoon, the median age of Boston’s strike force had swollen by a full year to 27 with the addition of Brian Rolston.

As negligible as that might sound, the 39-year-old Rolston is five years older than the Bruins’ now second-oldest forward, Shawn Thornton, and eight years more mature than Chris Kelly.

Thornton and Kelly likewise are the only Bruins forwards to trail Rolston in terms of career playoff appearances. Among the Boston roster as a whole, Rolston’s 70 Stanley Cup twirls are exceeded only by the 33-year-old Andrew Ference (99) and team captain Zdeno Chara (100).

With that much seasoning, the rationale behind acquiring Rolston ought to be fairly self-explanatory. Although the majority of his mates have experienced the playoffs more recently than he has, he still possesses one of the group’s greater abundances of postseason action.

And the way firsthand participants and learned observers talk about the unique intensity of an NHL playoff tilt, the understanding of what success on that stage requires is one of those things that cannot wear off. It can only be reinforced with every additional ounce of involvement.

The Bruins benefited in this regard from the presence and production of Mark Recchi in each of their previous three springs. Rolston might not make the exact same impact, especially if he is playing on the third line whereas Recchi was an established top-sixer, but there will be no cause for him to be invisible.

With this being the homestretch, Rolston and the Bruins have come as close as they can to simulating the playoff grind. The team’s newest and eldest player has hardly been a non-factor as they have recovered from a slump in time to salvage and, as of Sunday night’s win over the New York Rangers, secure their bid for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Already, since coming back to the franchise for a second term, Rolston has played the equivalent of nearly three full playoff rounds. In those 20 games, which started with an eight-game acclimation period, he has tallied 11 assists and 14 total points.

Rolston broke out of his cold spell with a goal and an assist on the final night of Boston’s lengthy lull, a 6-2 loss March 15 in Florida.

Since then, perhaps not so coincidentally, he has tacked on another 11 points while the team has gone 7-2-1. The Bruins were 5-1-1 amidst his recent seven-game production streak.

And for what it’s worth, while Boston is again making “man-advantage” a misnomer most nights, Rolston has had a hand in three of their last five power-play goals.

This was somebody who could only muster a 4-5-9 log and one power-play assist in 49 games with the Islanders prior to the late-February trade, the league’s fourth-to-worst offense entering Wednesday night’s action.

With the Bruins, the third-most potent strike force in the NHL, Rolston has exceeded his overall output and tripled his special teams' production in less than half the time.

The two parties in question have plainly reaped symbiotic rewards of late. Look for that to carry on for the remainder of this month and possibly into May and June.