Jaromir Jagr is making the kind of impact offensively that the Boston Bruins hoped he would when general manager Peter Chiarelli acquired the future Hall of Famer in a deal involving two prospects and a draft pick on April 2.
The 41-year-old winger has made a smooth transition to the Bruins' lineup in the short time he's been with the team, while also looking comfortable in any type of situation, whether he's playing in a top-six role, at even strength or on the power play.
Through his first nine games with the team, Jagr has tallied eight points (two goals, six assists), giving him a total of 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 43 games this season (34 games played with Dallas Stars).
On his first shift of Sunday's game against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden, Jagr opened the scoring with a beautiful wrist shot that beat young goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who said after the game, "It was a good shot. [Jagr] is a good hockey player."
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Jagr postgame on tying Phil Esposito for NHL record for GWG (118) w/ today's game-winner: "very good accomplishment that’s for sure..."^CS4/21/2013, 9:38:56 PM
Sunday's victory was one of Jagr's finest performances with the Bruins. He was creating scoring chances with his passing skills, while also playing a physical game and drawing penalties.
Since Jagr arrived to Boston, the team's power play has improved from a disaster to a mediocre 15.2 percent success rate, which ranks 23rd among all NHL teams. The Bruins have scored three power-play goals in their last five games, which is something they did just once this season prior to the acquisition of Jagr.
For a team that is struggling so much offensively right now (averaging two goals scored in its last five games), consistency is needed from all of the Bruins' top-six forwards going into the playoffs. Jagr has been one of the Bruins' most consistent players since joining the lineup with points in six of his nine games wearing the spoked-B.
Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have combined for only three goals in the Bruins' 11 games in the month of April, which has forced the Boston's defense and starting goaltender Tuukka Rask to be nearly flawless on a nightly basis for the team to win games. Without Jagr's consistent offensive production, the Bruins would not be atop the Northeast Division right now.
The veteran winger also brings a level of versatility that has benefited the Bruins. The team's struggles offensively have forced head coach Claude Julien to shuffle his lines quite a bit over the last few weeks, and it really helps to have a veteran like Jagr who's capable of excelling on any line with all different kinds of teammates.
Jagr has played with at least eight players for the Bruins, and has been put on all three of the team's top three lines at some point.
On Sunday, he played right wing on the third line with newly-acquired forward Carl Soderberg at center and Chris Kelly on the other wing. This trio performed pretty well together when you consider the fact that neither of them had ever played on the same line and Kelly was out of position.
"It’s always nice when you can score on the first shift," Kelly said. "It feels good, and that was a great shot by Jags [Jaromir Jagr]. I think it was something that we could build on for the rest of the game. And we had some pretty good offensive time, controlled the play, and we weren’t in our own end too much. It was good."
In addition to his playmaking skills and impressive goal-scoring ability, Jagr also gives the Bruins a reliable puck-handler.
The Czech's strength makes it very difficult for opponents to take the puck from him, while his presence in the attacking zone also gives his teammates more room on the ice because opposing defensemen have to make sure Jagr is accounted for at all times.
"When he’s on the ice and he has the puck, you’ve got to have two or three guys on him and you can’t put one guy on him, he’ll make a great play and in doing that he seems to be able to draw everyone to watch him and we kind of move around and get open," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand last week.
"He’s not a guy that you really have to support, he’s so big and strong that he can out battle one or two guys and there definitely is a little more space out there."
Any concerns fans had about Jagr when the Bruins acquired him should not be an issue as the team begins a difficult stretch of four games in seven days before the playoffs begin at the end of the month.
The experience, goal scoring and creativity that Jagr brings to the ice on each shift will be an important part of the Bruins' success offensively during the playoffs. As a two-time Stanley Cup champion, the veteran forward understands what it takes to win in the postseason.
"He’s a very special player," said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. "I grew up watching him, and he’s still very impressive on the ice, even at 41, so I’m very happy for him, and he’s been helping us since he got here."
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand or from Bruins media website.
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