BOSTON (CBS) — When the Bruins acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr earlier this week, he was dubbed by those who know him as a “changed man.” Long gone were the days of his flowing locks, fights with coaches and offensive-only style of play that we all came to know in the ’90s and earlier this decade, replaced by a veteran who works harder than anyone else and does all the little things on the ice and off to set an example for his teammates.
Though it was just one game, Jagr pretty much lived up to all of those expectations in his Bruins debut.
The 41-year-old Jagr logged more than 19 minutes of ice time and scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Boston shutout against New Jersey. The goal — Jagr’s 680th, if you’re keeping track — won’t end up on any highlight reels when Jagr eventually hangs up his skates for good, as it was a result of a Brad Marchand pass deflecting off his skate and past Martin Brodeur 1:20 into the second period. Still, Jagr had already made a couple of plays in the dirty area in front of the net in the first period, and scoring a goal the hard way is indicative of the type of attitude and effort he brought to Boston.
“His goal was something that we like to see, and it’s called net drive,” head coach Claude Julien said after the win. “It doesn’t have to be a highlight goal, but he was heading to the net and he wasn’t going to get pushed to the side, and it went off his skate and in. So that’s a good example for the rest of the younger guys to take from a guy who’s still doing it at that age.”
Jagr said he doesn’t ever recall scoring a goal off his leg, but he also said it’s not the type of goal he would have ever been in position to score earlier in his career.
“They always said you gotta drive to the net, and now I understand why they were saying that,” Jagr said in a massive media scrum around his new locker stall. “I never liked to drive to the net. … If I knew it when I was 20, I would have 100 more goals by now.”
“When I was 25, I wouldn’t like that goal” he added of his 15th of the season. “But at 41, I’ll take anything right now.”
Of course, in a 1-0 game, it takes more than just the efforts of the goal scorer to secure a victory … particularly when the winning team allows 40 shots against a desperate opponent fighting to hang on to a playoff spot. And Thursday night’s victory was very much a complete team effort by Boston, including a season-high 40 saves for Tuukka Rask, a bruising 25 hits delivered (Zdeno Chara was credited with a team-high four hits), 13 blocked shots (Chara also led the team with four), one giant upper-lip gash for Johnny Boychuk and steady energy from all four lines (newcomer Kaspars Daugavins and Jay Pandolfo were the only skaters with fewer than 10 minutes on the ice).
So the win was most certainly not all generated by Jagr’s goal, and he was actually particularly hard on himself for the way he played.
“I told them I gotta get better. I felt bad for them, they had to play with me,” Jagr said of his new linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. “I gotta get better for sure. I have to be better so it’s easier for them next game.”
He blamed his self-described poor play on his whirlwind week, saying he’s never been traded in the middle of a season before and he hasn’t slept much the past two nights. But if he can log that kind of ice time — including a full two minutes on the B’s lone power play — when he’s exhausted and score the game-winning goal without being a defensive liability when he hasn’t practiced with the team, Julien and the Bruins have to like what they’ll get out of him the rest of the way.
“This is not an All-Star Game, where guys just meet and play one game,” Jagr said. “This is very tough, you play against teams that are fighting for the playoffs. It’s not easy — I don’t know those guys, and they don’t know me or how I play. We had some chances but I believe it’s going to get better and better.”
His debut performance lived up to all the selling points that were made earlier in the week, and if his first 60 minutes in a Bruins sweater are any indication, he’s going to fit right in.