By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
WILMINGTON – Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes is big, but it doesn’t seem like he has much bad in him.READ MORE: Mother Mourns Loss Of Lowell Murder Victim Dejah Jenkins-Minus: 'I'm Hurt, I'm Numb'
And that seems to be all right as long as he’s using his savvy, in addition to brute strength, to dominate around the opposition’s net and score goals.
So far, Hayes’ brand of power-forward play has worked. He has three goals and five assists for eight points in the Bruins’ eight games. Most of his offensive work has happened within breathing distance of the crease.
Although the 6-foot-6 right wing has produced goals, he hasn’t been burying bodies in the ice or the glass. He has no penalty minutes through those eight games. Hayes’ style is physicality within the rules.
“You’ve got to just kind of factor it all in,” Hayes said after practice Thursday at Ristuccia Arena. “You’ve got to bring it all to the table every night. I don’t necessarily think running around hammering guys is my game. But being physical and being around the net and establishing yourself as being tough to play against. Being tough to play against doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to run over guys. You have to be in their face and all over them all night.”
Hayes, who’s third among Bruins forwards with 15 hits, can check and bang with the best of them. But it seems what he does best is get to the areas where the defenders don’t expect him to be, but where the puck will probably head. He doesn’t get too close to the goal in preparation for a rebound. He can glide backwards or charge forward depending on the situation. He has only played one game with center Ryan Spooner and left wing Matt Beleskey, but Hayes seemed like the perfect fit with that duo in the 6-0 rout of Arizona.READ MORE: Brad Marchand, Linus Ullmark Carry Bruins Past Canucks 3-2
“You just put yourself in the right position,” he explained. “When my teammates don’t have the puck, I’m not necessarily looking to line up the next hit, I’m looking to get open and find that soft spot in the defense.”
Hayes’ ability to be a haul for the opposition to handle might make him a fit down the road for the right side of the Loui Eriksson-David Krejci combo. Like Hayes, Eriksson has perfected the subtleties of getting to the net and winning battles in the corners without crunching the bones of the opposition. For now coach Claude Julien seems content with his lines, but adding Hayes to Krejci and Eriksson might be something we’ll see the next time Boston’s offense slumps.
Last season Hayes had just 20 PIM to go with his 19 goals in 72 games for the Panthers. So his gentlemanly trend may continue. Surely if he keeps scoring at his current pace, someone’s going to challenge him physically. At some point a villain is going to try to push his buttons and get him off his game. That’s when Hayes will have to prove he can handle himself, in a fight or maybe just in a scrum. Perhaps he’ll answer another player’s physicality with a big offensive or defensive play. That will be a test for down the road.
For now, Hayes can continue to prove that his big body works well in small areas and he can get away without even coming close to an infraction. He’ll get to prove himself to the team that traded him, the Florida Panthers, Friday night in the Bruins’ first of two games in the Sunshine State.
“Yeah, it’s always fun to go play a team that you used to play for,” said Hayes, who was acquired for Reilly Smith in a summertime trade. “I experienced it with Chicago and I’ll experience it with Florida. I’ve got a lot of buddies on that team, a lot of close friends. But it’s a game, and it’s a big game for us, especially. They’re ahead of us, we’re chasing them, so we’ve got to gain some ground on them and establish ourselves in the playoff picture.”
Hayes also has no hard feelings toward the Panthers because they traded him to his hometown. He grew up dreaming about becoming a “big, bad Bruin” and now he’s transforming what that term means by scoring big goals in close without bashing in heads.MORE NEWS: Celtics Beat Short-Handed Raptors For 4th Win In 6 Games
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.