By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For as long as he has been the president of the team, Cam Neely has repeated time and time again what he looks for in a Boston Bruins hockey player. He wants them to be “hard to play against.”READ MORE: Robert Gentile, The Man The FBI Believed Knew About The Gardner Museum Theft, Has Died
It’s not a definable term, per se, and there aren’t necessarily statistics or analytics that can identify players that fit that billing.
Nine games into this 2021 season, though, Trent Frederic appears to fulfill that description.
The 22-year-old forward has shown it plenty of times already this season, notably chirping P.K. Subban and getting the veteran D-man to take an unwise penalty during a game in New Jersey.
Frederic hasn’t been hesitant to get his nose dirty throughout the year, and it showed up in a big way on Monday night when he stepped up to fight Tom Wilson in Washington.
This one came directly off a neutral zone draw in front of the Boston bench. With the Bruins trailing 3-2 in the middle of the third period in a game during which they had trailed 3-0, the tussle came at a critical juncture.
The fight had no decisive winner, but Frederic more than held his own against the NHL heavyweight.
Now, what took place after that — three consecutive goals, which made it five unanswered for Boston in the 5-3 win — wasn’t exactly a direct result of Frederic’s scrap. But head coach Bruce Cassidy said it was certainly no coincidence.READ MORE: FDA Authorizes Booster Dose Of Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine For People 65 And Older
“Our D was a little more active, and Freddy woke us up a little bit,” Cassidy said of the offensive surge.
As Frederic served his five-minute major penalty, he said he felt like “just a huge Bruins fan” while watching Craig Smith and Brandon Carlo score goals a little more than four minutes apart to give Boston a 4-3 lead.
“In the box, I was like a little kid in there, jumping around when we scored. It felt good to be able to watch that,” Frederic said. “It was fun to watch that.”
The goal scorers themselves credited Frederic for the emotional spark.
“To go up against that guy is not an easy task, and Freddy’s just fearless in that regard. He really got that whole thing jump-started with the comeback,” said Carlo. “I think he’s a big part of the reason why we won tonight.”
“That’s a tough job to do, and he can certainly handle himself. It’s impressive, too, because he’s got other attributes to his game that are valuable too,” Smith said. “So when he can jump in and do that, it fires our bench right up. He plays with no fear, and that’s a big part of our game.”
Of course, as is always the case in such matters, there are no objective measures that can tie the goal-scoring surge to the emotional boost that comes from a fight like that in such a moment. Yet when the players and coaches involved lend such credence to the impact, it is a noteworthy factor.
“I think Freddy had a lot to do with it,” Cassidy said of the comeback. “I think the scrap with Wilson kind of got everyone’s attention on the bench. That’s arguably the toughest guy in the National Hockey League — Zee [Chara] would be next too, obviously. And Freddy stood in there and gave us a bit of a boost. I don’t know what it does to their team, but I know it gives us a boost.”
Cassidy added: “He’s recognizing what he’s gotta do to spark us. … He needs to bring the assertiveness, the abrasiveness. He’s drawn penalties, he’s annoyed people. It’s just part of the game that some of the intangibles that certain players bring. We wanted to be heavier this year. … We’re trying to build our club where we’re a little bit more abrasive while still having the speed and skill. So that’s good for Freddy, it’s something that if he can bring when it’s needed, without being a goof and taking bad penalties, undisciplined penalties, then we’re going to relish that. And tonight was perfect timing.”MORE NEWS: Delayed But Longer Fall Foliage Season Expected In New England
Again, the stat sheet won’t always jibe with emotional surges. And that’s OK. For the time being, the Bruins know that Trent Frederic is fast garnering a reputation as a player that opponents do not enjoy seeing on a regular basis.