There is so much “golly-gee, shucks” in Matt Fraser that it’s hard not to develop an instant affinity for the kid, even if he didn’t accomplish what he did Thursday night in Montreal.
Let the stat sheet show that Fraser, Peter Chiarelli’s shiny, new toy that he can peacock around the office, now has more postseason goals this spring than David Krejci and Brad Marchand combined, despite having played in his first-ever NHL playoff game Thursday night. It took only a little over a minute into overtime of a tense, scoreless showdown against the Canadiens for Fraser to become the first player to score overtime goals in both the NHL and AHL playoffs in the same year, and also the second player this season to score his first career playoff goal, squeezing one past Carey Price in Boston’s 1-0 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he also became only the sixth player in the past 75 years to score his first playoff goal in overtime.
“Words can’t even describe that feeling,” Fraser said. “I don’t even want to begin to try to explain that. It’s something I wish every kid could feel. I wish I could remember it; it just happened like a blur. The puck got to the net and it was bobbling in front. I just tried to sniff it out and whack it in.”
After the game, the 23-year-old Fraser was justifiably bubbled with excitement, hoping that his Dad liked “that one,” and confiding in NBC’s Pierre McGuire that he had had a little frozen yogurt after getting the call from the Bruins on Wednesday.
“I had just finished eating lunch, and I didn’t really tell anyone, but I had some frozen yogurt, so I’ve been working that off today,” he said.
Poor kid’s guilt must have been a burden all day.
Maybe it’s not the best comparison in the world, but to hear a kid speak with such simplicity amidst the greatest moment of his professional carer, only to flip to the glitz, commercialism, and obnoxious pomposity of the NFL Draft just down the dial, presented a certain dichotomy. On the night Johnny Manziel fell, Fraser elevated into the hearts of Bruins fans, many of whom simply knew him as “one of the guys” in last summer’s trade of Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars.
So, thank you….Seguin?
While the Stars forward is back home, doing only God knows what with his summer and crushing it with his bros (I’m surprised the Esquire Network didn’t ask Seguin to be a part of its putrid reality series “Lucky Bastards”), after Dallas was eliminated, Fraser was on a line with Carl Soderberg and fellow Dallas import Loui Eriksson, a unit that was Boston’s most consistent the bulk of the evening against the continually-frustrating Habs. So it is indeed fitting that they would ultimately take care of business.
If the Seguin deal meant securing an overtime, playoff win against the Canadiens, then that’s that then, right? Chiarelli is a genius and we can no longer question the logic of surrendering on one of the game’s elite talents after only three years.
Maybe. Possibly. It’s still too soon to judge.
Except that it’s a bit more than only Fraser doing the damage. As WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin pointed out, “Of the Bruins’ six wins this postseason, three have featured game-winning goals from players acquired in the Seguin trade.”
That’s also two more goals than Seguin had for the Bruins the entire postseason run last year.
You could argue that Reilly Smith, also acquired in the deal, has been the Bruins’ best player the postseason, while more likely candidates like Krejci, Marchand, and Milan Lucic have taken a backseat with their struggles. Now add Fraser into the mix, and the Bruins suddenly have another goal-scoring threat in a series in which scoring before the third period has been a crapshoot. If the Bruins hoist the Cup, the Seguinistas might quiet down for a month or two, but they’re still out in full force, even if Fraser’s appearance is the exact definition of a team “building for the postseason,” as the Bruins like to preach.
To the general eye, Fraser was seen as a throw-in a deal that was centered around Eriksson, Smith, and prospect defenseman Joe Morrow, but there was something the Bruins saw in Fraser’s game that led them to get the winger included. Fraser scored 33 goals for the Texas Stars, Dallas’ AHL affiliate in 2012-13, a year after netting 37. But he only played in 13 games total for the parent club over that stretch, scoring a goal and two assists, while he had a pair of goals for the Bruins in a call-up earlier this season.
Here’s what prospect guru Kirk Luedeke had to say about Fraser last summer in The New England Hockey Journal: “The Texas Stars franchise leader in goals with 70 in two seasons is a 6-foot-2 winger with competitive drive and a wicked shot. His skating is average, with a sluggish first few steps, but he has the hockey sense and hustle to work his way into prime scoring areas. An undrafted free agent out of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL, he willed himself into the NHL (13 games with Dallas over two seasons) through sheer drive and determination. He was a fan favorite at the Cedar Park Center for his passion and ability to score big goals in the clutch. If he doesn’t make the big club out of camp, he makes an already good Providence team a hell of a lot better.”
He also just helped make Boston’s chances of getting by the Canadiens the same degree of chance.
“We’ve seen him this year and he’s been playing well lately in Providence, and he actually has been scoring some goals and playing some pretty good hockey, and he showed that tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
“As you can tell in my voice, I’m pretty excited,” Fraser said. “I hardly slept today, and I’m sure I’ll hardly sleep tonight. At the same time, we have to keep it in perspective. It’s just one game. We evened the series. Now we have to go back to Boston with the same effort.”
Game 5 is Saturday, when temperatures are expected to reach 75 degrees. Perfect weather for frozen yogurt.
Go ahead, we won’t tell.