BOSTON – Throughout his 19 regular-season games with Boston, defenseman Adam McQuaid didn’t shy away from much.
The rookie averaged just a shade more than 10 minutes per game while filling in on the Bruins’ injury-ravaged back end, but still found the time to record his first NHL goal and throw down the gloves three times en route to fighting majors.
Through two games of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Buffalo, McQuaid’s ice time has been about the same but the on-ice atmosphere of the playoffs has been different than what he was getting used to in the regular season.
“Obviously everyone’s hitting to hurt,” said McQuaid after he was one of a handful of Bruins to skate at TD Garden in preparation for Monday night’s Game 3. “That’s one of the biggest things is that everybody’s finishing their hits and you’ve got to be ready to move the puck quick and ready to take a hit.”
While the Bruins coaching staff has gone the extra mile to get McQuaid off the ice against unfavorable matchups, the 23-year-old has held his own against the Buffalo forecheck and a Sabres attack that’s always looking to break out of the defensive zone with speed and an odd-man advantage. In the Bruins’ series-evening Game 2 victory, McQuaid made a nifty play to keep the puck in the zone and get it down low to Blake Wheeler to start a play that finished with Michael Ryder’s first of two goals on the day.
Plays like that show poise, which just might be rubbing off from defenseman partner Andrew Ference.
“I really enjoy playing with him. He’s really calm, he’s real easy to talk to. He really has a calming effect on me. He’s been really good,” said McQuaid.
All season long, when he’s been up from Providence (AHL), McQuaid has stayed on the ice after practices and morning skates for extra work. He probably could’ve skipped today’s on-ice session, but opted to get in more skating time. That work ethic is part of what has impressed Ference.
“I know there have been a lot of firsts for him this year and not just spot minutes here and there too; he’s been out there in some important situations and important times in the game. He’s been great,” said the veteran. “As a pairing, I think we’re just trying to keep thing calm and simple and do our job. He’s easy to talk to as a partner and communicate with. He’s the kind of young guy that you like to play with because he’s not cocky or thinks he knows it all or anything like that. He listens really well and he kind of takes a lot of information in – probably more than he needs sometimes, between the coaches and myself. But he takes it in and obviously handles it very well.”
McQuaid has only been credited with two total hits through two games, but at 6-foot-5, sometimes McQuaid can alter opponents’ decision-making just with his presence and reach.
“For a guy who’s been in his first playoff action and not with a ton of NHL experience, I think he’s handled himself well. We like the fact that he’s a guy that keeps it simple, but also we like the fact that he’s a very physical and intimidating player,” head coach Claude Julien said.
McQuaid, now a third-year pro, was really starting to settle into his role at the NHL level during his first opportunity to play at the game’s highest level when the Olympic break hit and then an off-ice mishap left him concussed. Now he’s healthy and rounding into form again at just the right time of year.
“I think I’ve gotten more comfortable as the game have gone along,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to keep the same mentality I had in the regular season. Obviously the games are more important, you’re more under the microscope on every play, but I’m just trying to keep it simple. I think that’s what’s kept me out of trouble for the most part.”