Jaromir Jagr didn’t make any excuses Sunday for his poor play in the tied-up Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against Toronto so far.
In fact, Jagr didn’t say anything. When approached for an interview, he put up two hands, said he had to fix something, packed up his equipment bag and made a bee line for the Bruins’ players’ lounge while several media members made bewildered looks about what just happened.
Perhaps he physically wasn’t up to talking after the Bruins practiced at TD Garden. His health might be among the reasons he also hasn’t been up to putting points on the board or back checking through two games, one win and one loss, against the Maple Leafs. The series continues with Game 3 Monday in Toronto, and the search for the Jaromir Jagr the Bruins bargained for just before the trade deadline will continue as well.
“I think there’s a lot of things that come into play here,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said in his unfortunate role as Jagr’s spokesperson. “No. 1, he came, as you know, at the trade deadline, he missed the last couple of games, he’s never had the same linemates. To his defense, it’s important to have some cohesion with your linemates and stuff like that, and our first two lines have been pretty, I guess, been together for a long time. They’re playing well, they’re generating stuff, so right now it’s about trying to build some chemistry with some players and we keep trying to find players to compliment him a little bit.
“At the same time, like I said, he battled a pretty tough flu there a week ago. I know that he’s not feeling 100 percent yet, but we’re certainly counting on him. The other part, too, is he’s been great for us on the power play, but we only had eight seconds last night, so he’s not able to show too, too much with eight seconds of power play time. That’s one of his strengths, as well.”
Despite several line changes, Jagr produced nine points (two goals) in 11 games in the regular season with the Bruins. He missed the last two games with flu-like symptoms. He was brought to the Bruins to provide offense, both by producing and being a threat every shift. He’s supposed to be the type of dynamic player the Bruins lacked. Regardless of linemates, he should make those around him better and open up space for the other four players on the ice. If he’s not producing, he should at least be doing other things. When Jagr inexplicably made a backhand pass to the middle of the ice that resulted in James van Riemsdyk scoring Toronto’s fourth goal Saturday, the lack of anticipation of the giveaway and effort to get back and make up for the miscue was inexcusable.
The playoff atmosphere alone should be enough to overcome any flu-like symptoms that are now a week in the past. Maybe there’s something more to Jagr’s health problem the Bruins aren’t revealing. Or perhaps the playoff speed is passing Jagr by even when the regular-season pace didn’t. Last spring in the second round against New Jersey, he produced just a single assist with Philadelphia. He went 1-6-7 in the first-round series against Pittsburgh, but you’ll recall most of the games in that seven-game series were played like they were on a pond. Once things against eventual-Eastern Conference champion New Jersey tightened up, Jagr’s production dried up.
Considering the way the Bruins’ top two lines are clicking, Julien doesn’t have many options for Jagr’s linemates. That puts the onus on Jagr to play his best and at least give his line and linemates a punching chance to impact this series.
Otherwise, the Bruins’ season might not last another week, and the Boston chapter of Jagr’s Hall-of-Fame career might just include the words “flu-like symptoms” where it should show highlights of another productive stop in his illustrious hockey life.