Ed Olczyk on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘always looking for that edge’
|05.21.13 at 6:30 pm ET|
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story, Olczyk was quoted as guaranteeing a Bruins series victory, but the quote was mistakenly taken out of context.
NBC Sports hockey analyst Ed Olczyk joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday, prior to Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Bruins and Rangers.
Olczyk, who played for six NHL clubs during his 16-year career that ended in the 1999-2000 season and coached the Penguins for a season and a half (2003-04 and part of ’04-05), has a personal connection to Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski, as he coached the Pittsburgh native when Bartkowski was a youngster.
“I just knew that he had the natural ability. It was just whether or not he would take advantage of the opportunities that were presented,” Olczyk said. “I couldn’t be happier for Bart. He’s a terrific young guy. I don’t think he’s really hit his full complement of his ability. He’s only played maybe 20 games in the NHL, whatever the number is. He’s getting a great taste of what it is to be a pro. I think he’s handled the situation very well.
“He has that great ability to skate you out of trouble. He’s poised with the puck. And I think there’s still an opportunity for him to continue to push the pace. And there’s something [to be said] for that, to have a guy back there that can be strong but also can skate you out of trouble. The game isn’t just about off the glass, get in to the neutral zone. Sometimes that’s the only play for a defenseman, sometimes that’s the best play. But for me, I think he’s got a lot of upside. I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. He’s playing obviously in one of the greats sports towns in the world, and playing for a great organization, for the Boston Bruins.
“He’s stepped in here very well, and it looks like he’s a seasoned veteran from watching him play. Is he going to make mistakes? Absolutely, those are going to happen. But when you put in [Torey] Krug, and you have [Dougie] Hamilton there, and you have the leadership of a guy like Zdeno Chara on the back end, I think it really makes those guys feel really comfortable.
“I’m not surprised, particularly with Matt Bartkowski, because I know him very well, but when you do put three young guys in there with not a lot of experience in the second round of the playoffs, more times than not you’re going to have a little bit more trouble, but the Bruins have been able to overcome that. And these guys and the organization could much better off because these guys have gotten this opportunity. ‘¦ There is something [to be said] for experience, but the experience these guys are getting right now is just so valuable, not only for tomorrow or today, but for down the road.”
Krug and Bartkowski have given the Bruins a different dimension with their offensive-minded play.
“That’s the way that the game is. The game is being able to make passes tape to tape, and get on your horse and get moving offensively. There’s nothing better for a forward to have mobile defensemen back there, be able to skate you out of trouble, skate you into an area that you’re going to be able to make offensive plays. ‘¦ Their guys are thinking offense even before they get the puck. There’s no better defense in the world than when you have the puck.”
Tyler Seguin continues to struggle for the Bruins, with just one point (an assist) in nine games this postseason.
“I have to say that you’re getting to that point where he has to take that next step and get a little bit more consistent and find that game and understand that sometimes the game isn’t going to be A to B to C. Sometimes you’re going to have to plow through there and get right to E and F. You’ve got to find a way,” Olczyk said. “It’s just not station to station. Sometimes, you know what? You’ve got to power yourself in there. You’ve got to find other ways to contribute. So if it’s not working offensively, you’ve got to be a diligent forechecker, you’ve got to be good away from the puck.
“Finding that consistency is what separates the good players from the great players. And I think that Tyler Seguin is certainly on that teeter-totter right now, on going either way. ‘¦ If you can get him being a threat and finishing some of these opportunities, the Bruins become a really dangerous team.”
Jaromir Jagr hasn’t put up big numbers, but he’s been a presence during his limited time on the ice. He also made an appearance on the TD Garden ice well after Game 2 had ended, skating by himself.
“That’s who Jaromir Jagr is. He’s a perfectionist,” said Olcyzk, who played with Jagr in Pittsburgh in the late 1990s. “He’s always looking for that edge. He’s always just trying to feel comfortable. And I think that’s probably the thing to me. Being around him as a teammate and then being around him as a broadcaster, for him it’s trying to get and feel comfortable. He’s had some chances. He had that chance there in Game 2. It’s just a matter of time.
“And again, you have to account for Jaromir Jagr. When he’s on the ice, it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to account for him. And I think that there’s something to that. You could probably ask the guys that aren’t playing with Jaromir Jagr, when they’re seeing him on the ice they realize, boy, he gets a lot of attention. So if you are playing with him, you’d better be ready and you’d better be on your toes, because there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to have an opportunity to make some plays.”