BOSTON -- After 326 career regular season games, Tyler Bertuzzi finally made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Monday night against the Florida Panthers, and he was the Boston Bruins' best forward.
Put simply, he was everywhere.
"It kinda felt like my first game as a Bruin all over again," Bertuzzi said after his team's 3-1 win to open the first-round series. "Got the first few shifts out of the way and went from there."
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For a Bruins team that looked a little slow at times throughout the night -- and understandably so given the illness that's going around the locker room -- it was Bertuzzi who consistently gave his squad much-needed energy and physicality all over the ice.
"When we acquired (Bertuzzi), we thought he was a guy who was made for the playoffs," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. "I thought his first two shifts he laid out two huge hits and just kept making plays. The puck seems to follow him and he makes real good decisions with it."
It didn't take long for Bertuzzi to make his presence felt.
He set up David Pastrnak's power-play goal early in the first period with an absolutely gorgeous backhand pass.
"I just kinda knew he was going to be there," Bertuzzi said. "He's always around the net in good spots. If I could get it into an area, he would have a good look (at the net)."
Bertuzzi knows how to find the back of the net himself, evidenced by the career-high 30 goals he tallied for the Detroit Red Wings last season. But his vision and playmaking ability might be the most impressive aspects of his offensive skill set. He has eight assists in his last eight games dating back to April 1.
"That play on the power-play goal, he has real elite poise in and around the net," Montgomery said of Bertuzzi. "A lot of guys would've taken that and tried to stuff it in the net on the back hand, and he just pops it over for an empty-net goal."
Bertuzzi was involved in the Bruins' third goal, too. He again went hard to the net and was rewarded with his second assist of the night when Jake DeBrusk poked the puck over the goal line for a 3-1 lead in the second period.
Bertuzzi finished with two assists, three shots, three scoring chances, two blocked shots and two hits in 18:41 of ice time. He constantly went to the tough, greasy areas of the ice to win puck battles in front of the net, in the corners, etc. It's the kind of power forward-type of hockey that is perfectly suited for the playoffs.
Stepping up when it matters most is nothing new for Bertuzzi. He was the MVP of the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2017 when Grand Rapids won an AHL championship. Bertuzzi tallied 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 19 games during that postseason run.
It's painfully obvious that Bertuzzi relishes the intensity of the playoffs, and you can bet Monday night won't be the last time he has his fingerprints all over a Bruins win this spring.
"He did great. He's a competitor and he battles extremely hard," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "I don't think there are any question marks about him. He's won in the past. He was incredible in the Calder Cup run they had in Detroit.
"He's just one of those guys you hate to play against. He brings it every night. His compete level is through the roof. He's a guy you knew was going to show up and be a playoff-type player. He had a great game. It was great to see."