Nick Goss

Justin Brazeau's emergence is great development for Bruins as playoffs near

Brazeau is making a real difference in the bottom six.

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The Boston Bruins acquired three-time Stanley Cup champion Pat Maroon before the NHL trade deadline earlier this month to provide some toughness, experience and a little scoring production to the fourth line entering the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Maroon hasn't been able to get on the ice because he's recovering from back surgery in February. He might not debut for Boston until later this month or early April.

While it would benefit the B's to get Maroon on the ice before the playoffs to see how he fits with the bottom-six, they might have already found a difference maker on the fourth line in Justin Brazeau.

Brazeau made his NHL debut against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 19 after signing a two-way contract with the Bruins. He scored in a 4-3 overtime win versus the Stars and has played in 13 games overall. His best performance so far came Tuesday night in a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.

After the Senators cut a 2-0 deficit in half, Brazeau put the Bruins back up by two goals with a power-play tally late in the second period.

Brazeau put the finishing touches on Boston's win with a second power-play goal late in the third period. He again went to the front of the net and showed off some silky smooth puck handling to beat Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

Beyond the goals, Brazeau is doing a lot of the little things the Bruins have been lacking and/or just need more of from their bottom-six forwards.

His 27 hits are the third-most among B's forwards since he made his debut last month. His 3.66 blocked shots per 60 minutes rank third among Bruins forwards over that same span. Brazeau isn't afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice to win puck battles. He's also proven to be a handful for opponents in front of the net, whether it's setting screens in front of the goalie or cleaning up rebounds around the crease.

“In training camp I remember saying to people he's a poor man's Dave Andreychuk, just because he seems to get to every puck below the goal line,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters postgame Tuesday when asked about Brazeau, per the team.

“He makes subtle, little smart plays. You saw his ability, he has nice touch. I'm glad he got rewarded because he's been playing a lot better than what his stats have shown on paper. But we're really happy with how well he's playing in all three zones, and how well he supports his teammates.”

The playoffs are still a month away and there's a lot of hockey to be played. Brazeau, Jakub Lauko and Johnny Beecher all have played well in a bottom-six role over the last couple weeks. It might be hard to take any of those guys out of the lineup when Maroon is ready to go. It's a good problem for Montgomery and his staff, though.

Brazeau, in particular, deserves an extended stay in Boston through the end of the regular season to prove whether he is worthy of a spot in the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs. The guy we saw Tuesday night could play a meaningful role in April.

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