BOSTON -- Playing alongside two of the best players in the NHL would make any rookie nervous, but the Boston Bruins’ Seth Griffith has proven he can handle his assignment with linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
The Bruins have entrusted the right-wing position on their top line to a 21-year-old rookie because Griffith has shown the ability, skill and poise to produce. He has experienced a quick learning curve in his first four NHL games.
On Tuesday, Griffith finally was rewarded for his efforts when he notched his first career goal to help the Bruins to a 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden.
The Sharks had a 3-2 lead early in the third before Griffith tied the game at 4:50 of the period. Lucic was creating havoc in front of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, and Griffith put himself in perfect position as the puck kicked out to him in the slot and he drove it in for the tally.
“It was great,” Griffith said. “I’ve had a couple of chances the past few games, so it’s great to get the first one out of the way.”
While Griffith celebrated his goal, Lucic quickly went into the net and snagged the puck for the rookie as a keepsake.
“I remember getting my first goal and how much it meant and how special it was,” Lucic said. “It was great to see him finally get it.
“When you get that first one, the confidence starts coming and you can start feeling a little bit more loose. When you’re in those positions, they seem to go in once you get that first one. He’s done a good job so far playing on our line and hopefully he can pop in a few more if he gets a few more chances.”
Toward the end of training camp, Griffith was released and assigned to Providence of the AHL. The second-year pro performed exactly how the organization hoped he would as he played with just as much intensity for the P-Bruins. He played only two games for Providence and registered two goals before Boston recalled him on Oct. 12.
“I thought if I kept working hard I might get my chance again,” he said. “I’m happy it was sooner rather than later, for sure. The guys in Providence have helped me a lot to develop my game so I could play at this level.”
Griffith made his NHL debut against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 13 and played the next two road games -- in Detroit and Montreal -- until he was a healthy scratch against the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday. He was assigned to Providence the next day and quickly scored a goal in the P-Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Portland Pirates.
On Monday, Boston recalled him again and he was inserted back on the Bruins’ top line Tuesday. He did not disappoint.
“It’s a pretty crazy week, for sure,” Griffith said. “But you’ve got to respect the coach’s decision and practice hard every day, and then when you get your opportunity then you make the most of it.”
Julien had replaced Griffith on the top line late in previous games with veteran forward Simon Gagne in order to have some added experience on the ice. That was not the case on Tuesday.
“Because he played well,” Julien said. “He was playing well and I thought he made some great plays. Again, this isn’t because he scored. He scored because he played well. He was pretty good and that’s a big team and he handled himself well along the walls and making good plays.
“I thought we had four lines going fairly well, one of them probably had a tougher night, but it certainly wasn’t Campbell’s line and it wasn’t Krejci’s line. They were going well too, so I just thought about leaving [Griffith] there and if those guys are going to get better, sometimes you’ve got to put him in those positions when you feel they’re doing well enough to warrant that.”
From the start of training camp, Griffith has looked comfortable in any role he has played. When second-line winger Reilly Smith was unsigned during camp, Julien had Griffith playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Now that Griffith has played three of his four games with the Bruins on the top line, the trio is getting comfortable.
“We’re starting to get a little chemistry going, so it’s good to see,” Griffith said. “But it’s not too hard playing with two great players like that.”
Thursday in Montreal, Griffith produced a few quality scoring chances, but he couldn’t convert. He made sure not to miss against the Sharks.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to kind of forget about it and move on and keep working hard,” he said of his missed chances. “I knew I’d get another chance to get a shot off.”
Griffith has celebrated 22 professional goals at the AHL level for the P-Bruins the last two seasons. But with the look on his face and his arms spread apart in jubilation as he hugged the glass along the side wall in the offensive zone, this was one celebration he won’t forget.
“It was just my first one, so I had to do something a little crazy, I guess,” he said.