Drew Stafford, the Bruins’ deadline acquisition this past Wednesday afternoon, was not meant to be a flashy grab for someone headlining the trade market. In his effort to not interrupt what’s been a strong run by the Bruins, GM Don Sweeney kept his impact low, buying high on an unrestricted free agent with a stable reputation and without breaking the bank to do it.
During last night’s game against the Devils, Stafford showed his impact in just over 14 minutes of ice time, skating on Ryan Spooner’s right wing opposite young winger Frank Vatrano. What this line had lacked in the past was a stable veteran presence, sometimes filled by new-ish players Riley Nash or Tim Schaller, though they never really fit the bill - they’re strong players in their own right, but on a playoff-bound team, they really should be fourth-liners. Stafford fits this role well, and he demonstrated it with strength on the puck at the boards, supporting his younger linemates, and making smart plays putting the puck into space.
He also made an impact on the scoresheet - nearly twice, with this goal that was overturned on goaltender interference:
Drew Stafford’s goal gets called back for goalie interference pic.twitter.com/eJV123KJhH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 5, 2017
Though this should stand as a good call, Stafford put himself in front and fought hard, making life tough on the Devils’ defense.
On the power play, Stafford did the same - parked not at the top of the paint, but just above it, staying well out of range of another interference call and keeping his stick on the ice for a tip that very nearly scored over Cory Schneider.
Finally, halfway through the third period, Stafford kept his position high in the zone while Vatrano went for the stick check behind the Devils’ net, and while Spooner found open space to Schneider’s left. When Vatrano was able to loosen the puck from the Devils, Stafford was in a perfect place to step up, sell the shot and move the puck to an open Spooner, who was wide open for the goal at the bottom of the circle.
Lastly, moving his feet and charging ahead after a loose puck drew a penalty against New Jersey for interference, yet another example of a valuable play by making the opposing team have to stifle a scoring attempt by going shorthanded.
If this is any indication, Stafford should solidify his spot on Spooner’s right during Monday night’s game, and for the rest of the season as well.