Chris Wagner’s arrival as a free agent last summer seems like forever ago; long playoff runs will do that. After hitting double-digit points for the first time in his career in a season split between the New York Islanders and the Anaheim Ducks, sixteen points might not be an overwhelming accomplishment, but it earned him a new contract with a new team. Moving to a contender brought higher expectations and some organizational reputation, which generally helps players.
And help it did: Chris set a new career high in points and had the opportunity to mesh with similar players on Boston’s fourth line in Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly, once again dishing out well over 200 hits, and averaging a career high TOI per game. His possession ratings were not incredible, but he played a strong role in preventing clean zone exits and passes by harassing opposing defensemen. Come playoff season, Wagner stepped up his game, and looked right at home in a heavy forechecking role. Sure, he only scored twice, but they were important goals: to pad a lead in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, and then opening goal in Game 3. He was setting himself up to be a major player in the Final...
...then, the most unfortunate news - and in the most Bruin fashion: having already contributed by scoring the game’s first goal in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, Wagner blocked a shot late in the game and headed to the tunnel supporting his forearm. Apparently not broken, the arm still needed surgery to re-place one of the two major bones that make a forearm. Wagner would miss the rest of the postseason, and though he was cleared for Game 7 of the Final, it was likely a wise choice to keep him out.
Wagner endured a personally trying year as well, as his grandfather passed away mid-season. His Q&A from the locker room after that game, and hearing how he spoke of his grandfather, was a fitting example of him as a player.
Being a player that blue-collar B’s fans enjoy rooting for, family ties or not, made the year a success for Wagner, and none more evidenced than the regular-season honors from fans as the recipient of the 7th Player Award. This was a fitting tribute and a sneak preview of the playoff Wagner.
Though our writers voted him between a 5 and a 6 (out of 10), which feels like it’s been affected a bit both by his place on the depth chart, and how good a player like that can realistically be with their ice time, and their deployment. To that end, Wagner filled his role well and had a career year in the process. I give him a solid fourth-line A*.
* = I gave him a 6.
Just a couple clips of Wagner doing his thanggg.
Feb. 3, 2019: With Boston shorthanded, stripping the puck from Evgeny Kuznetsov to create a scoring chance, getting almost-hooked/slashed by TJ Oshie (okokok it was a fine stick check), and then paying Oshie back for stealing his scoring chance.
Game 1, ECF: Scoring an unassisted goal to ensure a Game 1 victory.
Game 3, ECF: Scoring the opening goal (4:30ish mark). Injury not shown, but here’s the extended highlight to relive some of the playoff magic.
Aggregate Grade: Walpole/Massachusetts
Actually a 5.6/10
Adam’s Grade: 6
Shawn’s Grade: 4
Jake’s Grade: 5
Dan’s Grade: 6
Sky’s Grade: 7