It goes without saying that almost every boy who grows up in New England and plays hockey dreams of one day being on the Bruins. Obviously, it is extremely rare for that wish to ever come true but Boston (17-13-3) right wing Jimmy Hayes is one of the lucky ones in that sense. Local roots don’t get much deeper since he is from Dorchester and played college hockey for legendary head coach Jerry York at powerhouse Boston College before coming to the NHL. However, his time in Boston (now going on his 2nd year with the Bruins) has quickly turned into a nightmare as his goal-scoring touch has mysteriously disappeared for the most part. It’s tough to figure out exactly what happened to the guy that scored 19 goals in 72 games for Florida in 2014-15.
Head coach Claude Julien has been forced to try anything in order to jump-start Hayes: he’s put him on different lines (now he’s skating on the 4th) and at times made him a healthy scratch (so far 5 times in 33 games this season). Ultimately, Hayes will have to be the one to dig himself out of this deep hole or else force the B’s to go in a different direction. He has only managed to score two goals with no assists this season along with the game-winning tally in a 10-round marathon shootout in Tampa Bay on November 3.
“I liked Hayes’ game better today,” noted Julien after he scored the lone goal in Sunday’s 1-0 win vs. LA (16-13-2). “He resembled the guy from last season. It’s a matter of winning battles along the wall, forechecking well and having a good stick (he tipped in Colin Miller’s shot). Hopefully it’s a confidence-builder for him.”
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Like most professional athletes in slumps, Hayes’ main foe seems to be himself. It has to be so mentally draining to put pressure on yourself and not be able to perform like you’ve proven you can at this level. It probably doesn’t help either that his younger brother Kevin (who also starred at BC) is becoming a very solid player on the Rangers with 11 goals, 12 assists and a plus-minus of plus-16 in 2016-17. In an ironic twist, Kevin scored the shootout game-winning goal on Sunday night as New York (23-10-1) outlasted New Jersey (12-12-7) 3-2.
With Bruins standout David Pastrnak (19 goals, 7 assists, plus-15) out at least for the short term after a minor elbow surgery on Friday, Hayes knows that it’ll take a collective effort to try and match Pastrnak’s incredible singular production.
“Other guys have to step up and help the team where you can,” he noted. “It was nice to cash a chance in (vs. Kings). Most of my goals in the NHL have been from that area (in front of the net) so the fourth line has to find ways to get on the other team and create a little offense.”
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate