Pat Maroon, a Bruins debut and the fight for playoff ice time

PITTSBURGH — Pat Maroon made his Boston Bruins debut on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. There is more to come before the playoffs start. 

If Maroon recovers well (it was his first appearance since Jan. 27), he will get the green light on Monday against the Washington Capitals and the following night in Game 82 against the Ottawa Senators. Maroon needs time to find his rhythm, get up to pace, incorporate into the system and figure out how to play with his teammates.

“When you’re out for three months, it’s just getting back into the groove of things,” the three-time Stanley Cup champion said after the Bruins’ 6-4 win. “Staying with it. Timing, hands, rushing plays maybe. Not holding onto the puck a little more. Making the plays you usually make. Just your legs. Just your legs getting underneath you. I think that’s the biggest thing. Just legs. If I keep playing, I think it’s just going to get better.”

Maroon played most of his shifts as the No. 4 left wing next to Jesper Boqvist and Jakub Lauko. It did not take long for Maroon to make his presence felt. On his second shift, Maroon took a net-front feed from Boqvist and snapped a shot on net. Alex Nedeljkovic turned Maroon’s Grade-A chance aside.

“Good look. Good sequence,” Maroon said. “Just missed the shot.”

Maroon recorded one shot and four hits in 13:16 of ice time. He laid his biggest belt on Ryan Shea in the first period when he smacked the defenseman in front of the benches. Given the length of the layoff, it was a good first step for the ex-Wild. As Maroon’s timing improves, he projects to make an even bigger impact.

“I thought he was very effective for us,” said coach Jim Montgomery. “Managed the game really well. You can see why he’s won a lot. Because of the way he manages the game. Changes at the right time. Putting pucks to good areas. I thought him, Boqvist and Lauko together were good.”

It remains to be seen whether two more tune-ups will be enough for Maroon to reach his expected threshold. Playing on back-to-back nights will not be ideal. But Maroon’s objective is to cram as much as he can before Game 1, which the Bruins expect will be April 20 at TD Garden.

“I know my job in here,” said Maroon. “Just got to stick with it. I’m not going to be the guy that’s going to score every night. I’ve just got to go out there and do my job, make hits, protect the puck, get to the front of the net, just be a big body, big presence. Just got to stick with it. I’m not the fastest skater. You guys all know that. It will come.”

James van Riemsdyk was the healthy scratch. He may be most at risk of being out of uniform again in Game 1 if Maroon is good to go. Van Riemsdyk hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 17. Maroon also replaced van Riemsdyk as the net-front presence on the No. 2 power-play unit.

Lauko and Johnny Beecher are also on the bubble. Lauko is the fastest of the bunch. He assisted on Morgan Geekie’s third-period goal by controlling the puck down low. Lauko also had an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes in the previous game.

“Just by executing and hanging onto pucks,” Montgomery said of Lauko’s efficiency. “He’s getting more confident with the puck. With the Geekie goal, real smart play for him to go back behind the net. That’s what we’re expecting to play with the lead. He gets there and he makes a quick play to the slot.”

Beecher’s asset is his ability to play center and take faceoffs. The rookie, however, has no playoff experience. He got caught on a long shift in the second period when he couldn’t get the puck out of the defensive zone. Beecher’s attention to detail will have to be heightened in the playoffs.

McAvoy out, Shattenkirk in

On defense, the final fight for a Game 1 assignment is between Parker Wotherspoon and Kevin Shattenkirk. Wotherspoon has the advantage of being a left shot. Shattenkirk, a righty, would have to play his off side. Wotherspoon is a steadier defender and penalty killer.

Shattenkirk, however, has the upper hand when it comes to offense.

In the second period, Shattenkirk beat Nedeljkovic with a right-circle wrister blocker side. Coach Mike Sullivan pulled Nedeljkovic after the goal.

In the third period, Charlie McAvoy fumbled a puck at the point on the power play. It allowed Logan O’Connor to scoot away for a short-handed goal. After the goal, Montgomery screamed at McAvoy on the bench. On the following power play, Montgomery replaced McAvoy with Shattenkirk on the first PP unit.

“It wasn’t just Charlie,” Montgomery said. “It was me giving it to everybody on the power play. There was just no cohesion. The passing was off. I didn’t like the effort getting back after the turnover by everybody.”

Shattenkirk does not handle the puck as much as McAvoy at the point. He is quicker at making reads, passing pucks and getting shots through traffic and on net.

(Photo: Justin Berl / Getty Images)

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