BOSTON -- The NHL preseason is not always the most scintillating time of year for hockey fans. For something or someone to stand out, it takes a rather remarkable occurrence.
On Tuesday night at TD Garden, 25-year-old winger A.J. Greer gave Boston fans something to celebrate.
Greer was a one-man wrecking crew in the Bruins' preseason game against the visiting New York Rangers, dishing out a game-high seven hits in just 13:27 of ice time. That physical display came after Greer got into a fight in his first preseason game with the Bruins over the weekend.
But Greer's game on Tuesday was about a lot more than delivering hits. He also scored the Bruins' first goal, tying the game at 1-1 in the second period.
And when the game headed to overtime, he delivered the game-winning goal just 72 seconds into the extra period.
It obviously left quite the impression on the Bruins fans in attendance, surely. But it also caught the attention of head coach Jim Montgomery.
"What I like is we see a young man that's looking to make the starting lineup from Game 1," Montgomery said. "He's doing everything he can to impress. He's fighting, he's hitting, he's shooting. He gets energy in the building. He gets energy on our bench. So he's doing a lot of good things."
Montgomery spoke a bit more about the way that Greer has worked to seize his opportunity this preseason.
"You want it to come from within," Montgomery said. "You can't paint tiger stripes to make a tiger. And right now, A.J. Greer is a tiger, and the stripes are already on him. I guess if you see his tattoos, he's got tattoos of a tiger."
While Greer's impression on Montgomery is quite clear, a night like Tuesday is sure to put him on a lot more fans' radars as the season gets closer. And Greer's postgame comments in the locker room are sure to work toward that end, as well.
"Growing up in Montreal, you see a lot of the Bruins, and it's always been an exciting team. I think I've always kind of seen myself playing the type of hockey that the Bruins play. So to be here is a dream come true," Greer said. "And I'm fortunate every day to be in the position that I am, and I just try to make the most of my opportunities."
Greer said he was feeding off the energy of the fans, which is not necessarily a regular occurrence in a preseason game.
"Definitely. Every time I hit somebody, it was like, 'Oh -- let's go!' I got in the penalty box, I've got people hollering at me, 'Nice goal! Nice hits! Keep going!'" Greer shared. "Boston's such a great city. I went to Boston University so I'm not new to the city. Currently finishing up my degree here, so I should be graduating next summer. And Boston people are awesome. They have such an intense way, and energy. I've been to Bruins games before when I was at BU and it's the same type of thing. So to be that energetic in a preseason game, it definitely excites you for what's to come."
Greer is also certain to ingratiate himself with fans with the player he's modeled his game after.
"I grew up watching Milan Lucic, and there's a lot of Bruins fans in Montreal. So I actually try to model my game after him, for sure," Greer said. "Energy, physical, can put the puck in the net, and will stick up for his teammates at any time. And that's who I want to be."
At 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, Greer certainly has the size to play a physical role in the NHL. He's yet to catch on in his five cracks at the NHL, dating back to the 2016-17 season with the Colorado Avalanche, through last year with the New Jersey Devils. In 47 games, he's scored two goals with six assists, while throwing around the body with 74 hits and 56 penalty minutes. (He fought Connor Clifton in a Bruins-Devils game in 2021.)
But he scored 22 goals and added 30 assists in 53 games at the AHL level last year, before scoring six goals (with two assists) in five playoff games. And his early work in Boston thus far indicates he might have turned a couple of corners in his career.
"I mean I don't know what opportunities were provided to him before, but everybody matures and figures it out at different moments," Montgomery said. "And they have that aha moment. They stay in the present and they're not gonna let anything get in their way mentality. And he clearly seems to have that when I've spoken with him."
Greer obviously enjoyed Tuesday night, but he's just as obviously hoping to have more nights like that for games that count.
"When I scored that OT goal, maybe I shouldn't have cellied that hard, but again, I love scoring goals. And scoring an OT goal in Boston, what do you want more?" Greer said. "So yeah, I have fun. I have fun playing the game. And that's the thing is that I'm focused and I'm intense, I'm an intense person, but I enjoy what I do. So yeah, I'm not going to apologize, but that was definitely a sick reaction from the crowd, and I look forward to doing that again -- hopefully."
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