Kalman: Not Much More Morrow Has To Do To Prove He Belongs On Bruins
BOSTON (CBS) - A win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at TD Garden would've made the night so much sweeter for Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow.
After all, Morrow was drafted 23rd overall in 2011 by the Penguins, who traded him during his first year of professional hockey to the Dallas Stars. The Penguins are coached by Morrow's former bench boss with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, Mike Johnston. And several Pittsburgh players were Morrow's teammates in the American Hockey League before the trade to Dallas.
However, Evgeni Malkin's second goal of the game spoiled the night in overtime for the Bruins, who had to settle for one point in the standings after a 3-2 defeat. And Morrow had to settle for getting his first NHL goal and point in a hard-fought loss by his current team.
In 12 games with the Bruins, Morrow hasn't produced at the offensive end but he's been solid as can be in his own end. After he was plus-2 against the Penguins, he's now plus-1 for the season. On the list of reasons the Bruins have been able to survive the lengthy absence of captain Zdeno Chara -- in addition to shorter absences by Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid -- Morrow's simple approach to playing defense and mature decision-making have to be near the top.
More than anyone that's filled in during the Bruins' rash of injuries, Morrow has seized his opportunity and that could lead to a job in the NHL even once everyone is healed.
"I wish I could think about that right now," Morrow said after the loss Monday. "I really, if I had one wish it would definitely be that, to play here full-time. But I just kind of go day by day, wake up in the morning and hopefully I still got a stall at the rink. So that's basically all I'm doing right now. I don't know, I don't look into the future. But it's definitely a wish I would have."
The 21-year-old is on pace to make his wish come true. He's shown a level of confidence that when coupled with his skating and vision make for a player that might be better suited for the NHL than the wild-and-sometimes-wooly AHL. Without the goals that piled up when Krug first got a regular chance to play for the Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Morrow has played with the same type of savvy as Krug back during that run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Morrow's confidence, however, materializes differently.
Whereas Krug is a bit brash about shaking off mistakes and continues to attempt dynamic plays, Morrow tends to let mistakes roll of his back and sticks to reliable plays. Krug and Morrow have two different approaches, but they get equally positive results.
Morrow first caught coach Claude Julien's eye while with Providence of the AHL last season.
"Nothing bothers him," Julien said. "He plays hard. If he makes a mistake it's not the end of the world. He's not going to carry that mistake with him the whole game and that's a pretty good quality for a player. He does play hard. And yeah, there's some games where he's had some, not tough nights, but not-so-good nights, but he's always been a pretty reliable guy so far. Moves the puck well and I think he sees the ice well. He's got a good shot."
Morrow scored his goal on a wrist shot from the left point that went through a double screen by Bruins center Gregory Campbell and Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi. Morrow even thought Campbell might've touched the puck that eluded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. But the scoring decision went Morrow's way, and the goose egg in his goal column was replaced by a one.
In his last season in the WHL, Morrow had 64 points in 62 games for Portland. His offensive game hasn't translated to the pro ranks yet, but that might come as he gets more comfortable and more confident. He's not fretting over his lack of points.
"You know, if I was struggling defensively up here, I definitely would be looking at points for sure and saying 'you know, you've got to contribute somehow,'" Morrow said. "But I feel that my defensive game's been pretty good and just breaking the puck out and little things like that, I feel like I've done that pretty well. So little things like that, I feel like I've done that pretty well. So I think I'll just stick to that for now and you know the points will come eventually. You get your power plays, you get your opportunities, work your way to that spot, but for now I think I'll just try to keep it simple."
Simply put, it's going to be difficult to take Morrow out of the lineup when the Bruins are at full strength.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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