- Craig Custance
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BOSTON -- The chaos inside the celebration, even with some time for it all to sink in, is still a little bit hard for Bruins forward Matt Fraser to articulate. First there was Johnny Boychuk holding him up, so they didn't all collapse when teammates piled on.
There was eventually a helmet being pulled off, and even a kiss.
"I remember Boychuk kissing my cheek," Fraser said on Friday after practice. "All I could feel was his whiskers on my face."
It's a small price to pay for scoring one of the most memorable goals of this postseason. His first playoff goal, in one of the world's greatest hockey cities, and perhaps even earning a promotional deal out of it by mentioning that he ate at Chipotle's before he found out he was getting the call up from the American Hockey League.
It was quite a night.
If the Bruins advance, that will be the goal that turned the course of the series. It's also not all he wants to be known for this postseason. Bruins coach Claude Julien confirmed Fraser will be back in the lineup as the series shifts back to Boston, and how could he not be?
His incredible timing aside, Fraser is a player who has always had a knack for scoring. He once scored 17 goals in 19 playoff games for Kootenay in the Western Hockey League.
After going undrafted, he scored 37 goals in 73 games during his first full AHL season with the Texas Stars in 2011-12.
He had three goals in five games for the Providence Bruins during their postseason, which led to positive reports when the Bruins checked in for forward help.
"This is a guy if you give him the opportunity, he can certainly put the puck in the net," Julien said on Friday. "He's gotten strong and he's played a bigger game than he had in the past and those are the improvements you look for in young players. ... He just had to improve in certain areas."
Scoring alone isn't going to be enough for Fraser to keep this run going and put himself in position for another big goal. This is a detail-oriented team that plays with structure and is responsible on both sides of the ice.
Those are all areas of his game Fraser has improved since leaving the WHL.
Dallas Stars director of hockey operations Scott White was focused on the playoff game between the Texas Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins when Fraser scored the game-winner in Montreal so he didn't see it live. But he was happy for the former Stars prospect, sent to Boston in the Tyler Seguin blockbuster deal. White was pleased, but not necessarily surprised like the rest of the hockey world.
"It's about opportunity," White told ESPN The Magazine on Friday.
White knows Fraser well and remembers first being attracted to his shot when he signed with the organization as an undrafted free agent.
"He can really fire the puck," White said.
They saw that shot often, especially on the Texas Stars power play where he made a living on the right side, between the faceoff dot and top of the circle. The Texas Stars have a gifted passer in Travis Morin who combined with Fraser to form a lethal power play.
Where White saw the most growth in Fraser was in the details of the game. He arrived a great shooter; he left the organization showing potential of becoming a more complete player.
"Our coaches did a really good job in details. The defensive side of the game. If he wasn't the top line player, he needs to do other things in terms of defending leads, board play, getting pucks in, getting pucks out, reading plays," White said. "He's improved, but there's still room to improve in that area."
That he's playing in the biggest games of the season for a team as structured as the Bruins is a pretty good sign he's getting it.
Julien got a little laugh when he was asked whether or not Fraser would be in the lineup for Game 5. Oh, he's in. You don't score the biggest goal of the season and not get another crack at it.
How long it lasts is another question. The Bruins aren't afraid to give expanded roles to players who weren't necessarily a big part of their regular-season success, as they showed last year in playing Torey Krug in 15 playoff games after he played just one regular-season game.
Brad Marchand saw his ice time jump by nearly three minutes per game from the regular season when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011.
There's always opportunity for those who find a way to produce in the biggest moments. That's the next goal for Fraser, now that he's got an NHL overtime playoff game-winner crossed off the list.
"The biggest thing is you don't want to be a one-hit wonder," Fraser said. "You want to be a guy who wants to contribute every night and brings something to the lineup. [At] the pregame skate, when the coaches wonder who they should put in, they can look at me and know that I can do my part and get the job done."
Bruins call-up Matt Fraser has crossed game-winning playoff goal off of his list, now he needs to prove he can produce every day, writes ESPN The Magazine's Craig Custance.