After recording his first two National Hockey League points versus the New York Islanders in a 5-4 overtime loss on Monday, Montreal Canadiens defenceman Jakub Jerabek notched another personal feat against the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at TD Garden arena.
Very early into the first period, 31 seconds in to be exact, Jerabek scored his first NHL goal on a redirected shot by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, giving Montreal a 1-0 lead. It was exactly the start head coach Claude Julien hoped for in his return to Boston, but it would be the only goal for the team on the night, as the Bruins easily handled the Canadiens on their way to a 4-1 win.
While he would have much preferred to accomplish the achievement in a victory, Jerabek was relieved to have finally knocked the monkey off his back 19 games into his first season in the league. Unfortunately for him, though, he wasn’t even aware it was his goal right away.
“I didn’t think it was my goal,” said Jerabek following the loss. “The shot wasn’t good and I thought it went off [Max] Pacioretty, but they told me later that it went in off Chara.”
A Smooth Transition From KHL to NHL
After spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he registered 29 assists and 34 points in 59 games, Jerabek was signed by general manager Marc Bergevin to a one-year, $925,000 contract. Ranked fourth in points by a defenceman in the KHL in 2016-17, Jerabek was brought over to North American in hopes that his offensive-style of game would translate onto the smaller ice surface of the NHL.
Since making his debut on Nov. 11, 2017 against the Nashville Predators, the 26-year-old Czech Republic native has progressively improved on the blue line for Julien and the Canadiens. While his point totals may suggest otherwise, Jerabek’s teammates have been impressed by his rather seamless transition to the new league.
“I’ve been impressed with him. He’s a smart player, he makes a good first pass, he understands how to help forwards offensively, and how to be in good position,” said Brendan Gallagher. “Ever since I’ve seen him, I’ve been more and more impressed. I’m sure as he gets more comfortable, he’s going to be better and better.”
Gallagher may have been right. In the past seven games, Jerabek has played more than 18 minutes per outing, something he did only once in his first 12 games prior. As his level of comfort continues to grow, so does his level of play, made evident by three points in the last two contests. While the team has maintained a consistent spiral down the Eastern Conference standings, Jerabek is doing what he can to improve his game every time he is on the ice.
Averaging 17 minutes of ice time per game this season, Jerabek has been a stable and reliable defenceman on the bottom end of the roster, which is significant because the adjustment to the NHL is often rough for rookie blueliners. With a Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 49.85% in all situations, the team is controlling the puck just about half the time Jerabek is on the ice. On top of decent puck-possession stats, Jerabek’s goals for percentage (GF%) is currently 55% percent, meaning he has been on the ice for more goals for than against (11 for and 9 against). Not a whole lot more can be asked of a third-pairing defenceman, but Jurabek is set on continuing to improve his overall game.
“I hope I will play more and more so that I can be better,” said Jerabek.
The loss to the Bruins is the third in as many games for the Canadiens. Their record now stands at 18-21-6, and the team is 12 points out of the third playoff spot in the Atlantic division. The chances of making the playoffs for a second consecutive season is nearly impossible at this point, but Jerabek is happy about his current circumstances, and believes good things are on the horizon if he continues what he’s been doing since arriving in Montreal.
“When I first came here, I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Jerabek. “But [the NHL] is pretty sick, and it’s nice to be here. I just want to do my job everyday and be ready for each game.”