What a performance from former Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi in his playoff debut.
In the 10 years since he was drafted by the Wings, Bertuzzi only played in the postseason at lower levels. But the Boston Bruins’ decision to offer a sweet deal for him at this year’s trade deadline proved worth it: The gritty winger had a heck of a first-round series, even as it ended in disappointment for the Presidents Trophy Bruins.
Bertuzzi scored his fifth goal on a redirection early in the third period of Sunday’s Game 7 against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden. That made it 2-2. The Bruins scored again, but the Panthers tied it in the final minute of regulation. Carter Verhaeghe completed an incredible comeback, scoring in overtime to send the Panthers onto a second-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins had a 3-1 lead in the series, and were expected to contend for the Stanley Cup after setting an NHL record with 65 regular-season victories.
That instead they go home early wasn’t for lack of points from Bertuzzi, who had two assists in Game 1. He scored his first goal in Game 2, and earned his third assist in Game 3. Another multipoint performance came in Game 4, when he scored a goal and had an assist. After a quiet outing in Game 5, Bertuzzi had two goals and an assist in Friday’s barnburner, which the Bruins ended up losing, 7-5. Bertuzzi finished with 10 points in seven games.
Bertuzzi’s success may be bittersweet for Wings fans. The 28-year-old was traded by general manager Steve Yzerman on March 2, after the sides found no common ground on a possible contract extension. Bertuzzi is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer; as such, Yzerman got something for Bertuzzi rather than risk losing him for nothing. It was a big get, too: A 2024 first-round pick (top-10 protected) and a 2025 fourth-round pick. That first-round pick could be used in a deal to acquire a player who can help the Wings in the present.
At the time of the trade, Bertuzzi had just four goals and 10 assists in 29 games. Two separate broken hands limited his availability this season; the one before, he was limited to 68 games, partly because his refusal to get vaccinated for COVID prevented him from traveling to play games in Canada. In 2021, he played just nine games because of a back injury that required surgery.
That Bertuzzi has made such a big impression in his first foray into the playoffs comes as no surprise. He was voted MVP of the 2017 AHL playoffs after leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup with nine goals and 10 assists, his 19 playoff points pacing the 19 games it took to win it all. His playoff prowess showed in juniors, too, when he was starring for the Guelph Storm: In 2013-14, he had 17 points in 18 games.
That was the season after the Wings drafted Bertuzzi at No. 58 in 2013 with the extra second-round pick they got from the San Jose Sharks for flipping first-round picks (the Wings took Anthony Mantha at No. 20; the Sharks wanted Mirco Mueller at No. 16).
Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.