Max Zimmer looks to remain consistent, dominant after scoring in breakout weekend

Max Zimmer scored his first goal in almost a year against Merrimack last weekend.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

“I don’t know, I feel alright. Obviously I would have liked to play better, play some more. I’m just in a little bit of a drought right now. I’m not playing as well as I would like to.”

“It was awesome. Even if I didn’t score this week, I was pretty happy with the way I played. I was consistently playing well and I was consistently playing hard.”

The sentiment and the tone behind these quotes are vastly different. Still, despite the contrasting messages, both comments are from sophomore forward Max Zimmer, with only seven days separating the two statements.

Clearly, one weekend drastically changed Zimmer’s outlook on how he is playing for and contributing to Wisconsin.

Last weekend, UW traveled to Boston for a series against Boston College and Merrimack. Before the trip, Zimmer felt largely disappointed and dejected about his game. The talented young Badger hadn’t scored since playing Michigan State early last January, and he was even scratched from the lineup in the second Ohio State game prior to this weekend.

Zimmer has played well since coming to Wisconsin — he just hasn’t been able to constantly find the net or put the points up to satisfy his standards.

“I’m trying to play with a lot more consistency, and with consistency comes confidence,” Zimmer said. “That’s the bigger issue with me right now is I’m not playing with consistency.”

Still, Zimmer knew that if he kept staying after practice and putting in the time, he could end his drought and contribute in the manner he expects from himself as a fourth round NHL draft pick.

“It’s just going to take some hard work to get out of it,” Zimmer said prior to the weekend. “Hard work and getting into a routine, playing every game and just working is going to get me back to playing well.”

And, even though he recognizes that points aren’t everything, before the trip, Zimmer really just felt like scoring a goal could be the one thing he needed to lift his confidence.

“Oh my god. Just to be able to pop one is going to lift a whole lot of weight off my back,” Zimmer said.

This past weekend against Merrimack, right on cue, Zimmer found a way to do just that, scoring his first goal in nearly a year. After he redirected a shot from the point into the back of the Merrimack net, he turned around and his shoulders relaxed — he was elated and relieved that he finally found a way to bury one.

“It was definitely nice to score — nice to get the monkey off my back,” Zimmer said with a smile earlier this week. “It was nice to start to gel with a couple players and start to make some plays out there.”

Zimmer attacked the offensive zone all weekend, using his speed to get to the middle of the ice and create chances for his linemates. Even head coach Tony Granato recognized how dominant he was in both games out east.

“He played great last night, too,” Granato said after the game against Merrimack. “I thought it was probably his best weekend since he’s been a part of our program.”

Zimmer attributed his commanding performance to his linemates, but he also recognized that his work ethic since the start of the season was a big component in his breakout weekend. Granato saw his work ethic unfold during the game, and rewarded Zimmer with more playing time and responsibility.

“I think it was just hard work and having a little bit of chemistry with my line mates,” Zimmer said. “It was just doing the little things right like winning battles and puck races. I think because of those things I had more opportunities to get the puck to the net.

“I was talking to Tony and he felt a lot more comfortable putting me out there because I was playing more consistent. He knew what he was going to get when he put me out there, versus last weekend or the weekend before when I was a little less consistent and he didn’t know what he was going to get shift in and shift out.”

Zimmer expressed that he thinks his goal, his extended time on the ice — including uniquely playing on the four-on-four with players like Cameron Hughes — and his consistency from this past weekend could lead to continued success over the course of the rest of the season.

Historically, Zimmer has built on successful performances. After earning his first point seven games into his freshman campaign, Zimmer put up five shots in the following game and recorded points in four of his next six appearances, including his first goal. Similarly, he followed up his second goal last season with his only two point night of the year the next game.

Before the start of the season, associate head coach Mark Osiecki said of Zimmer, “that kid could have a breakout year.”

Now, after scoring his first goal of the season and finding some new confidence and consistency, Zimmer feels on the verge of seeing that projected breakout year come to fruition.

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