Eriksson's Debut in the Spoked-B
BostonBruins.com - Just as Jarome Iginla made his anticipated debut in the spoked-B on Monday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Loui Eriksson suited up in Black & Gold for the first time in game action on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals.
There was some added pressure for Eriksson, with Iginla potting his first two goals as a Bruin against the Habs.
"It’s definitely going to be nice to get the first game going, just get into game shape and I think that’s good to have some games before the season starts," Eriksson said prior to the match-up against the Caps in Baltimore for the second annual "Baltimore Hockey Classic."
"Two different players, but definitely a little more pressure on him now that Iggy went and scored a couple of goals," Eriksson's new left winger, Brad Marchand had teased. "So it’ll be fun, we’re excited to play tonight and get used to one another out there."
Truth is, despite the B's scraping out a 3-2 shootout win over the Caps, it was a much different game to assess than the night before.
For starters, Patrice Bergeron is not yet fully ready for game action (though it's more of a precaution and he's expected to suit up at some point during the preseason), so he did not travel and, thus, was not Eriksson's centerman.
Alexander Khokhlachev did a fine job, and nearly hit Eriksson with a cross-ice pass through the hash marks off a 2-on-1 rush, but we all know that Bergeron makes a difference - a huge difference.
"Bergy didn’t play last night [Tuesday], obviously, but they're the same way a little bit," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said on Wednesday of Eriksson joining the centerman's line as his new right winger.
"Different personnel, but they’re looking for each other and sometimes that gets to become overpassing, but it’s a good thing to start off with chemistry and Loui’s - I mean, you’ve seen him now in enough practices, you see how he takes care of details with and without the puck. He’s a good fit for that line."
It's been easy to see the chemistry forming with both Eriksson joining Bergeron's line, and Iginla meshing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Bergeron has said his line will "do great things on the forecheck" and create offense for themselves. Eriksson's two-way play will certainly be a factor in that.
Without being able to see that last night with Eriksson, Bergeron and Marchand all together, it was tougher to "judge" the performance.
"I thought that Eriksson and Marchand, for me yesterday, was hard to assess because Bergy makes a big difference on that line," Julien said following the team's practices on Wednesday at TD Garden.
"They didn’t have that Bergy presence out there and I thought Marchy was a little bit all over the place but when Bergy’s out there, he probably settles him into playing his position, and I don’t know if he was trying to compensate."
"When I say it’s hard to assess…I thought Marchy was all over the ice yesterday trying to do a lot and so sometimes that throws your linemates off, too."
Another factor in Tuesday night's exhibition game was the rink conditions, with the match-up not being played at an NHL arena. You wouldn't hear it from the players, who have played in all kinds of varied conditions and rinks throughout their careers, and know it's the same atmosphere for both teams. But it slowed down the play a bit, and caused players to sometimes take an extra second to settle down the puck.
"It was a lot tougher to assess players [Tuesday] because of that," admitted Julien. "It was just kind of "get rid of the puck" because they were bouncing and just to get it out so you didn’t get yourself in trouble."
"So we weren’t able to make as many plays as we normally would and that was the same thing for Washington. They had some good skill in their lineup but, same thing, they couldn’t do too much because the ice condition. So it was unfortunate that way that it made it tougher, but we were still able to evaluate our players."
And one aspect of Eriksson's game that easily stands out, no matter the conditions, is his natural attention to details - just like Bergeron.
"What I liked about Loui is that, like you said, attention to detail," said Julien. "He comes back in his own end, he knows where he has to go, he knows what he has to do, has the puck under pressure."
"So he made some good plays and that line is only going to get better once they get the chemistry and when they get a guy like Bergy up the middle."
"I didn’t mind his game…I saw the things that I needed to see."
Like the rest of you, I'll be anticipating the game when Bergeron can get back into the lineup (he's getting close) and we can "assess" the new trio at game speed, and the two-way game that will unfold.
And I'm pretty positive we'll enjoy what we see.