Eriksson, Bruins Getting in Sync

Monday, 10.07.2013 / 6:15 PM
Caryn Switaj  - BostonBruins.com

BostonBruins.com - It's been about a month and a half with the "new Bruins" like Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla being added to the forward corps.

And it's also been about a month of those additions fielding questions about "chemistry" with their linemates.

The verdict? It takes time. So, every day, and each time they get asked about it, it's gotten better.

Loui Eriksson knows he gets more comfortable the more practices and games he plays with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

So, the same was true following Monday's hard session at Ristuccia Arena, with the B's three days away from their next game against Colorado on Thursday.

After joking with the new forward following practice about how tired he was of being asked about how their chemistry is forming, I decided I'd ask him, from his point of view, what that even means.

"It’s a matter of knowing where everyone is on the ice. When you get to camp, you don’t know exactly where the guys are on the ice. I think we’re getting there; practice today, we felt really good. Some good passes," said Eriksson, who sports the gold jersey at practice with his two linemates.

"It’s going to be nice to get some more practice in too before the next game and try to work on things."

But it's not just about the work being put in off the ice.

A clip from Episode 2 of the Bruins' all-access TV show "Behind the B" showed Eriksson and Bergeron sharing a locker room conversation before a practice.

"You like me to give it on your backhand more than opening up like that?" Bergeron asked his left-shot right winger, sitting over by Eriksson's stall as he taped his stick prior to a skate.

"Yeah, probably more on the backhand," said the winger.

A simple conversation between the two soft-spoken Bruins, but the more conversations like that they have, the more that "chemistry" will translate onto the ice.

"That’s why you have practice, so you can talk to them and see what we can get better at. That’s something we need to talk about," said Eriksson. "I think Bergy and Marchy are good at talking to me and explaining how they feel. And I think with a few more games, we’re really going to get the hang of it."

From the beginning, Head Coach Claude Julien has stressed that patience.

"It’s a matter of time," said Julien, on how he views the new Bruins adjusting. "I keep repeating myself; you can’t judge or expect miracles in the first few games of the season."

"Like I said, you give them a good month to get to know each other and play together and you hope that in that month it progresses and so far I’ve seen that from training camp until now."

And it's not just about getting to know one another; it's also about the Bruins' well-structured system becoming second-nature.

In hockey, a team's "system" isn't often difficult to learn. It's more about the habit of execution.

In Dallas, where Eriksson spent seven full seasons, and on many other NHL teams, they overload their breakouts out of the zone. The Bruins keep their wingers a bit wider.

For Eriksson, and even Smith, though he only spent one season in Dallas before the trade, the repetition of that structure will eventually become more comfortable.

"It’s the same adjustment as it was for Jags [Jaromir Jagr] and those guys," Julien said.

"So it’s a bit of a change there for those kind of players and it takes a little bit of time just like anything else…You just don’t become a good driver overnight, it takes practice it takes time. I think the same thing for those guys."

As much as media attention as the new players have gotten, and will continue to receive, Julien remains cautionary - even if the Bruins did start the season 2-0-0, with help from their newcomers.

"I think it’s going to be important that we don’t judge these guys too quickly – all of those guys coming in," said Julien. "Teams play different ways."

"When those things have been ingrained in you, they don’t just disappear overnight. It’s just a matter of time, and giving them a chance to get more comfortable, and giving them reminders, and I think after a few weeks or a month you’ve got a better idea of what you’ve got as a player."

For a Coach and team that hasn't had much turnover in years past, the familiarity may not be what is has been, but there's still a strong core who leads the way (and, if we're sticking with the car analogy here, could probably drive with their eyes closed).

"Sometimes when it’s new, you have to think about it a lot," Julien said. "And what I try and create with our guys is a situation where it becomes second nature."

"So, less thinking, more action, and that takes time."

"Tuukka's Been Tuukka"

One Bruin who has wasted no time in getting in sync is Tuukka Rask.

The netminder and his team have only allowed two goals in their first two games of 2013-14. In the 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, Rask thwarted 32 shots and then made 25 stops in the 4-1 victory over Detroit.

“Tuukka’s been Tuukka," said Julien, following the team's October 7 practice, as they sit at 2-0-0. "That means he’s just been solid, played well, made big saves when we need them."

"And again, in that first game, I thought he did a good job of holding us in there. We didn’t have a good start. Last game [against Detroit] I thought we had a much better overall game but against that type of team, you need good goaltending and he gave us that."

"Tuukka only played a few games in preseason so it’s an opportunity for him to get some rhythm going."

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