BostonBruins.com - It's been a week since Carl Soderberg joined the Boston Bruins. When the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Malmo, Sweden native arrived in Boston for the first time last Wednesday (April 17), there was a myriad of adjustments to make, but none seem to be phasing the 27-year-old all too much.
He had been to the U.S. 10-15 times before, but never to Boston. He had played 10 seasons of elite hockey, but never in the NHL. His teammates spoke his native tongue, and the press didn't swarm him in his locker room stall, peppering questions about the transition he had barely started.
"Yeah, a lot of new faces coming up, all the guys, coaches, and staff. And then practice after that. A lot of things happened today," Soderberg had said, trying to process everything taking place so quickly around him.
Anton Khudobin had taken the time during warm-up laps before pregame skate that day to give some pointers, as the new addition started his adjustment to a team that was 41 games deep into their season.
"It's very exciting. I'm very glad to be here," Soderberg softly added, as the Boston media spoke to him for the first time as a Bruin. "I had a great season and I wanted to try NHL, of course."
His "great season" came with a career-high 31 goals to lead the Swedish Elite League as a member of Linkoping HC. He also added 29 assists in 54 games and his two-way game saw him register a plus-18 rating.
"It's an acquisition that we added to our team and trying to improve our team before the playoffs. He's a great player, smart player," Captain Zdeno Chara had said, noting he would easily slide onto the team of welcoming B's, something apparent over the past week, when the likes of Big Zee have taken the time to share long conversations with Soderberg, to help him on and off the ice.
"He had a really awesome season back in Sweden. We're happy to have him."
Fast forward seven days and Soderberg was suiting up in his third straight game Tuesday night in the spoked-B, this time against the Philadelphia Flyers. Upon his arrival, he had sat out the game against Buffalo on April 17, observing the NHL game and Bruins' system, before being slotted into the lineup alongside Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr.
"Good skater, two-way centerman, good skills, work hard; I'll play wherever the coaches want me," Soderberg had said upon arriving in Boston, when describing his expected skill set.
"He’s here for all the right reasons and he’s going to do whatever we tell him to do. Very receptive and our group has always been good at letting guys come into our dressing room, knowing that they’re there to help," said Coach Julien, on how Soderberg would fit on the team.
"We respect the healthy competition and, at the end of the day, the best players are hopefully going to be in our lineup."
The versatile Soderberg played the left wing with Kelly at center and Jagr on the right side in his NHL/Bruins debut against Pittsburgh. He received 16:10 in ice time and 1:59 of that on the power play, but did not muster a shot on goal.
"Definitely it’s an adjustment for him, but I think we can help him through it," Tyler Seguin said following Soderberg's NHL debut. "I know for myself, I was talking to him a lot and I still am going to. I feel like I’m pretty familiar with it going over here [to the NHL ice from overseas] myself this year. I thought he played in multiple different situations and he’s only going to get better."
For the ensuing two games, first at home against Florida and then in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, Coach Julien has placed him at center to get better used to the North American ice surface. Soderberg has played at center for the past two years.
Since then, he's been looking more and more comfortable. In the B's 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, the forward got more involved, putting up his first NHL point with an assist on Jaromir Jagr's early goal, and finished the day with a shot, hit, assist and takeaway, winning 50 percent of his faceoffs.
"He’s made good strides in his first two games," Coach Julien had said of the new Bruin's initial performance as a Bruin. "So he’s got four more games again to get better, and hopefully he’s a very confident individual and he will be good for us."
Soderberg certainly carried his building confidence into Tuesday night's match-up with Philadelphia. Though it's tough to find positives from the 5-2 ousting by the Flyers, the forward was visibly more comfortable on the ice and in the Bruins' system, with more open ice to work with at center, than battling for pucks along the boards.
Before the game slipped away from the B's, Soderberg assisted on Wade Redden's first goal as a Bruin that tied the game, 1-1, and then nearly set up Chris Kelly for the go-ahead when he hopped on a loose puck in the slot that took a hard bounce off the boards, and one-timed it on goal - one of the first in-game glimpses of the forward's arsenal. Kelly pounced on the rebound, but was denied by the post.
"He's a good player; it's going to take him some time to get up and running," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli has said of Soderberg. "He's big and strong and he's got a good two-way element, so he'll fit into our lineup."
It looks like the transition is taking place at a promising pace, even if his scoring touch hasn't been on display yet. Though, Soderberg wasn't initially too worried about the adjustment himself, pointing out two simple things that would help him:
"It's still hockey, and it's a great team."
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