A month into the NHL season, Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith are transitioning to Boston Bruins Hockey.
Carl Soderberg, who played in total of eight games for Boston last year, has produced since returning to the lineup after suffering a foot injury at the end of the preseason.
After losing four of five games, the Bruins turned things around against the best possible recipe for success, downing a reeling Florida Panthers team 4-1 on home ice.
The win was especially gratifying considering the state of the Bruins, a perennial powerhouse in the Eastern Conference year in and year out, in the midst of sluggish start to the 2013-2014 season.
One newcomer who’s really made his mark, a “throw in” in the Tyler Seguin deal, is the 22-year-old Smith.
Smith, who has 10 points in 15 games in the young season, has shown poise beyond his years and fit in well on the third line with Chris Kelly and Soderberg.
“Just look at the stats,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien of Smith at Saturday’s pregame conference. “I think he’s been a real good player for us. He’s a young player I think that’s probably not been overlooked, but kind of been in the shadow for a long time and now he’s kind of emerged with us here.”
Julien noted his diverse skill-set as one of the most impressive things in the early goings. “He’s played a big role for us on our power play,” said Julien. “He’s moved up on the second line for parts of the season; real smart player, creative, good hockey sense, making good plays. So we’re really happy.”
On their second night of a back-to-back, Toronto looked understandably slow to start Saturday’s game. The Bruins, being vary way of their opponents schedule, took it to them in the first period, outshooting them 14-7 and leading 1-0 after one period of play.
Two of the new guys, Iginla and Soderberg, played particularly well in the first period. Soderberg hit the post on a wicked wrist shot early in the tilt, and followed it up with smart, sound hockey for the full 20.
Iginla, who’s really picked up his play of late, was all over the ice; making perfect passes, driving to the net, shooting pucks, the veteran winger was finally awarded, assisting Zdeno Chara on his power play goal late in the period.
“You know what, it felt good,” said Iginla postgame. “We had some great zone time and were able to read off each other a little more as far as jump to some spots and get some good looks. We’ve had some good chances this year; we’ve had some good shifts. But it does feel like it’s starting to come as far as reading off each other, spreading out, using each other, getting some second, third chances. It felt good. Unfortunately, you’d like – as a tight game you’d like some of them to go in a little bit earlier and stuff. But still at the end of the night it feels good and it’s an important win for us.”
Three times in the first Iginla made nifty moves at the goal line, breezing past Toronto defensemen and taking the puck to the net. He’s brought a new element to Bruins hockey and that first line, getting better with every game.
The Leafs equaled the Bruins dominant first period of play with one of their own.
Whether consequence of the Adam McQuaid injury, leaving the Boston back end shorthanded, or not, the Bruins had a very sluggish second period, forfeiting their one goal lead rather than adding to it.
Joffrey Lupul tied the game on an impressive one-man rush, beating Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask short side high with a terrific wrist shot.
The score was knotted at one after two periods of play.
Two Bruins newbies once again made their mark early in the third period, as Soderberg’s net-front presence and overall aggression led to an eventual put-back goal for Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron.
“Yeah, that’s the way I play,” said Soderberg of his ability to create traffic in front of the net. “That’s the way I played before I came here too. So, I like that kind of game. You score a lot of goals in front of the net and you score assists too. So it’s a good spot.”
Bruins fans could certainly get used to seeing the big swede wreak havoc in front of opposing goaltenders.
Eriksson also got into the fun, making a nice play along the boards to feed the puck to Bergeron who clinched the victory with an empty net goal, his second tally of the night.
All the newbies chipped in in what was a solid victory for the Bruins, who look to extend their winning streak to three games on Monday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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