French-Canadian hockey fans can be a tough crowd. Just ask new Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth, who’s already under heat for lack of French fluency.
With that in mind, the page written in the Benoit Pouliot story during Monday’s 3-2 Boston win over Montreal is one worth ear-marking.
Pouliot, selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2005, spent parts of two seasons with the Habs, posting 54 points in 118 games with Montreal. The production might’ve been appreciated from a checking line winger picked up for pennies in free agency.
Pouliot, though, was a former first-round pick who’d been acquired for Quebec-native Guiallaume Latendresse. Expectations were high, especially after scoring 11 goals in his first month as a Canadien.
As Pouliot learned, unmet expectations are perhaps the greatest ire in a fan’s eye. Pouliot’s tenure in Montreal came to a rocky end, and his relationship with the team only more complex when he signed a one-year deal with Boston over the summer.
Pouliot has spent the time since slowly turning into the player scouts foresaw earn the Emms Family Award as the OHL’s top rookie prior to his drafting.
Monday, Pouliot put his sharpening talents on display for his former teammates and their fans to see.
Pouliot and linemates Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly were stellar from the start, and gave Boston a 1-0 lead 12 minutes into the contest.
Peverley deserves much credit for the early tally. The centerman blitzed by Montreal pivot Petteri Nokelainen on the draw to Carey Price’s left, darting puck-in-tow toward the goal line.
Pouliot, set to Peverley’s left pre-draw, darted to the slot at puck drop. The former-Hab smoked his man to the far-side post, and was in prime position for a tap-in tally when Peverley crossed the puck in front of Price’s crease.
The goal was Pouliot’s first point against his old squad.
“It always feels good,” Pouliot said, trying to stifle a smile. “Sometimes off a draw, you try to catch some things like that. Not every time, but Peverley gave me the signal, so it was time to do it. We executed it pretty well.”
The goal was Pouliot’s fifth of the year. Like all seven of his points, those goals have all come since the start of Novemeber, which followed a rough transition into the Bruins’ system in October.
“We talked about being patient at the beginning of the year when a lot of people probably were writing him off,” Julien said. “Right now he’s showing that he’s very capable of playing on our club and doing a great job.”
Pouliot has had flattering things to say about the way Julien and his staff have coached him up. When the talented winger does things right, the coaches have been their to reinforce the behavior. More importantly, when Pouliot messes up, somebody is there to point it out, and explain strongly and clearly what the team is looking for.
“I knew him from watching him, and I think everybody felt the same way: there was a lot of talent in that young player,” Julien said. “Sometimes those guys just need an opportunity, and he got it in certain places where probably they didn’t feel that he fit in. But we thought that with the type of team that we had, he would be a good fit for a couple of reasons.
“Good size, good skill, but at the same time, he was a guy that could be physical. Our team is a team that really pushes guys to work hard day in, day out. We have a good group of players, and we felt that if we could get some consistency in this player, he would be a good asset to our hockey club.”