BOSTON — Much like his career as a whole, Benoit Pouliot’s first year with the Bruins has been far from smooth. The former fourth overall pick, who has been labeled a bust due to his subpar performances in both Minnesota and Montreal, started this season with just one point in his first 10 games.
He was a healthy scratch on opening night. He missed the last game of October and first two games of November with an illness. Then on Saturday, Pouliot was a surprising healthy scratch against Buffalo as recently recalled Zach Hamill got the nod over him to replace an injured Rich Peverley.
Pouliot’s season finally took a turn for the better Tuesday night, though. The 6-foot-3 winger registered the game-winning goal in the Bruins’ 4-3 victory over the Devils when he chipped a rebound past Johan Hedberg with 3:01 left in regulation.
“It feels good obviously, scoring a goal,” Pouliot said. “The game-winner or not, it just feels good. It helps mentally a lot. You feel good after this.”
Pouliot admitted that when he had been a healthy scratch in Montreal — including for the final four games of last year’s opening-round loss to the Bruins — it sometimes got him down and caused him to become frustrated. He said he’s trying to handle things like healthy scratches or changes in playing time better this year.
“It’s tough obviously, but I tried to stay more positive [after Saturday],” Pouliot sad. “I’m not changing anything I’m doing right now. I think on and off the ice, I’m just trying to work hard as much as I can, and it’s going to pay off in the long run. Tonight I got a little bit more shifts out there, and the whole thing went great.”
Pouliot said Saturday’s scratch was a little easier to handle because of how much he has talked to his coaches about what’s expected of him and what he can do to better meet those expectations.
One of the things Pouliot had to adjust to was Claude Julien’s system. Pouliot has said in the past that he was never quite comfortable in Jacques Martin’s system in Montreal, which might’ve been one of the reasons he lost playing time as his tenure there went on. Pouliot said he thinks he’s a better fit for the Bruins’ style because there’s more north-south play and more staying on your wing, which allows him to use his speed more.
It’s obviously still a bit of a work in progress — as evidenced by the fact that Pouliot was benched Saturday — but Julien said Pouliot has handled criticism well and continued to work hard.
“I spoke to him before last game, and sometimes you just have to be specific with those guys and help them along the way and tell them what they’ve got to improve,” Julien said. “They’re all pros at this level. They’ve been around long enough that I don’t think you have to sugarcoat too much anymore.”
Pouliot’s teammates have noticed his hard work, too. And much like Bruins fans, they couldn’t have been happier to see Pouliot contribute in a big way Tuesday night.
“Pouliot has been working really hard,” Shawn Thornton said. “For him to come in tonight and respond with a game-winner, I mean I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s fit into this dressing room seamlessly. He’s a really good guy, a good teammate, so I’m definitely happy for him.”