Since being dealt to the Boston Bruins back in 2007, Carl Soderberg has seemed more like a mythical legend than an actual hockey player. The former second round pick of the St. Louis Blues (drafted 49th overall), had yet to skate in an NHL game before Saturday’s matinee — a highly anticipated debut for the “Yeti”.
Playing in the Swedish Elite League, Soderberg tallied 95 points in 96 games his past two seasons, calling them the “best” of his career. With his production at its peak and confidence level at an all time high, Soderberg felt the time was now to make the trip overseas.
Facing the conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, in the midst of one of the most historic and horrific weeks in Boston and American history, the 27-year-old rookie struggled in his debut. Transitioning to both a smaller ice surface and new brand of hockey is tough for any rookie, and expectations must remain fair for the newcomer.
Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers — a team entrenched in Seth Jones territory — proved an easier test for number 34. Just five minutes into the game, playing alongside Chris Kelly and Jaromir Jagr, Soderberg registered his first career NHL point. The goal was all Jagr, but Soderberg’s effort keeping the puck in the zone played a big role and earned him his first ever assist.
Through two periods, the experience of only one NHL game showed its impact for the rookie. He looked comfortable both even strength and on the power play, providing a net-front presence and making smart, simple plays. Soderberg limited his turnovers in Sunday’s game, a problem that will only improve with NHL experience.
At times, the smaller ice was an issue for Soderberg, who unintentionally bumped his linemates. This will be another tough adjustment for the Swede, but with an improved knowledge of the North American game he should only get better.
Overall, in the smallest of sample sizes, you can’t help but be pleased with the rookie’s play. He’s fit in well on the third line, and looked great playing up front with Jagr and Tyler Seguin on the daunted Bruins power play.
“As far as Carl Soderberg was concerned, to me he was better today than he was yesterday,” said coach Claude Julien said postgame.
“We put him at center today and put Kelly on the wing. And you know, it’s for him to get used to playing on North American ice and this kind of a game. And you know, to me he’s made good strides in his first two games. 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. “
As long as Soderberg maintains a decent two-way presence and can provide offensive production, he should be in the lineup from this point forward. Gaining confidence before the NHL playoffs, which is an entirely new season consisting of the most physical hockey and on-ice battles for every inch, will be the biggest key to his future success.
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