Although it is hard to nitpick about a team that possesses a 9-2-2 record and a couple of games in hand, the Boston Bruins find themselves in a unique position that most teams around the NHL would like to be in.
The Bruins are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and trail the Montreal Canadiens by a slim margin for first place in the Northeast Division. The roster looks like they could be in it for the long haul, but that does not mean that Bruins head coach Claude Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli should be restricted in making tweaks to their squad.
One player that could very well be on the bubble is forward Chris Bourque.
He has skated primarily on the third line this season as a left winger with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. In the 12 games that he has skated in this season, he has posted only one goal and two assists with a minus-4 rating.
Throughout his duration with the team, he has gone through stints where he has struggled. He was not skating hard to the puck and he would often back away from contact along the boards. There were times where the Bruins depth on the third line, arguably their strongest asset, looked so bad that it prevented Coach Julien from rolling all four lines.
Despite his struggles, Bourque has also averaged over two minutes of time on ice with the man advantage. That certainly will not help a power play unit that is tied for 28th in the league (13.0%).
One has to wonder whether or not Bourque would have even made the roster if an injury did not sideline Jordan Caron heading into the preseason.
With that being said, not everything is looking bad for the young winger.
Bourque played his best game of the season Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets. He recorded an assist on the game-winning, power play goal scored by Brad Marchand. He was also very aggressive in the neutral zone and he looked more comfortable with the puck.
A player with the skill set and the demeanor of Bourque requires a confidence boost every now and then. He was a healthy scratch for the first meeting of the season with the Buffalo Sabres because he was “putting a lot of pressure on himself and he was not letting the game come to him,” according to Julien. The next game he played, which was against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he recorded his first goal in a Bruins sweater.
Maybe another healthy scratch is needed for Bourque? Perhaps he would find his game better if he skated on the fourth line? Whatever the solution is, it is not time to give up on him just yet. This is a player who wants to wear the Black and Gold and will do what he can to earn his spot on the roster.