After challenging regular season, Loui Eriksson off to good postseason start with Bruins
|04.21.14 at 9:17 pm ET|
When the Bruins traded for Loui Eriksson, one of the most common words associated with him was “underrated.”
He’d been a 36-goal-scorer and one of the better two-way players in the game, but because of his responsible style and the market in which he’d played, the narrative was that he didn’t get the credit he deserved while playing for the Stars.
So, when Eriksson was traded to Boston in the Tyler Seguin deal, he went from being underrated to facing some lofty expectations. Eriksson struggled to find chemistry with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron early and suffered two concussions during his first regular season in Boston, and as such finished with just 10 goals and 27 assists for 37 points in 61 games.
Two games into the playoffs, however, the Bruins are getting a combination of the player they saw after he returned from his first concussion — a player who was finding his way and providing a great blend of finesse and smarts in front of the net — and the player who was playing more confidently down the stretch on a line with fellow Sweden native Carl Soderberg.
Reilly Smith knows Eriksson as well as any of his teammates, as the two played together in Dallas before being sent to Boston as the two main pieces acquired by the B’s in the Seguin trade. In Sunday’s Game 2 against the Red Wings, Smith capitalized on Eriksson’s net-front work by jumping into the crease and knocking the puck into the net to give the B’s a 2-0 lead. It came on a power play that followed the expiration of the first penalty of a five-on-three, but Boston still had its five-on-three unit with Eriksson in front on the ice. That goal stood as the game-winner as the B’s went on to claim a 4-1 victory.
That wasn’t Eriksson’s only contribution. The Red Wings haven’t scored against his line and he has been a major part of a penalty kill that has limited the Red Wings to just two shots on goal — none of which have gone in — on six power plays.
In a series that has seen the Red Wings hold the puck plenty, Detroit players have had the 16 best five-on-five Corsi (shots attempted while on ice) percentages (Eriksson’s linemate, Justin Florek, is 17th). Yet Eriksson has the second-best CorsiRel (five-on-five Corsi percentage relative to when he isn’t on the ice) in the series, trailing only Detroit’s Riley Sheahan, who has held his own playing against David Krejci‘s line.
With no goals through the first two games, perhaps Eriksson is back to being underrated. That’s the way it’s been all season, according to his teammates.
“Loui is unbelievable, and I don’t think he probably gets the credit he deserves here,” Smith said. “You know he’s an unbelievable player, and just because he’s been out of the lineup due to injuries this year I think he kind of gets looked over. But he’s an ultra-talented guy, and you know as soon as he gets the puck he’s doing something special with it.”
Eriksson was expected to play on Bergeron’s line this season and form an offensively potent unit that was extremely difficult to score against. Though Smith eventually took the job from Eriksson during Eriksson’s recovery from his second concussion, Bergeron saw what kind of player Eriksson was even when the offense wasn’t coming. Bergeron saw a really smart two-way guy who wasn’t going to cheat for the sake of goals.
It takes one to know one.
“I think he’s a terrific player,” Bergeron said. “He’s always at the right spot. He’s got a great hockey IQ, I guess. He’s making some great plays that are often going unnoticed. But for us as teammates we see them and it goes a long way.
“I think we saw him and we keep seeing him and right now he’s skating well and he’s making some great plays offensively,” Bergeron added, “but he’s keeping with those great plays defensively.”