BOSTON — Loui Eriksson was among the best Bruins after the Winter Olympic break, and he’ll enter his first Stanley Cup playoff run since 2007-08 playing his best hockey of the season when the Black and Gold face the Detroit Red Wings in Friday night’s Game 1.
“It’s definitely been a challenging season for me, especially in the beginning with the injuries and concussions and everything,” Eriksson said after Thursday’s practice at TD Garden. “I think after the Olympics I’ve been playing good and I’m feeling comfortable. I’m ready to get a good start here in the playoffs.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve played in the playoffs, I think this is a good team to play with. They have experience, they know what it takes to win, I’m just happy to be part of it. They will help me out (Friday night).
Eriksson started to get into a rhythm in the last five games of the regular season. He tallied seven points (two goals, five assists) in that span while also playing between 17 and 20 minutes per night. Bruins head coach Claude Julien hopes he sees that same Eriksson in the postseason.
“For Loui, hopefully it’s an exciting time of year for him since like you said, he hasn’t been there for a while,” Julien said. “Loui’s a good player. He’s a good two-way player, he’s a smart player that’s been playing his best two-way hockey in this second half of the year, and so hopefully that continues.”
Another thing Bruins fans hope continues is Eriksson’s stellar play at both ends of the ice alongside fellow Swede Carl Soderberg, who centered Boston’s third line for a good portion of the regular season. The two have formed a productive duo, especially in the attacking zone.
“(Carl is) a great player with the puck, and with his big body, he can make good plays out there,” Eriksson said. “We try to build on every game we can and help each other.”
Eriksson was brought to Boston for the playoffs, when the game becomes slower and smart, defensive players make a tremendous impact. Even though it’s been an up-and-down season for him, the 28-year-old forward should play an important role in every situation.
Eriksson averaged 1:25 of short-handed and 1:50 of power-play time per game this season, and his good positioning, high hockey IQ and ability to win puck battles along the boards played a major role in Boston finishing with the third-best power play and eighth-best penalty kill in the NHL. The St. Louis Blues were the only other team to rank in the top 10 of both special teams categories.
If you look at hockey’s advanced stats, it’s easier to see the positive impact Eriksson has made in Boston.
He ranked fourth on the Bruins with a corsi-for percentage (puck-possession stat) of 58.4 during the regular season. The Bruins averaged 4.5 percent more shots when Eriksson was on the ice compared to when he sat on the bench, which was higher than every Bruins player except for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Boston also had a 93.8 save percentage (third-best on team) when Eriksson was on the ice. Eriksson’s penalty differential (penalties taken minus penalties drawn) was plus-7, the third-best on the team.
As the Bruins prepare for what should be another deep playoff run, Eriksson’s two-way game and ability to shine on special teams will play a pivotal role in the team’s success. He’s not an electrifying player, but he makes a positive impact everywhere on the ice.
Advanced stats via ExtraSkater.com