BOSTON — The Bruins are win one away from a third trip to the Eastern Conference finals in four years, and they have third-line center Carl Soderberg to thank for getting them to this point.
The 28-year-old Swede was unstoppable in Boston’s 4-2 Game 5 win over the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night at TD Garden with three points, including his first career playoff goal. He now has five points in his last four games.
“He’s a big body out there – skating real well and making some plays out there,” Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, who assisted on Soderberg’s goal, said after Game 5. “So, (he’s) definitely a really good guy to have on the team. He can make big moments (and) plays out there. He played a great game today….He’s smart. He ‘s playing with confidence, and he likes to go to the net a lot and put the puck there. You just need to read it well, and I think we’re doing it right now.”
Soderberg excelled in all phases of the game Saturday night. He generated scoring chances, won puck battles along the boards and behind the goal line to maintain possession, won important faceoffs, back checked consistently and didn’t commit a single turnover. His responsible play in all three zones and good decision making with the puck are two reasons why he’s so easy to play with and why Bruins head coach Claude Julien can add new players to his wing without worry.
“I play with whoever (Julien) wants to play with me,” Soderberg said. “But right now since (Matt Fraser) came in, and he scored the game winner last game, and it seems like he is fitting in pretty well with our line. (Eriksson) and I, I think we have played good the whole playoffs but we haven’t scored so it is good both of us scored today.”
In addition to his excellent even-strength play, Soderberg also made a positive impact on the power play. He picked up an assist on Reilly Smith’s third goal of the series when he passed back to Dougie Hamilton at the point, who found Smith with a tremendous pass into the slot. This goal ended Boston’s 13-game power-play drought against Montreal during playoff competition.
His second assist came on Loui Eriksson’s second goal of the postseason. Soderberg took a pass in his own zone and powered his way through the center of the ice into the attacking zone. He made a drop pass to Fraser, who fired a low shot on Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. Eriksson pounced on the rebound to give Boston a 4-1 advantage.
Soderberg’s playmaking ability is giving the Bruins the third-line scoring production that they lacked in last year’s playoffs when Chris Kelly, Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr combined to tally just three goals in 22 games. The Eriksson-Soderberg-Fraser trio was Boston’s best in Game 4, scoring the only goal in the overtime win. They were equally impressive Saturday night with a combined six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-6 rating.
“(…Soderberg’s) line has arguably been our best line so far in this series,” Julien said. “They make things happen, so got to give them a lot of credit. It certainly takes a lot of pressure off the other lines”
Despite his recent success, Soderberg is striving for consistency. If he keeps performing at his current level, the Bruins will be tough to stop Monday night in Montreal with a chance to eliminate their rivals in Game 6.
“I don’t believe in peaks,” Soderberg said. “I think hard work every game, that creates peaks. I don’t know, I’ve been pretty good right now but I think I can play on this level the whole time.”