Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson hasn’t been able to develop much consistency this season because of two concussions that forced him to miss 20 of the team’s 57 games heading into the Olympic break.
Some fans were worried about Eriksson traveling to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to play for Sweden, and hoped he would take two weeks off to rest and recover for the final portion of the NHL’s regular season. But going overseas and representing his country has turned out to be a brilliant decision by Eriksson, who’s finding his game in Sochi as one of Sweden’s best players.
The 28-year-old winger has been a focal point of Team Sweden’s offense as a second-line forward, and he brings a two-game goal streak into Sunday’s gold medal game against Canada. He helped Sweden dominate Slovenia in the quarterfinals with a goal and an assist in the third period of a 5-0 victory, then scored the equalizing goal in the semifinal against Finland, which the Swedes won 2-1.
Through five Olympic games, Eriksson has scored two goals with an assist, a plus-2 rating and 10 shots on goal. He’s also averaging 19:15 of ice time per game, which ranks third on the team and first among forwards. His strong defensive performance, including consistent back-checking and physical play, has helped him shut down opposing teams’ top forwards, including Finland’s Teemu Selanne in the semifinals.
Eriksson’s fine form is an encouraging sign for the Bruins, who need the veteran forward to play well consistently for the team to make back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.
He’s been playing on the third line for Boston as Reilly Smith has emerged as a top-six forward with 18 goals and 42 points. One of the Bruins’ weaknesses in last year’s playoffs was a lack of bottom-six scoring, specifically from Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr on the third line (they combined for one goal in 22 games). Eriksson will help solidify that line in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs alongside Chris Kelly and fellow Swede Carl Soderberg, which will make Boston a much more difficult team to match up against and put less pressure on the top-six forwards.
Eriksson is also an important part of the Bruins’ penalty kill, and he’s excelled in this role for Sweden. The Scandinavian nation has spent a tournament-high 34:19 short-handed, and Eriksson has been on the team’s top penalty kill unit because of his strong defensive fundamentals and high hockey IQ. He’s helped Sweden kill off almost 90 percent of its penalties in Sochi.
Eriksson went into the Olympic break with five points in his last seven games for the Bruins, and after a stellar tournament in Sochi, he should return to Boston playing his best hockey of the season and ready to hit his stride.
The B’s will resume regular-season play Feb. 26 against Buffalo.
Photo via Twitter.com/@NHLBruins
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