BOSTON — This is the player that the Boston Bruins thought they were getting when they traded away a potential franchise cornerstone in Tyler Seguin over the summer. This is the Loui Eriksson they have been waiting to see.
Eriksson’s first season with the Bruins has been tumultuous at times, but the winger had arguably his finest game on Saturday afternoon as he recorded four assists in Boston’s 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The four-point game ties a career-high for Eriksson, and he now has nine points in his last 11 games. That’s not necessarily a jaw-dropping stretch, but it’s significant progress for Eriksson with the way his season has gone to this point. The 28-year-old has battled injuries and (likely injury-related) inconsistency at times this year, but he’s healthy now and looks to be finding his game at the right time. The Bruins have just four regular-season games remaining, and it would be a big bonus if they can enter the postseason with Eriksson playing at his best.
One of the biggest signs that Eriksson is excelling has been his ability to contribute on different lines. He had started to find some consistency with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly on the third line. When Jarome Iginla was held out of the lineup on Wednesday night in Toronto, Eriksson moved up to the top line and had a strong game. He jump-started the second line on Thursday in Toronto. And on Saturday, he was back on the Boston first line where he not only recorded the four assists, but he also totaled a game-high seven shots on goal.
“He’s such a smart player — he adapts to any line he’s with, and he’s been a great asset to that third line with Carl Soderberg and Kelly,” head coach Claude Julien said. “He was a great asset tonight with Krejci’s line. I thought he did a great job also on [Patrice Bergeron’s] line the other night in Toronto. That line kind of got itself going with him … It means a lot as far as what he’s capable of bringing to our team.”
Eriksson’s game has taken off since the Olympics. He was one of the best players on a Sweden team that captured the silver medal in Sochi. It was clear that Eriksson was starting to play better then, and that has carried over since returning to NHL play. He has 14 points in the 20 games since the Olympics. He admits the Olympic momentum has helped, as does playing with smart players like himself.
“It’s definitely a nice feeling,” Eriksson said. “Like I said, they are such smart players to play with, they do a lot of good things out there. I’m just trying to help them out and today I thought we played really well.”
Eriksson’s numbers — 8-26-34 totals in 57 games — aren’t quite what they were in Dallas where he reached the 70-point plateau on three separate occasions. The good news for Eriksson and the Bruins, though, is that he doesn’t need to be that type of player in Boston. He just needs to fit in and continue to contribute the way he has in the last few weeks. If he can continue to be that type of player, the Bruins will be more than happy with the return.