Chris Bourque has his family name to uphold. The 27-year-old is trying to stick as a full-time NHLer. Bourque is one of only three newbies (Dougie Hamilton and Aaron Johnson being the others) on the Bruins roster the season.
All that, it seems, has made the puck on his stick feel like a 45-pound plate.
On Thursday, Bourque was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. In the morning, coach Claude Julien had talked with Bourque to address his concerns with the left wing.
“I think he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself right now,” Julien said hours before the team’s 7-4 loss to Buffalo. “He’s certainly not the Chris that we know.
“I’ve seen him enough to know he’s a really good skater. He’s a really good playmaker. Right now, he’s putting way too much pressure on himself. Hopefully, we can help him through that.
“Once he takes that extra weight off his shoulders, we can see a player who can certainly be a much more efficient player than he’s shown so far.”
Bourque had been the No. 3 left wing. Because of Jordan Caron’s shoulder injury, Bourque was given first crack at filling the vacancy left by Benoit Pouliot. Bourque was also the right-side half-wall quarterback on the No. 2 power-play unit.
Through six games, Bourque hadn’t recorded a point. He had been averaging 11:58 of ice time per game, fourth-fewest on the team. Against Carolina Monday, Bourque took a third-period tripping penalty to wipe out a Boston power play.
At times, Bourque hasn’t had the wheels to keep up with linemates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Defensively, Bourque hasn’t been stout.
“I always put a lot of pressure on myself, especially to produce,” said Bourque. “When you’re not producing, you feel like you’re not helping the team.
“We’ve been doing it. We haven’t lost a game yet, so I can’t complain too much. But I want to contribute and help the team win. If that’s by getting points or just doing little things, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
On Thursday, Daniel Paille moved up to fill Bourque’s spot. Julien has been giving Paille some even-strength shifts on the third line, especially late in games.
Paille made an impact in the second period. Paille and Kelly cycled the puck down low and had several sniffs at the net. When the puck popped out to Peverley, Paille set up in front of goaltender Ryan Miller, his ex-Buffalo teammate. Peverley scored his first goal of the season at 5:12.
In the third, Paille gave the Bruins a four-minute power play. Defenseman Tyler Myers raked Paille across the face with his stick. Paille didn’t return.
Paille had two shots in 14:14 of ice time. Paille’s speed and energy around the net gave the line the offensive jump it had been missing.
“That line, it was a matter of time,” Julien said. “They were getting some chances. It was nice to see Rich score. He had a great opportunity shortly after. He could have had two quick goals. Those are encouraging signs.”
Lane MacDermid made his season debut. MacDermid skated on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. MacDermid had been a healthy scratch for the first six games.
Thursday’s setup might be a short-term solution. Bourque might be given another chance. Or another step might be to give Caron an opportunity once the left wing finds his touch. Caron returned to the Providence lineup last Saturday after missing three weeks.
In 33 AHL games, Caron has six goals and two assists. Caron’s primary problem has been his inability to rip off his wrister, although the Bruins’ bosses have been satisfied with Caron’s net-front presence.
If neither Bourque nor Caron can fill the position adequately, the Bruins could look to the trade market to upgrade.
At 19:46 of the third period, Jason Pominville scored an empty-net goal to give the Sabres a 7-4 lead. Prior to the next faceoff, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff called his timeout. The Bruins didn’t think much of the call.
“He wants to be a big shot,” Brad Marchand said. “It was not the best play to do. Pretty disrespectful. If he wants to be like that, that’s fine. We just have to move on.”
Before Ruff called timeout, Julien sent out MacDermid and Adam McQuaid, two of the team’s tougher players. After the timeout, Ruff replaced Thomas Vanek and Pominville with John Scott and Marcus Foligno.
“I don’t know why he took it. I really don’t know,” Julien said. “He’s entitled to it, so I just played along with it. He might have thought something was going to happen, which it wasn’t. That’s probably for him to answer. I don’t know.”
McQuaid back in
McQuaid, who was out the last two games, returned to the lineup Thursday and was on the ice for 13:39. Johnson was the healthy scratch . . . The Bruins were 0 for 4 on the power play. Buffalo was 1 for 3, scoring on a two-man advantage . . . Jay Pandolfo remains on a professional tryout agreement. If Thornton, who left in the first period after his fight with Scott and did not return, has to miss a long stretch, the Bruins might consider signing Pandolfo to a standard contract. Pandolfo could skate on the fourth line with Campbell and MacDermid. Julien has said he does not consider Bourque a fourth-line player.