One is 6 feet 9 inches and 255 pounds. One is 6-2 and 196. But while Loui Eriksson doesn’t have the size that Zdeno Chara does, he was just as effective Sunday in front of the net on the power play.
“He’s a bit bigger than me, so it’s tough for the goalie to see,” Eriksson said. “When you’re in front, you just try to be in front, but be so that he can’t see the puck. You need some luck, too.”
Eriksson, who suffered two concussions this season, is finally healthy and demonstrating what he can do. That includes being a net-front presence when the Bruins are on a 5-on-3 power play, a setup they were still in (though the two-man advantage had expired) when they scored their second goal in a 4-1 win in Game 2.
The winger occupied two Detroit defenders — Brian Lashoff and Kyle Quincey — in addition to goalie Jimmy Howard, allowing Reilly Smith to sneak in and sweep the puck past the goal line for the score.
“He positions himself well. He finds pucks well. He tips them well. He’s been good in that area for a long time. We had seen him do that before,” coach Claude Julien said. “On the 5-on-3, he’s one of those guys that we feel very comfortable with him being in front because he will stand and do a good job, has a good eye for the puck as far as finding it with his stick, so he does a good job of that, tipping those pucks.”
And that’s crucial for Eriksson, and for the Bruins.
Said Patrice Bergeron, “It’s huge. The goalies are too good to let them see the puck, so especially when you have a one-man advantage you’ve got to take care of that and make sure you do have net-front presence, move the puck well, and take what’s there. I think bringing the puck on net is something we’ve improved and it’s been working.”
As for Eriksson, he has played like his old self in the last month-plus, since returning from his trip with the Swedish national team to the Sochi Olympics, and has helped make the third line a force. He is finally healthy, finally comfortable, and finally starting to make the contribution the Bruins had anticipated when they traded for him last summer.
“After the Olympics, for him, I thought he really got better and really picked up his game,” Bergeron said. “It was a tough year for him with the injuries, so it’s tough to get going when that happens. I think he’s a terrific player. He’s always at the right spot. He’s got a great hockey IQ, I guess. He’s making some great plays that are often going unnoticed. But for us as teammates we see them and it goes a long way.”
That’s on offense and on defense, where the two-way player has been a boon for the Bruins. It’s something that Smith saw last year in Dallas, and something he’s seeing now that Eriksson is back to being healthy with the Bruins.
“Loui is unbelievable, and I don’t think he probably gets the credit he deserves here,” said Smith, who was traded to the Bruins along with Eriksson and two prospects for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley . “But he’s an ultra-talented guy, and you know as soon as he gets the puck he’s doing something special with it.”
Ice timeThe Bruins had an optional skate Monday before flying to Detroit. Daniel Paille and Matt Bartkowski took part, along with a couple of players who had been relegated to skating on their own with strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides: Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid.
Both have been skating for about two weeks, without the rest of their teammates. They also had skated earlier with Whitesides Monday but returned to the ice at 11 a.m. for more.
“I went to our trainers and asked if it was OK for [Seidenberg] and McQuaid to skate with the rest of the team because there’s no contact, just simple drills,” Julien said. “It’s the same drills they did when they went on the ice earlier.
“A lot of it is probably for encouragement reasons. Just those two on the ice together all the time, it gets tough, but being out there with more players and being able to do a little more, it’s exciting for them. I thought mentally it would be a good opportunity for them to be with the rest of the guys because of the type of practice we were having, and our trainers agreed.”
Seidenberg was expected to be out for 6-8 months, and originally was expected to miss the rest of the season. The team has backed off that somewhat, while still maintaining that the Bruins are not counting on having the defenseman back for the playoffs. He had surgery on his torn ACL and MCL in early January.
“According to our trainers and our doctors, they figured he’d be going through that process and at one point he’d be skating before next season,” Julien said. “So I think he’s on track right now, probably even a little ahead of the curve because of his conditioning and how strong he was, even before that injury.’’