When Loui Eriksson arrived in Boston, he was touted as a perfect fit, an underrated forward with offensive and defensive abilities, with skills and talent that would allow him to slide right into the Bruins system.
It hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Eriksson’s difficult first season in Boston could be explained by forces out of his control, by the pair of concussions that limited him to 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games. It took until the Olympic break, along with a pairing with center Carl Soderberg, for Eriksson to look even a little like the player the Bruins thought they were getting .
His less-than-stellar second season, though, is slightly tougher to explain.
There are signs of life, with Eriksson having scored two goals in the Bruins’ last three games. And, at this point, any scoring by any Bruin has to be considered a good sign, given the team’s offensive shutdown.
As coach Claude Julien said about Eriksson’s pair of goals, “We’re looking for scoring, so happy about that.”
“I don’t think I do anything different,” Eriksson said of the past couple of games. “It’s definitely nice to score goals and be back at that. [Kevan] Miller made a great pass before the goal. I like those passes right there.”
Miller skated the puck around the bottom of the right circle, passing it to Eriksson in front of the net where he shot it past Robin Lehner for the second Bruins’ goal in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Senators on Saturday.
It was what he had said before the game that he needed to do.
Asked about how he was going to start scoring more points, Eriksson said, “Just try to be more in front and be hungrier in front of the net and try to find the pucks that come there. Just be hungrier in front of the net.”
It was his fifth goal of the season, but just his third goal at even strength. Stunningly, that’s nearly the top of the Bruins’ scoring leaders, as they have spent the season yearning for offense. But it’s also nowhere near the level he reached in Dallas, where he scored between 26 and 36 goals in four straight seasons before the lockout and his trade to Boston.
“I’m not trying to think too much about it,” Eriksson said, of putting pressure on himself given the team’s scoring woes. “Of course I scored a lot of goals in Dallas when I played there, it was kind of a different system to play there. But hopefully I can keep it going. It was nice to get one [on Saturday] and hopefully I can build on that.”
It’s been a strange season for Eriksson, as it has for most of the Bruins’ forwards. They have been shifted around constantly, partially due to injuries, partially due to lack of performance.
He was supposed to start the season on the top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. That never materialized. Since then, he mostly has been paired with Soderberg, a nod to the chemistry the Swedes developed in the last months of last season. Of course that chemistry played better on the ice when the pair were skating as the team’s third line, going up against lesser defensive pairings. That was most evident in the team’s first-round series against Detroit last season, when Soderberg was one of the Bruins’ best players.
Those two were paired with Lucic at times on the team’s West Coast swing, and it seemed to be a line with potential. It cooled off. But having Lucic on the wing changed the tenor of a line that had been playing with less physically imposing left wings, including Chris Kelly and Matt Fraser.
“He does a lot of hitting and plays that physical game, so that makes it a little easier for us playing with him,” Eriksson said of Lucic. “We know he’s going to go in there and crash and bang. That’s how he plays and we just have to learn that he’s playing that way. Obviously, he’s been doing a good job all the years he’s been playing.”
Eriksson hasn’t stayed with Soderberg exclusively this season, and in recent days he has been practicing with the injured Krejci and Lucic, as the former Star has gone back to the line on which he was originally supposed to skate, at least in practice.
That line is an intriguing one, as the Bruins continue to search for a right wing who fits the Lucic-Krejci pairing, one that has barely seen the ice this season because of the center’s extended absence.
But in the meantime, while Krejci remains out, other players (like Eriksson) are searching for their offensive game. The Bruins can’t survive without it.
“I’m feeling good,” Eriksson said. “Obviously, you want to get better and do better out there, point-wise. It was a tough road trip for me there in California, but I’m feeling good out there and all I can do is try to work hard and try to do my best.”