There were times last season for the Boston Bruins when members of all four forward lines could be relied on to score goals when needed. This was true for the third line, especially for Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. They’ve seen their production plummet through 19 games so far this season, but the newcomer to line three has been a target of much ire from fans of the Black and Gold.
Chris Bourque is still pretty new to the NHL. Aside from a few short call-up stints with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins–none of which resulted in more than one goal at a time in short bursts of four, eight or 20 games–he’s spent most of his pro career with AHL teams. He’s had more success there, even winning the Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears and being named MVP of the 2010 playoffs.
Plus, of course, the fact is that he’s the son of hockey greatness. His dad Ray‘s number 77 hangs in the rafters of TD Garden and he even comes to games, often to spend time in the VIP box with Chris’ baby son Kingston and other members of the Bourque family.
But the start of Bourque’s time with the Boston Bruins–he played with AHL Providence during the lockout–has been less than ideal. He has just one goal and three assists in 18 games played and was a healthy scratch once. His -6 rating is among the worst on the team along with Peverley’s -7 and Kelly’s -8.
Sure, a player can’t be judged by plus-minus alone. It’s just one of many factors to measure performance on ice and the third line’s ratings came out very bad after last night’s 4-3 loss since they were on the ice together for two goals against: Tomas Kundratek‘s career first goal and the game-tying tally from Wojtek Wolski. But in this case, that -6 is just a microcosm of the issues with Bourque.
There is still time to turn things around for the Bruins. Since they haven’t played as much as other Eastern teams, they’re not even at the midway point of their 48 games. Coach Claude Julien has also called out the third line, which could inspire change. However, the season is also short and it’s best if bad slumps don’t go on for too long.
It may be a little hard to think of it this way, but the big 4-3 loss last night might also be what inspires change on the Boston lineup.
“[The] loss may be a blessing. Wins can camouflage turnovers and defensive breakdowns. Losses magnify them,” said Bruins radio play-by-play announcer Dave Goucher on Twitter after the loss.
It’s a very Zen approach, but it could be just the approach the Bruins, and especially the as yet underwhelming Bourque, need.