Feb 10, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Chris Bourque (48) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. Bruins beat the Sabres 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Chris Bourque Conundrum

I don’t think there’s a more talked about 3rd liner in the NHL than Boston Bruins forward Chris Bourque.

The son of Bruins legend Raymond Bourque, Chris has struggled to make a name for himself in the NHL and has had a hard time sticking with clubs. All that was going to change the day he joined the Bruins.

However, Bourque got off to somewhat of a slow start this season and fans were quick to judge. In their defense it wasn’t hard, the numbers weren’t there and the 3rd line as a whole has been struggling.

Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley have been mainstays on that 3rd line since arriving in Boston and they’ve always played great two-way hockey while chipping in goals. But they too got off to a slow start and many were quick to point the finger at Bourque.

All 3 have played better of late though, Bourque especially whose confidence and comfort level appear to grow with every game. While his total minutes in a game have still been pretty limited, he averages about 12 minutes of ice-time per game, he gets plenty of time on the power play for the Bruins.

The point production still isn’t there as he has 1 goal and 3 assists in 14 games, but those 3 assists have all come on the power play. I know, its the Bruins power play, so who cares? But their PP has been much better recently and I should also mention that Bruins center David Krejci, who leads the team in assists and points only has 2 assists on the power play. Does that mean anything? I’m not sure but it sounds good.

Getting back to Bourque, I’ve defended him from the start. While the points weren’t/aren’t there, he has worked hard in every game and has been a very good two-way player for the Bruins. I just wish the 3rd line was clicking more and creating some havoc in the offensive zone. They’ve done it in spurts, but its time for some consistency.

With that said, I wouldn’t mind if the Bruins made a move for say Jarome Iginla or Danny Briere. Do they need to? I don’t think so and I think they are pretty comfortable with Bourque’s ability and effort.

Here’s what B’s head coach Claude Julien had to say about him to the Boston Herald, “His skill set is getting better because he’s getting more comfortable, more confident with his teammates and with what we’re trying to do… He’s feeling his way through it and I see improvement in him game after game.”

Even Bourque himself admitted to the Boston Herald that he got off to a slow start but has felt his confidence growing with every game:

Every game, I’m feeling more comfortable. I feel a lot better in maybe the last half-dozen games. Playing in this league, the pace is a lot different than any other league. You’ve got to adjust to it. It’s not an easy transition. But I feel I’ve been playing a little bit better than maybe the first eight, nine games. When I sat out a game in Buffalo (Jan. 31) it was good, kind of a little wake up call. I was able to readjust my mindset and I think I’ve played pretty good hockey since then.” Bourque went on to say, “My first (several) games I was dumping the puck in, not even handling the puck. That’s not my game. My game is holding onto the puck and making plays and passes. I still think I can do a little bit more of that, hang onto the puck and make plays, but that will come. I’ve said it before: This is the best opportunity I’ve ever gotten to play in the NHL. I’m trying to take the bull by the horns.”

However you feel about Bourque it doesn’t appear as the Bruins will be giving up on him anytime soon as he seems to be getting better and better with every game. As his confidence grows and his playmaking ability follows, the confidence that the team and management have in him grows as well.

If he keeps playing like he is, maybe someday he’ll win over the fans too.

Tags: Boston Bruins Chris Bourque Claude Julien

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