– Ever since Chris Bourque
returned from being the healthy scratch on January 31 against the Buffalo Sabres, the improvements in his game have been noticeable. In his first game back after sitting out he tallied the game-winning goal against the Maple Leafs and has looked more and more comfortable as the games have went on.
Sunday night’s game against Winnipeg, however, was hist best game yet in the Black & Gold. He assisted on Brad Marchand’s power play winner early in the third period, and skated much of the final frame on the first line alongside David Krejci and Nathan Horton. With Milan Lucic back in Boston due to personal reasons, the left wing spot was open and B’s Head Coach, Claude Julien, decided to reward Bourque for his strong play.
The move resulted in Bourque tallying a season-high 21 shifts and 15:04 of time on ice.
“No doubt, no doubt,” said Julien, when asked following Sunday night’s 3-2 win over the Jets if it had been Bourque’s best game of the season. “I really liked his game tonight. I thought he was a real good player, he had good legs, he played hard along the walls and everywhere else.
“He had some good chances and that’s why I put him up there with David Krejci because, in my mind, he really deserved to be there the way he was playing tonight.”
Bourque, who started the game in the right wing third line spot, instead of on his familiar left wing, agreed with his coach that Sunday was his best game of the season. Now, his main focus is to continue to play a more steady game.
“Yeah, I felt really good right off the start of the game,” Bourque said after Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. “I thought we had a couple good shifts early, set the tone for our game and I thought our line did well the whole time. We were making plays and making stuff happen, we got a big goal there in the second right before the period ended. It was nice.
“I think I’ve had a couple other good games here and there. I’ve got to stay consistent and keep battling out there and keep making plays out there. It felt good.”
Playing well defensively and fitting into Coach Julien’s system have been other priorities for Bourque. And to this point those are aspects of the game that he feels he has been doing well.
“I don’t think that’s been a problem for me,” said Bourque of his defensive game. “I think I’ve been pretty strong on the wall all year, those are the places that you really have to bear down.
“Coach really likes to pride himself on making those small plays and playing good defense, so I’ve been trying to focus on that. The offense is starting to come. Last game, I had a lot of chances, created a lot of offense.”
Bourque says continuing to have a good attitude and playing well in all zones will be key to any success he has for the remainder of the season.
“As I’ve said before, just stay positive, go out and work hard,” Bourque explained. “When you get those chances, make sure you make good plays and stay strong defensively. I think I had a pretty good game in all three zones [Sunday]. Hopefully I can build off that and start rolling.”