DETROIT, MI - It only took Carl Söderberg a minute and 45 seconds to pot his first two goals wearing the spoked-B, giving the the Bruins all they need to take a 2-0 win from the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday night.
The game-winner came with 1:04 left in the second period. When his centerman for the night, Chris Kelly, pounced on a puck between the bluelines and sent it into the zone, Söderberg drove towards the net. A lucky bounce off the end boards (the ones at 'The Joe' known to be more active than other arenas) landed right on his tape at the left circle.
A simple fire into the near-empty net behind Wings' netminder Jonas Gustavsson gave him his first in Black & Gold.
Söderberg's next tally came just 41 seconds into the third, on the man-advantage, as he manned the "net walk" position in front. Loui Eriksson sent a feed from the half wall up to Dennis Seidenberg at the point, who blasted one on goal. With Patrice Bergeron also camped at the top of the crease, Söderberg banged home the rebound.
And, combined with Chad Johnson's 18 stops at the other end in the shutout, it was all the Bruins needed.
"Yeah, that's the way I scored a lot in Sweden last year, good on the rebounds and in front of the net," Söderberg remarked to reporters, as he sat in Detroit's visiting team locker room following the win. "So, felt good to score, too."
Having Soderberg in the "net walk" position on the power play, in front of the opposing goaltender, is something B's Head Coach Claude Julien has been experimenting with during training camp and the preseason games. It's a part of his game he showcases whenever he's on the ice.
"That’s one thing, goal line, he can be really good at taking pucks to the net he can also be a good big net front presence but he can also make plays from down low as well," Julien said earlier in camp. "He’s a pretty good playmaker. That’s the one thing that he can do and he’s not afraid to go to the front of the net either."
Söderberg was playing the wing in Detroit, with Kelly as his center and Reilly Smith as his right winger. A natural center, he's been in that position all throughout training camp and in his first two preseason games prior to Saturday night in Detroit. Though, he was mostly slotted in on the wing when he played his two postseason - and six regular season - games with Boston last season.
The gritty line played well together. The ended the night a combined plus-3, with six shots. Kelly logged 15:26 in ice time, earned the assist on Söderberg's first tally, registered a takeaway and was nearly 50 percent on the faceoff dot. Smith started the night firing two shots on goal, and giving the B's an early spark.
All three are technically "competing" for spots on the opening night roster, though Kelly is a mainstay and Söderberg is primed for a third-line role, which requires dependability, with a gritty, defensive game first, and the ability to add secondary scoring.
"It was good. They seemed to be pretty reliable as a line," said Julien, of the first time the three forwards skated together in a game. "And so, it's again, just to look at them as a threesome and get some other looks here as we move forward, I liked that line."
The ongoing decision-making process led to Julien and the B's brass getting a look at Söderberg on the wing Saturday night; and the experiment paid off.
"He got a power play goal and again, he's known for his scoring, and I think we need some scoring from the wings, so it was an opportunity to see him there again," said Julien.
"We used him there a little bit last year, but he's come in, in better shape, more confident and everything else so it was an opportunity to put that line together and see what they can do."
"Maybe right now he’s the guy we collectively see on the wing," B's General Manager Peter Chiarelli had said of the Sweden native, a few days into training camp and prior to the games kicking off. "I see the way that he’s beaten D in practice going wide, big, strong on the puck. That’s, for me, a prototypical winger trait. So he’s got the power forward traits to his game so, we’ll see how these next games progress with him."
Söderberg came into training camp stronger and leaner, shedding about seven to eight pounds, showcasing a quicker step, while still being that "heavy player" who can recover and protect the puck well. He carried that into his game against the Wings.
"Yeah, I felt very comfortable from the start today," he said, of his winger role in the 2-0 win. "Kells did a really good job as a centerman, as always. and I just fit in there on the left wing, and I felt comfortable."
Smith has a gritty component to his game that matches Kelly and Söderberg, a "jam" as Julien would call it, to make things happen at both ends of the ice. While nothing is "set in stone" heading into the regular season, it was a great opportunity for the three forwards to mesh, and help the B's come out on the winning end.
"I love playing with them," he smiled. "I love to play hockey, so I just want to have some fun here and work as hard as I can and we'll see."
"Playing on the third line with Kells and Smith, our role first is to play solid defense and not having any goals against, so we played a good game and had some scoring chances as well, so it was a good game."