The 2014-15 campaign was something of a transition season for Nashville Predators forward Gabriel Bourque.
The 24-year-old from Rimouski, Quebec, has long been revered for his aggressive forecheck and the (controlled) reckless abandon with which he enters the corners hungrily fighting for possession of the puck. Finding the right balance of forechecking, hitting and defensive presence took Bourque some time to perfect as evidenced by him beginning the season on the first line with Mike Ribeiro and James Neal before spending some time as a healthy scratch. When the forward re-entered the Preds lineup in early December, the fourth-year man didn’t look back as he impacted the game on both sides of the puck and started to jive in a bottom-six role.
A restricted free agent, Bourque will need to ink a new contract this offseason if he’s going to return for the Predators in 2015-16.
- If we tracked wins in coming away with loose pucks, Gabriel Bourque is a League leader. He’s smart, strong and determined; “Gabby” is an asset on whichever line he plays.
- The Predators system is built on puck pressure, and from the opposition blue line in, Bourque is a key cog. He “hounds” pucks, and by doing so, forces the opposition to turn the biscuit over or make plays they don’t want to make.
- The other aspect you like about the winger’s game: Bourque can change and sustain momentum. Winning battles for loose pucks ultimately results in long stretches of time in the opposition’s zone, and a club like the Predators thrives when they spend more time at the other end wearing down their opponent.
The winger kicks a rebound from his skate up to this stick and deposits the puck into the net as he’s falling down. The tally tied the game for the Preds - just three seconds after a video review had ruled Filip Forsberg’s bid had not crossed the goal line.
According to No. 57:
- If he could change one rule in the NHL, he would remove the delay of game (“puck over the glass”) penalty.
- Has a Golden Retriever named Bailey, considers chocolate lava cake his guilty pleasure and Joe Sakic his favorite NHL player to watch (past or present).
- Says cooking is his hidden talent.
By the Numbers:
200 - A Feb. 26 tilt between the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators represented the forward’s 200th game in the NHL.
141 - Bourque doled out 141 hits during the 2014-15 campaign - good for second-most by a Predators forward.
3 - Number of wins for the Preds in games that Bourque recorded a goal. Nashville went 3-0-0 in contests where No. 57 found the back of the net as Bourque recorded a goal in each period this season and each of those tallies was the Preds second score in that respective game.
After sitting out of the Predators lineup for nearly three weeks, Gabriel Bourque proved he understood his role in Head Coach Peter Laviolette’s new system and returned to the lineup with a bang. The winger collected his first two points of the season in a game versus the Avalanche and didn’t look back:
The Preds have gone 5-2-0 since Bourque returned to the lineup and the Rimouski, Quebec, native has also added three points (including the primary assist on Filip Forsberg’s game-winner against the Avalanche).
“[The] guys have done a good job of jumping into the roles that we’ve asked of them,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said earlier this month. “Bourque, for instance, is working extremely hard, he’s on the puck and he’s generating some offense for us. He’s bringing the energy to the lineup like he can, and it’s great when a guy can jump back in the lineup and be a contributing factor.”
“I’ve tried to work hard all year at bringing a consistent and physical game,” Bourque said last week. “When a team can have their third and fourth line guys contributing in the right areas then that can be a huge [benefit] to the entire team...I’ve been working on that more and more.”
A key part of Bourque once again becoming a helpful piece in Nashville’s lineup originated from the forward developing his game to fit better under Laviolette’s system. The winger began the season skating on the Preds first line before seeing his minutes drop. Since then he’s tried to remold his playing style to work under the new coach’s expectations.
“It took a little while earlier in the season to understand my role completely,” Bourque said. “I need to be a strong, two-way player, bring energy, finish my hits and take the puck to the net. Honestly, playing simple is the big thing.”
Bourque’s willingness to instill a hard forecheck and push back the opposition creates more space on the ice for his linemates, while in-turn slowing the attack of another team’s offense.
“I like to bring energy to the ice and help that overflow into offense for the boys and strong play by the [team],” Bourque said. “I also try to play well defensively, especially on the road because we go up against top lines. If our [opponent] tries to put their best line out against us, then [my line] makes sure we’re ready.”
Shortly before the start of the 2014-15 season, Gabriel Bourque and Rich Clune showed off their hockey skills on the hardwood as they helped surprise Preds Kids Club members with a game of floor hockey.
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