Bourque becoming a tower of power for Bruins

Bourque becoming a tower of power for Bruins
February 25, 2013, 6:45 pm
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Gradually and quietly, Chris Bourque is blending into the Bruins way of doing things.

After a turbulent early transition process, the 26-year-old son of Hall of Famer Ray Bouque has a goal and four points while averaging 12:33 of ice time on the third line. Where he's really stood out, however, is on the power-play unit. The consistent shifts and constant power play time have allowed Bourque to show things at the NHL level that he hadn’t in prior chances with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

“This is the best opportunity I’ve ever had in my NHL career,” admitted Bourque. “I’m really just trying to grasp it.”

Bourque leads all Bruins with three power play assists and has impressed coach Claude Julien with his confidence and aggressiveness on the man advantage. It was Bourque’s decision to take matters into his own hands and rush the puck toward the offensive zone with about 20 seconds to go in Sunday’s power play that led to Chris Kelly’s PP score in the 4-1 win at Florida.

“He’s getting better all the time,” said Julien. “That’s why we talk about being patient with players. We’ve seen it before and you’ve got to give those players a chance to adapt. That’s something I learned coaching at the lower levels, whether it was the AHL or junior hockey. You’ve got to give players a chance to adjust until you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“We saw [Bourque] make great plays quarterbacking the power play in Providence. He set things up and made great plays. Some guys have that natural knack and he’s starting to show that here again. On the first 1:40 of our power play [Sunday] we hadn’t done much. Then he decided he was just going to take it over and make a great rush. He drew a few guys to him before he dropped it off to Dan [Paille]. That’s what great players eventually do: they take charge. I thought he did that yesterday.”

Getting the power-play reps has helped Bourque transition from AHL to NHL player, as special teams is the hockey situation he’s always been most comfortable playing in on the ice. That has spilled over into five-on-five play, where Bourque makes up for a lack of size with endless hustle and blind willingness to throw his body around against bigger, stronger opponents. There’s a reason Bourque is second among B’s forwards behind only Milan Lucic with 27 registered hits this season: he’s taken to heart his role as a gritty contributor on the third line.

It’s a tribute to his skill and willingness to work that he’s done that while contributing to a power-play unit that's scored four goals in the last six games while ranking third in the league in road power play proficiency with a 29.2 percent success rate. It’s also because Bourque genuinely enjoys the work on the power play, where he can utilize his good, hard shot and vision all over the ice.

“The first few games I was just dumping the puck in the zone and wasn’t even handling the puck,” said Bourque of a stretch in January where he had zero points and a minus-4 in six games. “That’s not my game. My game is holding onto the puck and making plays . . . making passes. I still feel like I can even a little bit more of that. That will come, though.

“Honestly, [the power play] is where I feel most comfortable. I don’t know for what reason that is, but I’ve always felt most comfortable on the power play. It’s where I play my best hockey and make my best plays. It’s been great to get a chance to be out there making plays with such good players.”

Bourque’s first mission after breaking camp with the Bruins was proving he belongs in his third chance of cracking the NHL level. And the winger’s play this month is starting to provide an answer for everybody.