Theres no denying it when Chris Bourque says hes worked his balls off each of the 96 shifts hes skated with the Bruins this season.
The 26-year-old left wing is scoreless in his first six games in a Bruins uniform and has only scrapped together three shots on net while averaging close to 12 minutes per game including regular power play shifts. Bourque has skated with competent offensive linemates in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley even if Kelly has struggled a bit out of the starting gate this season.
The oldest son of Ray Bourque is keenly aware he hasnt produced offensively and its compounded by struggling with his confidence in the Boston area where he grew up and developed as a hockey player. The career AHL player is also on this third NHL organization after failing to break through in past stints with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, so theres a healthy amount of pressure on a stint with the Black and Gold that might be his last, best chance to secure an NHL gig.
I normally put a lot of pressure on myself, and when I dont the pressure mounts even more for me. I just need to go out there and not think about that stuff. I just need to go out there and play my game, said Bourque. Its not that Im not comfortable here, but its just a learning process getting used to his surroundings.
Now Bourque is getting scratched for Thursday nights tilt against the Buffalo Sabres in favor of the bigger, tougher Lane MacDermid in anticipation of a gritty battle with their division rivals.
I had a good talk with Chris this morning. I think hes putting a lot of pressure on himself right now and hes certainly not the Chris that we know, said Claude Julien. Ive seen him enough to know that hes a really good skater, hes a really good playmaker, but I think right now hes putting way too much pressure on himself.
Hopefully we can help him through that and once he takes the extra weight off his shoulders youre going to see a player that can certainly be a much more efficient player than hes shown so far.
Is there a part of Bourques game that he feels like he isnt showing with the Bruins?
Yeahscoring, said Bourque, who led the AHL with 93 points scored last season and obviously hasnt lost his sense of humor amid the struggles. I dont know if its the pressure or that I just want it to happen so bad, but sometimes when you want it so bad you always forget about what youre supposed to be doing out there.
I dont think Im playing badly. Im just not playing my type of hockey. Im always going to bust my balls every shift, finish my checks, back-check and all that kind of stuff. Thats the easy part. I feel like I belong in this league and I think I can produce in this league. I just havent gone out and shown it yet.
The clock is certainly ticking for Bourque, and hes smart enough to know it. Jordan Caron is playing in the AHL for Providence and represents a bigger, stronger option if its decided the third line needs more of a net-front presence in its combination. Jay Pandolfo continues to skate with the Bruins and could be a solution as a third line left wing capable of killing penalties and filling a checking line role to the T.
But Bourque also deserves a chance to take a breath, get his bearings and get at least one more extended shot with the Black and Gold because a big upside is there if he can find the same NHL comfort zone that's allowed him to kill at the AHL level.