Iginla passes first chemistry test

Iginla passes first chemistry test
September 17, 2013, 12:30 am
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MONTREAL – There’s been enough talk about chemistry in Bruins training camp to make every high school science teacher this side of Walter White beam with pride.

So the offensive show put on by one of Boston’s new right wingers on Monday night perhaps didn’t come as a complete surprise, but was still clearly something to get excited about.

It’s only the first preseason game, but the immediate tangible simpatico style displayed by Jarome Iginla, David Krejci and Milan Lucic during five-on-five and the PP in a 6-3 beating of the Montreal Canadiens was an impressive first showing at the Bell Centre.

“For the first day as a group, it felt great all the way around,” said Iginla.

Those harboring any hard feelings about Iginla’s Pittsburgh choice last April are probably now getting ready to buy a No. 12 jersey in the TD Garden pro shop this week.

“You started seeing [the chemistry]. Where we lost [Horton] being a good shooter and a big body, I thought Iginla did a great job with that,” said Claude Julien. “He shot the puck well, he was solid along the walls and he made some good plays.

“It seemed like a seamless transition, and tonight they looked really good. Hopefully that continues as they work on their game and chemistry.”

There’s that chemistry word again.

Iginla finished with a pair of goals, and showed the kind of shooting touch from the right side Boston has yearned for over the last couple of seasons. It took Lucic and Iginla exactly 8:29 worth of preseason action to produce their first goal, and it was a beauty of a strike with precision passing and flawless shooting. Lucic fired a cross-ice pass from the right face-off circle to a wide open Iginla at the left face-off dot, and the right winger unleashed a one-time laser that Carey Price didn’t have a chance of smothering.

After watching guys like Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley continually fly high and wide with one-time shots from the left circle over the last few years, it was a sight for sore eyes to see No. 12 executing with lethal precision.

“It’s nice to see that one-timer from the right shot, which is what [Iginla] has been giving us,” said Julien. “We seemed to be struggling for the last few years with finding somebody that could shoot that puck that accurately.”

It’s also the reason why Iginla leads all active players with a 530 career goal total that should get bumped up by another 30 or so when this 2013-14 hockey season is in the record books.

“Working with them the last few days, you could tell there was that ease and confidence when we had control of the puck,” said Lucic. “We just need to keep building on it, obviously. [Iginla] let it go a couple of times tonight, and you can see why he’s scored so many goals.

“It’s quite comforting that the chemistry was there in the first game together. I still think it’s something that we’re going to need to continue working on to get it to where we want it to be in the regular season. Jarome is obviously a great player, and he fits our identity and our team quite well. It’s great having him here.”

Iginla picked up his second goal of the game in the third period for the game-winner while cleaning up the rebound of a Torey Krug point blast. Then Lucic got into the act with a cross-ice pass to Krejci in the exact same spot, and the Czech center roofed a one-timer to the top right corner.

With Krejci and Lucic coming off an epic scoring tear with Nathan Horton during last spring’s playoffs, it almost appeared they hadn’t missed a beat nearly three months later. They simply switched in a 36-year-old future Hall of Famer for the notoriously streaky Horton, and the goals just keep on coming. For Iginla he’s clearly happy to be back on the right side after the Pittsburgh Penguins played him on his “off wing” during last year’s unsuccessful playoff run.

“I’m really enjoying playing here, and going through training camp with each and every practice feeling better,” said Iginla. “There’s not as much pressure to develop that chemistry, and we can just work on it. I always knew they were very good players, but to get to see up close how strong they are. It felt good. We’re all just trying to keep it simple at the start.

“Everyone knows about Looch, but he made some great seam passes tonight. Krejci is so strong despite everybody knowing how crafty he is. You can see why they have all that success, and why they enjoy playing together so much. I sure enjoyed playing with them tonight.”

Clearly it’s only one game, and Lucic was quick to point out that Boston’s power play was doing damage against Montreal penalty killers that will be skating in places like Hamilton and Moncton a month from now. It still doesn’t change the encouraging first step taken by a line that’s got some big shoes to fill after Horton took his Game 7 playoff heroism with him to Columbus.

But Iginla also averaged 12 power play goals during the last 12 full seasons heading into last year’s lockout season, and still professes to have plenty left in the tank at 36 years old. The former Calgary captain gave a tantalizing first look at what could be a solution-style player for the Black and Gold, and also makes one wonder what might have happened in last year’s Cup Final if it was Iginla instead of Jaromir Jagr cruising around with the rest of the Bruins.

We’ll never know the answer to that one, but Iginla is here now providing all kinds of answers to those troublesome chemistry questions being tossed around at B’s training camp.