BOSTON – Swedish import Carl Soderberg was short, sweet and to the point when he was asked about playing in the Stanley Cup Finals: “I love it.”
The 27-year-old rookie made his playoff debut in Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, and played surprisingly well with a pair of shots on net in 14:16 of ice time in the 3-1 loss. Soderberg started skating with Shawn Thornton and Rich Peverley, but then slid up to the center spot between Jaromir Jagr and Brad Marchand once Patrice Bergeron went down with injury in the second period.
In fact it stands to reason Soderberg was in the lineup simply because Bergeron was dealing with an injury, and would be required to jump up into the center spot if No. 37 couldn’t last through all three periods. There’s been no confirmation of that from the Bruins, and no surety that Soderberg will again man the center spot between Marchand and Jagr for a do-or-die Game 6 Monday night at TD Garden.
“I like Soderberg's game. Anybody who knows that this guy hadn't played in two months and came into yesterday's game and played the way he did, they should be impressed,” said Claude Julien. “I know I was. He had good jump and there was no fear. We gave him the same message we gave our young kids when they came into that round against New York. He just did the same thing.
“He went out there and played and played hard, and I didn't mind his game. Now, whether that happens or not, again will depend on Bergy. The other thing is if it's not Bergy, I'm going to look is he the right fit, or do I look for something else. I may have to juggle some players around. But that will happen more tomorrow when we find out more about Bergy.”
But Soderberg will be ready either way, and looked much more battle ready for the nasty, intense playoffs than he appeared in his six regular season games at the end of the year. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline of the playoffs that kicked his game up a notch, or maybe he’s just getting accustomed to the North American rinks and style of play after spending his whole career in Sweden.
Either way he looks a lot more ready now than he did in his last handful of regular season appearances in April. Soderberg would still be better served using his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame, strength and skill set to much greater effect in both zones, but perhaps that will come with time.
“Usually in Sweden I play a lot, so I’ve done it before. For the team, its best Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] comes back [for Game 6]. So that's what we hope for,” said Soderberg. “We don't know what it is, but hopefully he’s back. Then I can play wing or try again.
“We want to give everything we’ve got [in Game 6], so we can bring the series back to Chicago and get a seventh game there.”
It looks like Soderberg will get another chance to show all he’s learned while sitting and watching over the last two months of the playoffs, and perhaps even add a little offensive production to a fairly prominent debut in the Stanley Cup postseason.