MONTREAL – Carl Soderberg is officially exactly what everybody hoped he’d be when the Bruins first brought the big Swede into the fold last season after such a long wait.
Soderberg continued a torrid stretch by potting Boston’s first goal of the night in a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre and improving greatly in his second time around at the Habs’ raucous home rink.
The goal was practically gift-wrapped as rookie Canadiens defenseman Jarred Tinordi misplayed a puck off a defensive zone face-off, and left it for Soderberg right in front of the net. The Big Swede made one quick move on Montreal goalie Peter Budaj, and the Bruins were off and running just 1:33 into the second period after a scoreless opening 20 minutes.
Claude Julien gave credit to Soderberg for a fine effort in the win over Montreal, but also made sure to mention Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly as members of a third line that’s really been effective lately.
“That line has been good. I’d put more than just the onus on [Soderberg], although he is playing well. That whole line is creating stuff,” said Julien. “Loui has been really a good player, and we’re starting to see the player that he is. The line has been good overall.
"But Carl is a big body that can skate well, he’s strong on the puck and he’s been making things happen.”
The recent stretch of outstanding play has coincided with Soderberg getting moved into his natural center position: the Swedish center was 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in the past 15 games, and has been a consistent, big-bodied force around the net crashing bodies and collecting points.
Soderberg himself recognizes that is where the offensive surge is coming from, and his hard-nosed mix of strength and skill around the net is something that can portend success in the playoffs as well.
“Since I started to play center it’s quite obvious that I’ve created more offense. I can still play winger, but I prefer to play center for sure,” said Soderberg. “That’s what we are here for. We try to be one of the best third lines in the NHL, and help the team win every night.
“I’m happy with my spot on the third line. Now that I’ve gotten my opportunity to play center, it’s been great.”
Soderberg is projected for 15 goals and 48 points when this season is over, and those will be solid numbers for his first full season in the NHL. But what’s really intriguing is what Soderberg and Co. can do in the playoffs as a true scoring third line backing up Boston’s already dominant top two lines.