If anybody should know about Chris Bourques capabilities as an NHL player, it should be the guy that, up close and personal, watched him light up the AHL for a league-leading 93 points last year. Waltham native Keith Aucoin was one of those guys as a teammate and linemate of Bourques last season with the Hershey Bears before getting called up to the Washington Capitals once Dale Hunter took control of the team.
The 34-year-old Aucoin, now with the Islanders, knows that Bourque feels the double pressure of a family legacy in Boston and the need to establish himself as an NHL player, but also thinks theres a simple solution that will ease all of the pressure.
Once the first goal comes for Bourque, whether its five-on-five with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley or with the second power play unit, then things will start rolling for the 26-year-old winger. Right now Bourque has zero points and no shots on net in three games while averaging 13 minutes of ice time per night, and putting a crooked number next to those state lines brings with it a world of confidence.
He can score, he can pass and he doesnt take a shift off. He works hard, said Aucoin, who has two points in three games for the Islanders thus far this season while centering their third line. For him its all about getting the confidence. Once you get one goal they just keep on coming. Hes a good player that plays at both ends of the ice, so once he gets going hell be good.
Bourque has been just as happy for his former teammate after watching him put up 11 points in 27 games with Washington during the regular season. Aucoin suited up for all 14 playoff games for the Capitals last year while centering a fourth line that factored greatly in defeating the Bruins, and is now playing big minutes for the Isles after getting claimed from Toronto off waivers at the end of the lockout.
Of course all of that support doesnt come without the two buddies own version of hockey smack talk as they get ready to play against each other tonight when Aucoins Islanders invade the TD Garden ice.
I just talked to him, actually, said Aucoin with a smile on his face. I told him that Id been all over him tonight. But its actually really good to see him get a chance with his hometown team. Hes put in his time in the minors. Im happy for him.
It would be awesome to play for the Bruins but also a little stressful too with his last name. I played here a bunch of times last year during the playoffs with the Capitals and its a tough place to play and thats without the ticket requests and the people that come out of the woodwork. But growing up here and loving hockey I was always a big fan of the Bruins my entire life.
The Bruins coaching staff has been patient with Bourque knowing the dominant AHL player still waiting to burst, and his own Bruins teammates have all seen the offensive skills on display in practice. Now its just a matter of capitalizing on chances as the Bs third line looks to get an offensive jolt from a winger with a familiar last name.