BOSTON -- The next five games present quite a challenge for Benoit Pouliot.
The athletic, gritty winger has been elevated to Bostons top left wing position skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin while Brad Marchand is serving out his five-game suspension. That means he's been thrust into a primo offensive spot where he can succeed offensively in a way that hasn't always been possible during his stints in Montreal and Minnesota. Pouliot matched a career-high with three assists while filling in for a flu-ridden Marchand during the Bs blowout victory over the Calgary Flames last week, and added a power play goal as an insurance marker in Bostons 5-3 decision over the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night.
Its the perfect temporary promotion for Pouliot, who plays with some truly skilled offensive players while showing off his skating speed. His coach laughed at the notion that it's not always Gazelle-like, but Pouliot has an unconventional way of throwing off opponents with a forecheck attack that seems to be all gangly arms and legs.
Hes a good skater," said coach Claude Julien. "He doesnt always look elegant, I guess, but he can skate, and hes pretty shifty. Maybe because of the way he skates, hes hard to predict. He really is.
But he does a good job, like I keep saying about, on the forecheck. He comes at you, and you dont know what angle Pouliot is going to be coming at you, and hes got a good stick.
His speed is good, and obviously he scores a goal tonight because hes in front of the net, and hes not afraid to go to those areas. Hes got good size, hes got good speed, and, again, he doesnt seem to have any fear. The one thing I know is that he feels very comfortable with this group of guys, and that he knows everybodys got everybodys back, so wherever he has to go. I think hes developed that confidence as the team has moved on here this year.
Pouliot has a goal and four points in the last three games, and has fired off nine shots while making noise with a suffocating forecheck and tough physical play right on the edge. That sounds awfully Marchand-like when you think about it, doesn't it?While Marchand is an incredible top-line value out and will be missed during his five-game suspension, it would be short-sightedto overlook Pouliots offensive upsides and ability to create exotic-looking offensive rushes up and down the ice. Nobody would have ever thought Pouliot could effectively replace Marchand at the beginning of the season, but that's the evolution of the former Habs underachiever.
Pouliots speed, tenacity, force of will, willingness to play the body and partially out-of-control enthusiasm have allowed the energy line forward to step into Marchands shows rather easily while wreaking havoc in the attack zone. Theres only one Nose Face Killah, but Pouliot is doing a rather nice facsimilie ofthe resident 5-foot-9 rabble-rouser at a time when the Bruins could really use him.