A rush of confidence
In a flash, Pouliot shows his potential to Bruins
The Bruins came out hard last night against a Florida team they knew to be reeling from injuries and fatigued from a game in Ottawa the night before.
By the time the dust settled and the bear was back in its cage, the Black and Gold had eight goals and 14 players on the score sheet.
Although without it the Bruins still would have won by more than a half-dozen, Benoit Pouliot’s tally late in the first period was worthy of the highlight reel.
“I feel confident, I feel well, I feel good,’’ said Pouliot, who scored for the third time in as many games. “It’s always nice to score.’’
The Bruins led, 2-0, late in the first period when Patrice Bergeron went off for tripping to make for a four-on-four situation. Chris Kelly won the defensive-zone faceoff and Pouliot was off to the races.
After he crossed the Florida blue line along the left boards, he turned Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov inside out, while nearly losing the puck between his legs. But Pouliot regained control while crossing in front of Jose Theodore and backhanded the puck inside the post to put the Bruins ahead, 3-0.
It was certainly not the first beauty Pouliot has netted in his five-plus years in the NHL. He has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, which is part of the reason the Bruins signed him this offseason. After all, he was the No. 4 overall pick by Minnesota in 2005.
“I think we anticipated that he could be a good player for us, and he’s starting to show it,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “He’s certainly improved the way we thought he would. He’s really been a good player for us, and now if he can keep that consistency going for the whole year he’ll have been a great bargain for our hockey club.’’
But Pouliot has yet to put together the type of season expected of such a high draft pick. His 30 points with the Canadiens last season were a career high, ditto for his 17 goals the year before that.
During the Bruins’ first-round playoff series with Montreal last season, Jack Edwards, the Bruins’ vivacious play-by-play announcer, memorably referred to Pouliot as a “chump’’ and “one of the greatest disappointments in talent in National Hockey League history.’’
But Pouliot seems to be finding a niche in Boston. Even after a slow start to the season, at times a healthy scratch, the 25-year-old forward has played with new confidence recently. In 28 games, he has seven goals and two assists, and is a plus-10.
“When you feel good, you feel good and you play good,’’ Pouliot said. “At times when you go through ups and downs, and the down is the toughest part, it’s all mental, it’s all in the head, and you’ve got to not worry about it too much, but sometimes it’s hard.’’
After signing with the Bruins - and not knowing what to expect in the locker room from the players on the other side of the rivalry - Pouliot came to Boston trying contribute any way he could. He said supportive teammates helped ease the transition and get him through an early slump. With comfort came production.
“Try not to mess up the chemistry too much,’’ Pouliot said of his top priority upon arrival. “Just find your role, find what you’re supposed to do, and right now I think I know what I’m doing and a big part of that is because of the boys helping me out a lot. And I appreciate that, it’s making my game a little easier.’’
“Everybody that’s had him before thought there was some untapped skill in his game that he could start showing a little more of,’’ Julien said. “And right now he’s feeling pretty comfortable with this team and he’s showing that.’’