During the NHL postseason, players of all positions need to step up and help out their teams in order for any particular squad to make it all the way to the fourth round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. One of the surprise performances for the Nashville Predators during the first round series against the Detroit Red Wings was the play of rookie Gabriel Bourque.
During the five-game series, the Predators scored 13 goals, 3 of those tallies came off the stick of Bourque. The Saint-Michel du Squatec native also had the primary assist during Game 5 on the game, and series, winning goal by David Legwand early in the third period.
Bourque started the series on the third line with Nick Spaling and Patric Hornqvist. In Game 1, the forward was the hero of the contest, picking up two goals in just 9:49 of ice time in Nashville’s 3-2 win over Detroit. By the end of the series, Bourque found himself on the second line with Alexander Radulov and David Legwand, seeing 14:27 of ice time.“I didn’t expect it. I’m really surprised, but happy at the same time. I’m just trying to help my team and do my job. I think I was at the right spot at the right moment. I just went to the net and the puck hit me. It was pretty awesome,” Bourque said.
While the rookie may not have expected that he would be one of the key players for the Predators during the opening round of the playoffs, maybe he should have. Bourque has been clutch in postseasons past.
During last season’s American Hockey League playoffs, Bourque carried the Milwaukee Admirals offensively. In 13 games, the forward posted 7 goals and 6 assists for 13 points. During his final year in junior, Bourque picked up 29 points in 21 games during the playoffs, including 19 goals and 10 assists.
The 21-year old earned the promotion to the second line by the end of Game 4 of the series. The trio opened scoring for Nashville during the third period of a scoreless game in that fourth contest, and also accounted for both goals during the series clinching fifth game.
“They have complimentary skills,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “Bourque is a straight line, in your face, hard working, responsible, hard to play against pain in the [butt], basically is what he is. Legwand has a real good skill set. He has the speed, the smarts and the experience. Radulov is the fiery, high-skilled shooter. He is also a playmaker.
“They supported the puck really well last game. Legwand was a key on that. He is the glue on that line. I thought he had his the best game in the series. And fitting a guy from Detroit put down the Red Wings. Radulov is understanding how the playoff games are and how he has to play. They are forming some chemistry and that is key.”
Chemistry may actually be an understatement. Putting Bourque with Legwand and Radulov essentially woke up the scoring touch of the latter two, both players who were being looked upon to be difference makers in the playoffs for Nashville.
Moving forward to the second round of the playoffs, it would be a surprise to see that line not start the series together. One thing is for certain, Bourque is only bound to get better with every game he plays.
“He is a good player. He showed that in the first round. He has a lot of speed and he is young too, so I think he is going to grow as a player. He brings a lot of energy to our line,” Radulov said.