BOSTON -- Similar to this season’s version of the Boston Bruins, it’s tough at times to know exactly how good Loui Eriksson can be.
The veteran forward will have stretches when it seems he’s hibernating, then others when he’s playing well and contributing. He’s in one of those productive stretches right now, and during Monday’s 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden, Eriksson had two assists, increasing his point total to six in the last four games. He also has six goals and four assists for 10 points in his last 10 games.
Whether it’s fair or not, Bruins fans will look at Eriksson’s production and compare him to how well Tyler Seguin is playing in Dallas. The two were the key pieces in a seven-player deal on July 4, 2013. While Seguin has thrived from a production standpoint with the Stars the last two seasons, Eriksson dealt with a pair of concussions early last season that hampered his transition to Boston.
At the time of the trade, a Western Conference coach thought Eriksson’s two-way style of play would fit perfectly into the Bruins’ system, while an Eastern Conference executive felt Eriksson was overrated and would struggle in Boston.
“To his defense, last year was a tough start for him with two concussions in the first half of the year,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I’ll use the example of other guys who have had concussions. You don’t come off those things very easily where all of a sudden you’re back to playing and everything is good -- it takes a while.”
Eriksson began to return to form prior to the Olympic break last February and continued to play well during the Winter Games, earning a silver medal with Sweden. Once he returned to the Bruins, he finished the season strong and showed glimpses of his full potential.
“This year he had a slow start, like a lot of guys, but for some reason the focus was more on him than maybe others,” Julien said. “Now he’s playing well, so I think we’re seeing the Loui Eriksson that everybody kind of saw in making that decision to bring him to Boston.
“He’s playing well. He’s a smart player. He doesn’t have that super-fast speed but he’s still a good skater and he’s a smart player in all areas, defensively and offensively. He’s starting to score some goals, he’s starting to make some really nice plays and it looks like his game is coming around.”
NHL scouts attending recent Bruins games have been impressed with Eriksson’s play, but those scouts would like to see more from him.
“Last few games he’s been better, but still not great,” one scout said. “He plays a soft game with not much pace to him, but he’s smart with the puck down low and has the ability to create, but not real willing to get into those [dirty] areas.”
In the locker room, Eriksson is as down to earth as most hockey players. He’s not concerned with how Seguin is playing in Dallas. Eriksson is only focused on playing well in Boston. He’s worked hard to finally reach this level of success, but now it needs to continue.
Overall, he has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in 37 games. Seguin has 25 goals and 18 assists for 43 points in 35 games for the Stars. While the numbers are completely lopsided, no one should blame Peter Chiarelli for making that trade when he did. Seguin was immature on and off the ice and did not produce the way he should have in Boston.
It’s evident Seguin is playing with a chip on his shoulder in Dallas and utilizing his natural abilities. In Boston, Eriksson continues to find his game and is showing signs of reaching that level.
He’s found chemistry on the line with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly, and that trio has been the Bruins’ most consistent line all season. That line is helped by the Bruins having a healthy roster and consistent lineup because that means Julien can use it against opponents’ bottom pairings.
“I think they’ve responded all year,” Julien said.
Eriksson finally is responding too.