- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Tyler Seguin might be lighting it up for the Stars (36 goals and 46 assists for 82 points in 76 games), but the trade that sent Seguin packing and landed Loui Eriksson was a good one then and looks like an even better one now.
After dealing with a pair of concussions earlier this season, Eriksson is healthy and playing his best hockey of the season as the Bruins prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“He’s been playing really, really well for us and he’s being the player that I guess everyone expected him to be,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “He’s a very smart hockey player. He’s in the right position a lot of the times. He’s got a good stick. And that’s what makes him an easy player to play with.”
Eriksson's offensive numbers are well below his average (during his seven years in Dallas, he had four 20-goal seasons), but a lot of that is due to missing 21 games with concussions. Plus, it took him a little while to learn coach Claude Julien’s system. He's been playing solid hockey of late and has nine points in the last 10 games. Overall, he has eight goals and 26 assists for 34 points in 56 games. His play in all three zones has been impressive.
When he returned to the lineup in January, Julien placed Eriksson on the team’s third line with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg. It didn’t take long for that trio to create chemistry and become one of the best third lines in the league. In the last few games, Julien has tweaked his lineup a bit and Eriksson has played on both the first and second lines.
With top-line winger Jarome Iginla sidelined with a minor lower-body injury, Eriksson played with David Krejci and Milan Lucic last Saturday and helped Boston to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Eriksson posted four assists in that game.
“He shook Carl and I last game, so that’s a good thing,” Kelly said with a laugh. “It’s a difficult transition when you get traded from the only place you’ve known and that was Loui’s case when he came in. I’d been in his boat before and people want to see instant results, but it takes time to adjust.
“Not that it took Loui a ton of time to adjust but you’re seeing what Loui can do game in and game out. I think he’s got the best stick in hockey right now. He knocks down so many passes. He creates so many plays. He fits in nicely, playing in all three zones -- the Bruins style. It’s nice to see the guy get rewarded with four points the way he did [on Saturday].”
Eriksson’s intelligence on the ice is impressive. He knows where to be and he’s also not afraid to work the corners and in front of the net.
“He always seems to make the right plays,” Kelly said. “You can tell he’s always thinking the game, even when it seems to be a bit of a panic out there, a cluster, you can see he’s very poised and always thinking the game.”
Eriksson's game started to show its full potential prior to the Olympic break in February. He was a member of Sweden’s silver medal team in Sochi and his game has improved since the NHL schedule resumed.
“We hadn't seen Loui at his best until after the Olympics, where he’s gotten much better and has recovered and now you’re seeing the real Loui that everybody’s been talking about," said Julien.
Eriksson said the Olympics helped him find his groove.
“I got some games there and I’m just trying to build off of that," he said. "I’m just trying to get better every game and it’s definitely nice to play on this team. It’s a really good team to play for and I’m really excited to get going here with the playoffs and everything.”
Julien praised Eriksson's hockey IQ and his versatility.
"He’s such a smart player -- he adapts to any line he’s with, and he’s been a great asset to that third line with Carl Soderberg and Kelly," Julien said Saturday. "He was a great asset tonight with Krejci’s line. I thought he did a great job also on Bergy’s line the other night in Toronto. That line kind of got itself going with him. It means a lot as far as what he’s capable of bringing to our team.”
Once everyone is healthy, and the puck drops on the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s likely the lineup will return to normal, which gives Julien the ability to roll all four lines for consistency.
It doesn’t matter to Eriksson who he plays with in the playoffs.
“Everyone has the same system. If you play the same way, get the puck deep, or if you have a good forecheck we usually get chances from that and I think all lines can do that,” Eriksson said. “So I think everyone knows the system really well."
6dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald