By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
Let’s discuss Chris Bourque for a moment, shall we?
Despite the Boston Bruins 5-0-1 record heading into Thursday night’s matchup against their divisional rival, the Buffalo Sabres, a hilarious amount of vitriol has been directed towards the 27 year old 3rd-liner.
A career AHLer, and second round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 2004, Bourque hasn’t met the apparent expectations of the Garden faithful, who have seemingly set their sights on the son of That Guy.
Bourque was coming off of a career year in the AHL, leading the league with 93 points in 73 games. Boston had a third line roster spot open due to the departure of Benoit Pouliot, and Bourque was penciled in for that role.
Fast forward two weeks into the lockout shortened season, and there are scores of angry callers phoning sports radio stations to complain about the lack of output from a guy who had just 4 points in his 33 NHL games coming into 2013.
Now, if the name on the sweater didn’t read ‘Bourque’, the slow start would hardly qualify as news. But in a city that’s A) pining for another championship, and B) used to complaining about something, a target has been acquired.
No one – not general manager Peter Chiarelli, head coach Claude Julien, or Bourque, claimed that the winger would be an offensive dynamo. However, he was given a shot with the big club based on his phenomenal power play work in the minors. So far, that success hasn’t translated.
Bourque may just be part of that rare breed of players that can dominate the game at a slightly lower level, but just can’t cut it in the big leagues. Or, he could be one lucky bounce away from regaining his confidence and finally hitting his stride.
It’s easy to forget that entering the 2010-2011 season, Brad Marchand had done little to distinguish himself from any other prospect in the Bruins system. He skated in 20 games in 2009-2010, but was barely visible and registered a single point.
He didn’t record his first NHL goal until 27 games into his career, in a game against Buffalo on 11/3/10, and went on to score 20 more that season and go on to become a Stanley Cup hero.
One can pretty safely say that it’s unlikely Bourque will have that type of impact on this Bruins team moving forward, but he’s just two or three points away from surpassing the output of his linemates Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, or equaling that of Patrice Bergeron or Tyler Seguin.
In other words, we’re six games in, and the kid’s literally playing in the shadow of a #77 banner hanging from the rafters of a building he grew up watching hockey in, so it would make sense if he’s squeezing the stick a little bit right now.
Chiarelli and Julien are always looking for ways to improve their team, and inserting Lane MacDermid into the lineup over Bourque may just do the trick. After finally securing a roster spot on an NHL team, Bourque surely doesn’t miss riding an iron lung down the highway for ten hours to play an away game in front of 6,000 people.
Chris Bourque: fan casualty #1 of the 2013 season. With so many things going right for Boston at the moment, it’s easy to spot a work-in-progress. When the Bruins hit a rough patch, the spotlight will shift to another party who’s seemingly at fault. And by then, maybe Bourque will have hit the stride that’s eluded him thus far.