BOSTON – Five games into their playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien has a pretty good handle on what’s working and what’s not.
“Carl Soderberg’s line has arguably been our best line so far in the series,” he said. “They make things happen.”
The six-foot-three Swede centres the Bruins’ third line, meaning Julien has plenty of depth and the Habs have matchup worries.
The evidence is plain to see. Soderberg, Loui Eriksson and newly called up Matt Fraser have scored three of the Bruins’ last five goals.
The line had two goals and four assists and was a plus-six in Boston’s 4-2 win in Game 5 on Saturday, pushing the Canadiens to the edge of playoff elimination. Fraser had the overtime winner in Game 4.
After the game Saturday, Soderberg was wearing the Bruins jacket—a hand-me down from franchise icon Johnny Bucyk—given to the best Boston player after a win. Fraser wore it after Game 4 while Eriksson had the honour in the series decider against Detroit in the first round.
The line has four goals and nine assists in the playoffs and Fraser was in the minors until Game 4 of the Montreal series.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” Julien said. “It certainly takes a lot of pressure off the other lines.”
It’s high praise, considering the lines ahead of them are David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith.
The 28-year-old Soderberg arrived in the 2012-’13 season, playing just six games before appearing in 73 this season with 16 goals and 32 assists.
“We knew he was a great player,” said Julien. “I think he led the scoring in the league in Sweden before he came to us so we knew he had skill.
“Last year when he came to us maybe a little late, he didn’t get much of a chance to play and feel his way through. But a couple of things you noticed. He needed to be in better shape, which he did this year, got himself in great shape. And the experience he got throughout the year, eventually he just kind of found his game and he’s fitting in extremely well.
“He’s a big, strong centreman and seems to make great plays and seems to be all over the puck all the time.”
Fraser played 14 games with the Bruins during the regular season and spent time on the Soderberg line, so there was some existing chemistry.
“It’s amazing what a little confidence can do with a line and they’re fun guys to play with,” said Fraser. “They work well with the puck and I just try and kind of read off them and find the open areas.”
Soderberg was quick to return the compliment.
“He’s a goal-scorer for sure,” he said of Fraser.
Fraser, Eriksson, Smith and prospect Joe Morrow came over from Dallas in the July 2013 trade for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button.