Which Boston Bruin Is Having a Bigger Impact: Jarome Iginla or Loui Eriksson?
Thus, it should come as little surprise to New England, and even national puckheads, that Iginla has accordingly made bigger ripples in the wee phases of the 2013-14 season. Equally vital, though, is the fact that the difference in impact between the two new right wingers is less lopsided than one might expect.
Neither Iginla nor Eriksson has a point to his credit through two regular-season games, but both goose-eggs look to be on the cusp of hatching. Both players flaunted their topmost assets in multiple sequences during last Thursday’s opener versus Tampa Bay and last Saturday’s tangle with Detroit.
They each landed a pair of shots on net out of three total attempts against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Perhaps most memorably, in the 11th minute of the opening frame, Eriksson unleashed a 39-foot wrist shot on a shorthanded breakaway.
Later, in the fourth minute of the second period, Iginla precipitated his own shot attempt by flexing his physicality. He threw his third recorded hit of the night on Matt Carle, stripping the Bolts blueliner of the puck six seconds before taking his bid.
Iginla tacked on two more hits in Saturday’s action, but his collective fervor with linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic came through brighter in another department.
Granted, the visiting Red Wings were coming off another road tilt in Carolina the evening prior, but one still needs to pursue one’s breaks, regardless of energy advantage. The Iginla troika did nothing short of that Saturday by helping to induce six of Detroit’s 12 total giveaways on the night.
That spells one of the tiebreakers between the two new top-sixers in their first week of extramural engagement. Unearthing those tiebreakers is slightly more challenging than finding the similar skate marks on the still relatively fresh sheet, but they are there.
Iginla and Eriksson each accepted one opposing body check against Detroit, at 12:50 of the second period and in the first minute of the third, respectively. They each drew one of Boston’s power plays, Eriksson at 8:56 of the opening frame and Iginla at 10:29 of the third.
But what they each did once those man advantages were in session yields another discrepancy. They each had their shifts in that situation, but only one of them was in on a scoring play, let alone two connections.
After drawing the first special teams segment of the night, Eriksson watched from the bench as Iginla involved himself in Torey Krug’s icebreaker, which his two linemates assisted on.
Later, the Bruins reaped rewards from Iginla’s own persistence. The same quintet of Zdeno Chara, Iginla, Krejci, Krug and Lucic converted to cut off Johan Franzen's sentence for interfering with Iginla.
That infraction, by the way, came concomitant with a Krejci shot on goal, meaning the likes of Iginla had a routine rebound net crash in mind when he was illicitly impeded.
Chara’s goal on that second power play, which effectively finalized the 4-1 victory, came when the Wings whiffed on a clearing attempt and the Bruins regrouped for a fleeting burial of the puck. Iginla’s presence in the depths of the offensive zone―sometimes with Chara around the porch of the net and other times in the far lane―factored in to Detroit’s fatally sloppy breakout.
The tape validates Iginla’s statistically uncredited impact on the power play, which is the area of Boston’s game that has received the most conspicuous calls for improvement. In turn, the video emboldens his early superiority among the new top-six faces making a difference for the Bruins.
This is not to diminish Eriksson’s bright spots, such as his aforementioned shorthanded breakaway and penalty-drawing. The same is true of his distinction from Iginla in terms of substantive shorthanded ice time on a team that will enter Thursday night’s NHL action as one of the four left without an opposing power-play goal on its tab.
Then there is the acclaim that Eriksson and his linemates, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, earned from New England Hockey Journal scribe Jesse Connolly. As Connolly observed after the Lightning game, "They didn't produce a whole helluva lot in the preseason, but the chemistry seemed to be coming along as the game wore on. The trio was responsible for Boston’s best puck-possession shifts on the night."
That chemistry and puck possession, however, is likely to take longer to start formulating truly delectable data for Eriksson than it will for Iginla with Krejci and Lucic. That is, the latter has better odds of accumulating regular productivity on his scoring log in the coming weeks as this season takes shape.
One reason, as CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty aptly noted in a Monday column, is that Eriksson was always a left wing during his Dallas days in accordance with his left-handed twig. Conversely, he is now working on the right side, while Marchand is the incumbent left wing flanking Bergeron.
The positional switch and Boston's system will each warrant acclimation. Both Eriksson and head coach Claude Julien conceded that very notion to Haggerty in his Monday report.
Iginla, on the other hand, has already done everything one could logically ask of him except kindle his acetylene stick―just yet. He has the early edge by virtue of fruitful physicality—which boiled a tad above the brim at one point on opening night—and attentive aggression on offense in both even-strength and man-advantage situations.
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