It’s been an up-and-down, roller coaster type of season for Nashville Predators forward Gabriel Bourque. After scoring 11 goals and leading the team in goal scoring at the time of his injury during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, Bourque has struggled to be as consistent offensively in the 2013-14 season.
Things didn’t go particularly well for Bourque to start this season. He wasn’t playing well on either side of the puck, which was uncharacteristic for a player whose tenacious style of play had allowed him to be successful up until that point early on in his NHL career. Bourque found himself listed as a healthy scratch on multiple occasions earlier this season.
Over the past two months, however, Bourque has started to regain the identity that has made him a productive, successful NHL player so far in his career. He’s been much better defensively and has been more aggressive on the forecheck. However, the offense just hasn’t clicked yet for him for some reason. Bourque has just five goals and 12 assists (17 points) in 52 games played this season.
“I think lately I’ve played better defensively. I’ve gotten some penalty kill [time] and my plus-minus went up. Not a lot of points, but I’ve played a good, solid game over the last two months. I’ve got to keep going the same way, and hopefully the points start coming. If not, I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing,” Bourque said.
Even though the points on offense haven’t been coming for Bourque, the Predators are happy with how he’s been playing over the last 15 games or so. Predators head coach Barry Trotz has noticed a big difference in the way Bourque was playing before the Olympic break as opposed to how he was playing earlier in the year.
“I thought [Bourque] started getting his pace going,” Trotz said. ”When he’s playing with pace and he’s hard on the puck and hard on the opponent, he gets better opportunities, he creates more, he makes better plays. He becomes very reliable and very predictable in what you’re going to get out of him, and I thought earlier in the year he was a little bit erratic. He wasn’t playing at the pace I think he’s most effective at. He’s played pretty well down the last probably 15 games. He’s been good.”
Still, putting in all of the work and not being rewarded on the score sheet can get very frustrating for players after a while. It becomes a mental battle. That’s something Bourque is prepared to deal with if it comes down to it.
“I’ve just got to get over that,” Bourque said. “Right now it’s team first from here until the end of the season. I’ve just got to play my game, and every game we win is better for me.”
Just like every season, the Predators are going to need all hands on deck to make a push toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If Bourque is able to get things going offensively and keep up the strong play he’s displayed defensively over the past couple of months, that’s going to be a big bonus for the Predators down the home stretch.
“It’s a must-win every night now until the end of the year,” Bourque said. “It’s going to be exciting, and I think everybody is ready. I can’t wait.”