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May 1, 2014 | 4:10pm ET
Soderberg, Bourque must shine for their teams
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

BOSTON, MA -- In this season's Eastern Conference first round playoffs, the Boston Bruins eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in five games, while the Montreal Canadiens dispatched the Tampa Bay Lightning in a four game sweep setting a Round 1 match up between arch rivals Boston and Montreal.

Now, you may expect this to be a position-by-position, player-by-player breakdown and what to expect from each and every player who will step on the ice in this article, but chances are you've read each preview ad nauseum.

You know who the star players are on each side. You know who the leading playoff scorers are on each squad (just in case, Patrice Bergeron for Boston, P.K. Subban for Montreal), who the best defensemen are (Bruins' Zdeno Chara, Canadiens' Andrei Markov) and of course, you know what to expect from the goaltenders (Boston's Tuukka Rask, Montreal's Carey Price), but there are players who have the potential to become the stars of the series that may not be household names.

They toil in near anonymity. They are known to their team's fans and opponents but you do not see a jersey with their name on it in the stands. Those are reserved for the stars.

Throughout the storied histories of each franchise, lesser known players became "overnight" stars with their playoff performances.

Fans have become familiar with names such as Boston's Mel "Sudden Death" Hill, Gilles Gilbert and Bobby Joyce. Montreal received highlight performances from one-time lesser known players such as Henri Richard, Guy LaPointe, and a goaltender named Ken Dryden (whatever happened to him? He had so much potential).

In what has the potential to be the best, most intense series of the 2014 post-season, you will hear plenty of mention of Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, and Chara when Boston puts a new number on the scoreboard.

The same can be said for Montreal's Subban, Brendan Gallagher, Brian Gionta, Lars Eller and Tomas Plekanec, but as you can see, the playoffs are a time and place where stars are born.

Montreal has a player with star potential and that player is Rene Bourque. The 32-year-old, University of Wisconsin alum is in his ninth NHL season. He has also played for Chicago and Calgary. He has seen action in 560 regular season games, in which, he has produced 276 points. This season Bourque scored nine goals and seven assists in 63 games as a defensive right winger. He entered this postseason with 10 games of playoff experience and three goals and one assist.

In the series versus Tampa Bay, Bourque scored three times, including one game winner, in the four games.

The big (6-foot-2, 217 pounds) forward is, obviously, not one the stereotypical small forwards that the Canadiens employ. Bourque possesses good speed but relies more on his strength to win puck battles along the boards and in corners. He also likes to gain position in front of opposing goaltenders’ creases to set up screens and pounces on rebounds quickly.

If left unchecked by Boston, Rene Bourque could become a thorn in the Bruins sides throughout the series.

On the other bench, the Black and Gold has a player who became an NHL player later than most. After seeing what NHL playoff hockey was all about last season, Carl Soderberg returned to his native Sweden, trained harder than he ever had and returned to Boston with the goal of becoming a regular in the lineup.

Like all first year players, he required a period of adjustment and spent a portion of 2013-2014 as a winger on the Bruins third line with Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson, however, a late season injury to Kelly forced Bruins coach Claude Julien to move Soderberg to his natural center position and the 28 year old has not looked out of place.

In 73 games, Soderberg posted 16 goals and 32 assists totaling 48 points. Three of his lamplighters were game winners and five came on the power play. Overall, pretty lofty numbers for a first year NHL player that have allowed Soderberg to become a fan favorite in Boston but he has yet to be recognized as a star player around the league meaning this series will be his time to shine.

Like Bourque, Soderberg is a large body (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) and he uses his size and strength to get through defenders’ checks on the boards and in the corners. He is at his best when the puck is on his stick and he uses those attributes along with his speed to skate past, and sometimes, through defensemen.

Soderberg, who was drafted by St. Louis in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (2nd round, 49th overall) and traded to Boston in 2007, also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time in all three zones. Defensively, he is responsible and rarely out of position making him the prototypical Bruin forward.

This is the 34th meeting in the Stanley Cup playoffs between Boston and Montreal, which is a North American professional sports record.

As has been the case during the previous 33 meetings, the big stars will play bigger with one or two, perhaps, attaining superstar status, however, every club needs a player to “step up” and play out of their comfort zone. The one who does, will become an instant star.

Keep a close eye on Rene Bourque and Carl Soderberg. They just might shine the brightest of all the stars.

Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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