The curious case of Rene Bourque continues.
A world-beater one night, and looking beat the next, the Calgary Flames winger showed once again Tuesday night what he looks like when he’s on his game.
Forget the points. A goal and a pair of assists in a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning were just a bonus that came along with the gritty effort the 28-year-old put forward.
He battered opposing defencemen on the forecheck, forced forwards to turn the puck over in the neutral and defensive zones, and went to the net with authority.
All great stuff, which again has fans and his coaches scratching their heads a little as they ask, ‘Why doesn’t he look like that every night?’
Had he been hurt over the previous dozen contests, when he posted a pedestrian three goals and five points while disconcertingly looking less than aggressive while doing so?
“Nothing major. Just everyday wear and tear,” Bourque answered Tuesday after an off-ice workout before heading to southern California for a two-game road swing. “Everybody goes through it at some points. I’m still definitely well enough to play.”
He certainly came to play Tuesday.
Despite the dry spells and up-and-down attention to detail, Bourque sits third in team scoring with 22 points and is tied with Jarome Iginla for the most goals with a dozen of them in 26 games.
Makes you wonder how impressive his numbers might be if he could just keep that switch in the ‘on’ position for most games.
“When Borkie plays hardnosed like that, he’s one of the best grinding, offensive forwards in the league,” said road roommate and linemate Curtis Glencross, who plays a similar style and says it can be an easy thing to get away from because of the nature of the work.
“It is a lot of work. You’ve got to be committed to it. When any of us get off that part, that’s when our games start to dive a little bit.
“You might not have it there every night, but you’ve still got to try to find a way to make it happen.”
Bourque is still trying to find his way to the upper echelon of players around the league.
“Obviously you want to be good every night, but in reality, it’s not going to be there for you where you’re scoring every night and producing,” Bourque said. “But if I’m not scoring, hopefully I’m playing well and playing physical. Playing well in my own end and killing penalties.”
There have been games when his name hasn’t been on the scoresheet but he’s put forth a strong effort, but most of the time, when he’s playing to the best of his abilities, he’s going to earn a point or two.
“We need that from Borkie every night,” said head coach Brent Sutter. “We can’t accept less, and neither should he.”
Sutter mentions Brendan Shanahan when pointing out the potential Bourque has. What makes guys like that special, though, is an inner drive.
Coaches can show a player on video what they look like when they’re at their best, they can talk over issues with a player, and try and motivate them with other methods.
“You know what? At some point, it’s got to come from within,” said Sutter. “I think the world of Borkie as a person and a player ... that’s what we’re working on with him.
“It’s internally with him, and probably mostly mental. We’re trying to work with him on that.”
It’s not like they need to work on other things. Bourque is armed with speed, hockey smarts, a strong shot, and size. Everything you could ask for in the sport.
It’s up to him to take the next step and play the way he did Tuesday night on a consistent basis.
“When he’s doing that, players take notice inside your dressing room,” Sutter said. “They follow his lead.”
That kind of leadership would cement his status as a top player.
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The ups and downs of Bourque’s season
Games 1-2: no points, minus-1 in two games
Games 3-6: seven points (6 goals, 1 assist, three game-winners), plus-3 in four games
Games 7-11: three points (1 goal, 2 assists), minus-4 in five games
Games 12-13: four points (1 goal, 3 assists), plus-1 in two games
Games 14-25: five points (3 goals, 2 assists), minus-6 in 12 games
Game 26: three points (1 goal, 2 assists), plus-1 in one game