Bourque busts out of slump

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:43 PM ET

One beefy TV type compared the lengthy slump to a bruin going into hibernation for the winter.

Looking at Rene Bourque’s stats since early December, it’s hard to dispute the analogy.

The big winger netted just three goals and six points from Dec. 9 to Feb. 5 — a span of 26 games — before emerging from his cave this month.

In Sunday’s Heritage Classic, Bourque was a total beast, wide awake and leaving a lasting impression on the 41,022 fans at McMahon Stadium.

He scored twice, including one that saw him corral a bouncing puck at full speed on the bad ice, then charge to the net and deke Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price for his second goal of the evening.

Bringing his totals to four goals and eight points in the last seven games, Bourque is back.

“I definitely struggled there for quite a while,” Bourque said. “I just felt exhausted, tired, burnt-out. I’m finally getting back to playing the way I should be playing and helping this team win.

“The last couple of months, I don’t have an excuse, but I just didn’t feel good on the ice. I felt tired. I was always a step behind, a half-second behind on getting to the net or getting pucks to the net, or a half-step behind getting a breakout pass or whatever.”

For whatever reason, he’s feeling energized lately.

“That makes all the difference in the world in my game,” Bourque said.

If the inconsistent 6-foot-2, 213-pounder can keep playing that way the last 20 games, it could make all the difference for the Flames in their push toward the playoffs.

“Right now, he’s just working, and the confidence is getting back to him,” said teammate Alex Tanguay. “He’s an outstanding player. I think that right now, he’s just being the Rene Bourque that we expect he can be and that’s fun to see.

“We expect him to be like that the rest of the year.”

Linemate Matt Stajan was blown away by the outdoor performance.

“When he’s on, he’s on,” said the centre, who was among the many celebrating the highlight-reel third goal that buried the Canadiens late in the second period.

“It was great to see. Not many players could corral that puck and bring it to the net like that with the drive he had.”

Bourque can.

That’s been the biggest frustration with the 29-year-old who is in the first season of a six-year, US$20-million extension. He’s capable of those kind of head-turning plays, but doesn’t always seem willing.

“The puck was bouncing all night and that was part of our game plan, just to throw it out in the neutral zone and have a foot race for it,” Bourque said of his spectacular goal against the Habs. “At first, I thought

I was going to have a clear-cut breakaway. But it kept bouncing and bouncing. I really didn’t get a hold of it until it was almost on the end boards by our bench.

“Finally, I got a chance to make a move on him in tight.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/MacfarlaneSteve


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