BRIGHTON, Mass – Boston Bruins forward Erik Haula has, to put it kindly, really struggled since coming over to the Black and Gold this season.
Things started out well enough with a very promising training camp where he looked fast, skilled and ready to contribute centering a third line with Jake DeBrusk and Nick Foligno. But since the regular season bell went off, Haula has just one goal and three points along with a minus-5 in 18 games this season and was scratched last weekend against the Canucks after being a defensive liability in last week’s Black Friday loss to the New York Rangers.
The Bruins should have seen enough of Erik Haula at center at this point. Completely drifts away from the middle of the ice in D-zone leaving Hunt wide open for rebound. Haula a minus-2 today pic.twitter.com/vx8lXn4W5F
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) November 26, 2021
The message was clear to Haula: He wasn’t doing enough of anything with his speed and skill, and seemed to be just going through the motions while getting used to his new spot on his new team.
Both Haula and DeBrusk were scratched together for Sunday’s win over Vancouver but were returned to the lineup for Tuesday night’s loss to Detroit. It was more of the same from DeBrusk, who has declined to speak about a trade request from the B’s that has gone public and was a phantom with one shot on net and one hit in 10 minutes of ice time.
Haula, on the other hand, responded well to the clear challenge from the Boston Bruins coaching staff and had three shots on net, two hits and a takeaway in 12:35 of ice time while creating offensive chances with his speed and hustle. The 30-year-old said it was essentially a “reset” for him after sitting and watching for a game after struggling for weeks.
“I feel like I’ve been in the league long enough, feel like I’ve seen all the situations there are,” said Haula, who signed a two-year, $4.75 million contract with the Bruins this summer. “Yes, I think it was warranted in a sense, where I wasn’t where I needed to be. I wasn’t playing the way the team needs me to play. So, in a sense, I took it as let’s reset and start over and find my game again and make it looks like it’s supposed to.
“I kind of had a stretch there where I wasn’t happy with my game myself. I didn’t really recognize the player that was out there. Probably was good to sit a game, reset a little bit and now work to get back to my game which was more of [Tuesday night], skating, more confident on the puck, harder. That was my emphasis and I thought it was a good step towards the right direction.”
Certainly, Haula is a player that the Bruins were relying on for secondary scoring after bringing him into the fold, and that hasn’t happened yet. It’s something Bruins President Cam Neely, among others, are patiently waiting for as the B’s face the same depth problems they’ve had for the last few seasons.
“It’s been a little challenging. The schedule didn’t do us any favors as far as getting into a groove, but it’s still a work in progress,” said Boston Bruins President Cam Neely during an intermission interview on the 98.5 the SportsHub broadcast on Tuesday night. “Goaltending has been okay. Not great, but okay. The secondary scoring we’re still searching for that a little bit. The hope is the more we get into games that guys will get into a rhythm…that’s the hope anyway.”
The Boston Bruins can take Haula’s response to being scratched as a source of optimism as they look to navigate through a tough couple of weeks as suspensions, COVID-19 outbreaks and top-notch opponents have them backed up against a wall.