Rene Bourque occasionally has heard complimentary words from a coach throughout his career, like the praise he received from Michel Therrien after Bourque's three-goal outing on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers.
"Rene Bourque played a great game," the Montreal Canadiens bench boss said. "He was a force out there, you know. On the forecheck, he took the man. He was moving his feet. He was going hard to the net. He's a very good scorer, so definitely that was a great performance by him."
Brent Sutter used to utter similar admiration when the two were together with the Calgary Flames, when Bourque put together back-to-back 27-goal seasons, before he was traded to Montreal for Mike Cammalleri in January 2012.
The problem has been these sorts of performances from the 6-foot-2, 215-pound left wing have been infrequent in a Canadiens' sweater.
The 32-year-old Bourque, a Metis, has suffered from a case of inconsistency most of his career. In some games he is a power forward in the class of Cam Neely, like Sutter once described his potential. On other nights, he is invisible. And Bourque can disappear for weeks.
He was a healthy scratch nine times this season. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had a chat with his player. So did Montreal director of player personnel Scott Mellanby in the hopes of Bourque would shake his slump.
Whatever was said has helped. His detractors can't criticize his performance this spring. Bourque has been on fire. After a nine-goal, 63-game regular season, he now has eight goals in 16 playoff games. Only Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik has scored more in the 2014 post-season with 10.
"You know what, in the end of the regular season, we saw Rene engaged in the game a lot more, moving his feet, being physical, going hard to the net," Therrien said. "He's doing a lot of good things.
"You can't expect a player to score three goals every night or even score every game. But even when he doesn't score, he's playing solid hockey. He's getting involved physically. And last night, for me, it was leadership. It was a huge game for us. He came up big, and that's good not only for him, but for us. I really appreciate his effort last night."
Bourque made plenty of history with his hat trick on Tuesday.
Bourque has size. He has speed. He has a scoring touch. But he has confounded some in the hockey world as to why he doesn't enjoy more productive nights like he did in Montreal's 7-4 win at home to extend the East final to a Game 6 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night (CBC, CBCSports, 8 p.m. ET).
Maybe, it's his laid back personality. Maybe, it's the injury troubles he's incurred in his 10-year pro career. He has never played a full season. When he's been healthy, he's been productive.
Bourque, who still has two years remaining on his six-year, $20-million US contract, has been a popular teammate wherever he's played. He also should be lauded for his story, a kid from Lac La Biche, Alta., (220 kilometres Northeast of Edmonton) for finding his way into the NHL despite going undrafted.
Bourque finds inspiration in his best friend, Anthony McLevin, who passed away in his sleep from a heart condition when the two were in high school, as well as Bourque's parents, Barbara and Gary.
Barbara gave birth to two sets of twins. Kim and Nadia arrived first, while Chantal and Rene followed a few years later. While Gary was away working in the Fort McMurray oil patch, Barbara went back to school to earn her social work degree in Portage College.
It was a worthwhile endeavour for Barbara. She began to help less fortunate families survive in Lac La Biche, something her only son has continued through his free hockey school and equipment donations through the NHLPA's Goals and Dreams fund. He also helped raise funds to build a new arena and community centre for nearby Whitefish Lake First Nation.
Gary, a defenceman, was good enough to play junior. As a father, he often would travel through the night to help coach Rene's teams.
Rene went from Lac La Biche to the famed Notre Dame Hounds to the St. Albert Saints of the AJHL. He could have earned a roster spot with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades, but instead opted for a scholarship with the University of Wisconsin and earned a finance degree. He played mostly on the fourth line at Wisconsin in his first two seasons and that's the reason for not being drafted.
When Mike Eaves arrived as the new head coach at Wisconsin, Bourque began to get noticed. Dale Tallon saw his potential, as a result the Blackhawks signed him and Bourque made an immediate impact in with their minor-league team in Norfolk. His 33 goals earned him the Dudley (Red) Garrett Trophy as the 2004-05 AHL rookie of the year.
Now in Montreal, Bourque is, almost a decade later, making an impact again. The Canadiens faithful hopes his fine play continues. So does Therrien.
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