WILMINGTON — For a moment on Thursday night, it was difficult to tell if Carl Soderberg had just scored his first NHL goal or if he was acting out the scene when Rocky Balboa reaches the top of the steps.
The unorthodox standing-still, arms-raised goal celebration caught several people, including his teammates, by surprise, as they were a little slow to congratulate the Swede for his accomplishment in the second period of the Bruins’ 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim at the Garden.
After the win, Soderberg wasn’t sure how to explain his reaction.
“Maybe relief,” he said in the victorious dressing room.
One could understand a sense of relief from the 28-year-old, who needed 12 games — dating back to last season — to score his first goal in the top league in the world. But other than wanting to help the Bruins win and make up for his first-period miscue that led to the Ducks’ first goal, it’s doubtful that there was much else weighing on Soderberg.
While his birth certificate and his multiple years of 20 or more goals in the Swedish Elite League confirm that he’s Swedish, Soderberg seems to have more of a Hawaiian or Jamaican outlook. He’s not worried about anything.
Take for example, the ankle injury he suffered toward the end of the preseason. It cost him three weeks and he missed six games. That’s not exactly how I’d want to start my first full season in the NHL. Soderberg, however, says the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I would say it was the best time actually,” Soderberg explained Friday after an optional practice at Ristuccia Arena. “There’s [not] too many games. It was one week before the season started and then we just played two games a week. So I just missed five or six games. It could’ve been much worse. To be injured now or in the middle of the season, that’s more frustrating.”
Through five games before Thursday, Soderberg had only contributed three assists and had been point-less and a minus-2 in his prior three games. Bruins coach Claude Julien has said that patience is important with Soderberg as the left-shot forward adjusts to life as a wing (from his natural center position), playing in the Bruins system and shakes off the rust from the injury absence. Julien even compared what Soderberg’s gone through to what Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell had to deal with after leg injuries.
To Soderberg, there are no excuses.
“No, not that much,” he said. “It’s just two weeks or three weeks. You’re out for the whole summer too, three months. That’s not hard.”
The Bruins played well in Soderberg’s absence and might’ve considered keeping him out of the lineup even after he was fully healed. Instead, they inserted him on the third line and in one of their power-play groups. Soderberg never broke a sweat worrying that his decision to come to North America would be for nothing because the Bruins would make do without him.
“I never worried about that. Why should I should I worry about things I can’t do something about?” he said. “It’s better to just play hockey and if I play my best game I feel like I can add something to the team.”
So Soderberg seems to have no worries for the rest of his days. He’s Joe Cool in black and gold. He should at least be concerned that his arms-in-the-air goal celebration needs a little something to jazz it up.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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