Predators rookie builds on postseason success with memorable NHL playoff debut

Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 11:45pm

Gabriel Bourque was worried about the possibility that he might have too much energy for his NHL playoff debut.

“I’d say I have to make myself calm down,” he said on Monday. “I think two coffees is enough for me. Any more than that and I might have a heart attack.”

As it turned out, two goals also were enough. The rookie forward scored twice, including the game-winner in the Nashville Predators’ 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Game 2 is 6:30 p.m. Friday at Bridgestone Arena (SportSouth).

Bourque matched Alexander Radulov as the only rookies in franchise history to score a pair of goals in a playoff game. Not bad for a 21-year-old who made his NHL debut at the end of December.

Not that it should come as a surprise.

Last season, his first as a professional, he led the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) in playoff goals (seven) and points (13) as he averaged a point per game.

A year earlier, he concluded his career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League by being awarded the Guy LaFleur Trophy as the playoff MVP. In 24 games for Moncton he had 19 goals and 10 assists.

Already, he has made an impact in the NHL playoffs.

“I didn’t know at 21 I’d be playing in the NHL,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. I’ve been enjoying it.”

A fifth-round draft pick in 2009, he was recalled for the first time in late December and needed 19 regular-season games to score two goals. However, he earned a regular role with his competitiveness and his willingness to go full speed at all times.

He eventually appeared in 43 games and finished with 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) and averaged more than 12 minutes of ice time.

“When I came here I thought it was for one or two games just to give me a chance,” he said. “After that, they told me to find a place here and it made me really confident.

“I can’t ask better for a season. If you told me in my draft year that I’d be in the NHL in 21 I would have been excited to hear that.”

How excited, of course, would depend on how many cups of coffee he had.