Sobotka sizzles in the center of the action

While he downplays it, there’s no doubt Sobotka’s play resonated with his team. And his overall game has jolted his once-dormant linemates to life. Ryder scored twice in Game 2 and Wheeler tallied two assists. Both had more scoring chances in Game 3 and kept the heat on Miller.

It’s not a knock on David Krejci, Ryder and Wheeler’s previous long-time center. But Sobotka’s extra-hard work ethic, paired with some playmaking savvy, seems to be a better fit for the pair of wingers at this point and time.

“I think our line has been very involved, and he definitely sets the tempo,” said Wheeler. “He drives the net extremely hard, he takes the body extremely well – especially when he’s the first guy on the forecheck – so with me and Rides, we have a lot of free pucks to pick up. And it kind of allows us … its funny, he’s not the biggest guy, but he opens so much space for us. … We’ve made a lot of plays, giving ourselves a lot of opportunities to score just by having Vladi in there on the forecheck.”

Never mistaken for Selke Trophy candidates, Wheeler and Ryder seem to have raised their games in the defensive end while skating with Sobotka as well. Julien has entrusted the trio to match up against Tim Connolly and Buffalo’s second line while Patrice Bergeron’s line has been shutting down Derek Roy’s top line.

“It’s about trust from the coach,” said Sobotka. “If we have a good game, our line, he’ll put against Roy, Connolly, whatever line.”

Lest we think Sobotka’s hands are limited to just making hockey plays, we finally got to see him drop the gloves in the NHL. While it wasn’t much of a bout, and Buffalo’s Andrej Sekera might have landed a couple more blows, we found out that Sobotka’s as adept at ducking a punch as he his setting up a teammate for a goal from the slot. Winger Shawn Thornton, who boxes in his spare time, joked that Sobotka might’ve learned the old “bob and weave” from his boxing coach. Sobotka said it was just instinct.

“I just saw his hands come in and I, you know …” said Sobotka.

Luckily, Sobotka doesn’t avoid anything else opponents send his way other than fists. Otherwise he wouldn’t be on the cusp of establishing himself as one of the Bruins’ better two-way forwards and a center of attention.

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