Kalman: Bruins' Spooner Finds Hot Hand With Little Help From His Friends
BOSTON (CBS) - The Bruins have to be grateful Spooner has some wise friends.
With center David Krejci down with a tear in his knee, the Bruins had to turn to Spooner to fill in on a line between wingers Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak. Spooner had failed in previous attempts to apply his skills as an effective NHL center.
But after he scored two goals Tuesday in a 3-1 win against Ottawa, Spooner is on a six-game point streak and the Bruins are 6-1-1 since Krejci went down in a loss to St. Louis on Feb. 20.
Spooner, who has three goals and four assists during his scoring streak, was a disgruntled player looking for any bit of advice when he visited Toronto during the American Hockey League All-Star break in late January. There he met up with best friend Brett Beaulne and other buddies. They discussed how Spooner's season and career were going.
"I just went home and talked to my friends and stuff. I just told them I'm having not a great year for me and they just said to me 'you should go out there and just have fun with it; just play,'" Spooner recently told CBS Boston. "So I came back, I said to myself 'I'm going to exactly what they said.' I'm going to come back, I'm just going to have fun with it, I'm going to go out, I'm just going to play. Things have gone well. I've had some ups and some downs, but it's gone well."
Beaulne, an editor at Sportnet in Canada, had some particularly sage advice he culled from watching the entire NHL for several years.
"He just said to me, if you look, a lot of guys in the league that have ups and downs and get hurt. So I just kind of looked at it like that. And that it helped a lot," Spooner said.
Entering this season, Spooner had no goals and 11 assists in 27 NHL games. An injury to Krejci opened a spot on the roster at the start of the season, but Spooner failed to take advantage. He had no points in five games. He was sent to Providence of the AHL, where the Bruins attempted to move him to wing until the P-Bruins' roster was too thin down the middle to stick to the experiment.
He had three goals and 10 assists in his first 21 games for the P-Bruins and was in a six-game point drought when he went down with an injury Dec. 27. He missed nearly a month, which Spooner said was probably the longest injury absence of his career. When he got back, armed with his health and the pep talk from his pals, Spooner started to have fun and produce. He had 5-8-13 totals in 12 games prior to his call-up.
Still just 23 years old, Spooner is finally fulfilling the potential the Bruins saw in him when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Because of his skill set and the Bruins' issues with speed and offensive explosiveness, the fan base has been clamoring for Spooner to get more of a chance the past several years. However, the Bruins decided to be patient and Spooner did little to accelerate his promotion. It took him until his 35th NHL game to score his first goal (a game-winner in overtime against New Jersey on Feb. 27).
Spooner's well aware there are some benchmarks he's hit and some he's missed along the way, and there are more ahead that he'll have to achieve in order to stick in a primary role in the NHL.
"Yeah, I mean I'm still young. But at the same time, I've been I guess playing pro hockey my third year now, so they expect me to grow as a player and a person and all that kind of stuff," he said. "So there is some, I guess you could say, pressure on myself. But I try not to think about it too much and just play."
Word leaked out in published reports in the days after the NHL trade deadline last week that the Bruins had tried to trade to Spooner by offering him to Buffalo in exchange for Chris Stewart earlier this season. That trade never went through. At the deadline, the Bruins acquired Brett Connolly and Max Talbot instead, without trading Spooner. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make.
Although he still has a lot of room to improve in terms of the defensive part of his game, Spooner's now scoring enough to make up for his struggles in the own end. And his points and improvements on defense have combined to allow coach Claude Julien to trust Spooner to center one of his top two lines. Most important, the Bruins have won three in a row and now lead Florida by six points and the Senators by seven for the second Eastern Conference wild card.
Whether he can sustain his current scoring pace and continue to make strides as a defensive center will determine what role Spooner has for the Bruins in the playoffs and beyond this season. If he continues to blossom into the NHL regular season Boston always expected him to be, the organization might want to thank Spooner's friends for lending a hand.
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