BOSTON — It’s probably not the most comfortable thing for a 22-year-old from Ontario to come from a small-market team like the Dallas Stars to a hockey-crazed city like Boston with just one full year of professional hockey under his belt. But, as the days go by, winger Reilly Smith looks more and more like he’s been calling Causeway home for quite some time.
Although it took him six games to find the back of the net as a Boston Bruin, and another nine tilts to bury his second, Smith now has four goals and 11 assists — including two goals and two assists in his last four games. While he’ll be considered “the other guy” in the Tyler Seguin-Loui Eriksson trade for at least the near future, Smith has been outperforming (and, at times, filling in for) the second-line centerman and buried a very crucial tally during Saturday’s win over Carolina.
Seven weeks into his B’s career, Smith is gaining strides in every facet of the game — most importantly in terms of comfort. Flanking Chris Kelly can do that for a young player.
“Every day gets a little bit easier,” he said after Boston’s 3-2 win in overtime. “When you stay with the same linemates it gets easier, the chemistry builds every day, so you take it day by day but everything right now is going pretty well so you try to keep the ball rolling.”
Smith wasn’t always rolling out with the third liners as he filled in admirably on the second line when head coach Claude Julien needed to shuffle things around.
Now that Brad Marchand and Eriksson are both performing and healthy alongside Patrice Bergeron, Smith’s been able to get some quality time with Kelly. The ball’s been rolling in recent weeks for Smith and the rest of the “bottom six” forwards, who have been finding the stat sheet at an impressive rate. While David Krejci and Jarome Iginla accounted for the game-winner on Saturday, it was Smith’s impressive tally in the second that gave the B’s a 2-1 lead. But he didn’t do it alone.
Smith held onto the puck in front of Carolina’s crease just long enough to open up some holes.
“[Chris Kelly] was tied up out front and he kind of set up a good pick so I didn’t want to force it right through and I thought I’d have a little more net going on my backhand — Cam [Ward] still almost had it, so, it was kind of lucky it squeaked through.
“Little things like that where probably a few weeks or a month ago, I probably wouldn’t have done that — I probably would have tried to get it on net right away,” he added. “With every day, you build confidence.”