BOSTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien could see that Reilly Smith was getting ready to break out. Unlike most players in the midst of a goal-scoring drought, Smith was still doing the little things right and playing hard. He just had to trust that the process would eventually lead to results again.
Smith finally got the result he was looking for Monday night, as he scored his first goal in 16 games in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. It was Smith’s first goal since Jan. 28 against the Florida Panthers.
Since that goal against Florida, it’s been a frustrating run for the Boston second-line winger who had been so successful for most of the season up until this point. Smith has been among the team leaders in goals scored, a pleasant surprise in his first full NHL season. The 22-year-old finally broke the longest slump of his young career in the win over the Wild and was obviously relieved to get that monkey off his back.
“It definitely helps,” he said. “The biggest thing is being able to score a goal to help your team win a game. Personally, it was a little tough going through that many games, but the biggest thing was trying to stay positive and not get too down on myself because the chances were still coming.”
Smith was due. He had been generating plenty of chances lately and was playing well. He had six shots on goal in the Bruins’ win on Saturday, and he had put 29 shots on goal during the 15-game goalless stretch.
“You could see it turning around, so it was just a continuation of that,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Right now, I think his work ethic and mindset are good. As long as those two things are there, he’s going to get better all the time.”
He ended that drought by continuing to work hard and went to a place on the ice in which he could really be successful. Smith was able to bury a second-chance opportunity on the rebound from a Patrice Bergeron shot in the third period. Smith’s 19th goal of the season proved to be an insurance tally in the eventual win.
“I don’t think I’ve scored a pretty goal all year, so I figured it was going to come that way,” Smith said. “It was a long time, so it was definitely a good feeling.”
Smith’s struggles to find the back of the net were at least a little bit easier to deal with because of how well the Bruins have played as of late. The B’s went 11-2-2 during the games in which Smith was held without a goal, and with balanced scoring all around him, Smith’s slump wasn’t a make-or-break issue for the Black and Gold.
“That definitely helps a lot that our team is playing such good hockey. It definitely kept me in a more positive attitude at the rink,” Smith said. “The guys and the coaching staff were great in trying to help me through it.”
Smith’s goal Monday night was a pretty good way to thank them for that.