David Krejci’s injury had the potential to really hurt a struggling Boston Bruins offense that has lacked finish all season. But his absence opened the door for center prospect Ryan Spooner to receive another chance to impress the coaching staff and fulfill his promise as a top-six forward.
Thus far, Spooner has made the most of his opportunity.
In the first eight games since his Feb. 21 recall, Spooner has done a remarkable job replacing Krejci by creating offense for himself and teammates at even strength and on the power play. The Ottawa native extended his point streak to six games while playing in front of family and friends Tuesday night against the Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
The 23-year-old opened the scoring with a wrist shot that beat Senators goaltender Craig Anderson on the power play 1:02 into the second period. Spooner also was able get enough of his stick on a Milan Lucic pass to score his second goal later in the period, giving Boston a commanding 3-0 lead.
Spooner has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games and seven points (three goals, four assists) during his scoring streak. He has formed solid chemistry alongside Lucic and fellow rookie David Pastrnak, as that line has scored a goal in four of the last five games and combined for 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in that span.
Spooner’s offensive production is among the reasons why the Bruins have scored 3.5 goals per game — well above their season average — since the young center was recalled from Providence. His speed, playmaking ability and quality shot are valuable assets to a B’s offense that has lacked high-end skill this season.
That said, there still are flaws in Spooner’s game. He’s not fully reliable in defensive situations and isn’t ready to consistently take on tough assignments against quality competition. That’s why it’s no surprise that Spooner has started 57.25 percent of his even-strength shifts in the attacking zone this season. Spooner, to his credit, has made strides in playing without the puck with Boston and Providence this season.
“Maybe they’re struggling at one end and you’re trying to manage it the best way you can not to allow them to be there,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said during his post-game interview on NESN’s “Bruins Overtime Live.” “There’s also the other side of it where they produce.
“I thought Spooner was great for us tonight. Big goal on the power play to open up the scoring, and a great job by him driving to the net and stopping (on his second goal). But Lucic did a heck of a job on that goal as well. That line keeps producing for us. It’s important. But then you see what happens near the end of the game, they get caught out there and they get tired. You end up having to shorten your bench at that point.”
It’ll be interesting to see where Spooner fits into the lineup when Krejci returns from his injury. Playing Spooner on the wing doesn’t make sense, and the Bruins also have plenty of depth down the middle.
Given the lack of production from Carl Soderberg — eight points in his last 28 games, including a 20-game goal-less drought — the best spot for Spooner might be third-line center. But for right now, it’s encouraging to see Spooner providing consistent scoring production and playing with a lot of confidence after some struggles early in his NHL career.
Thumbnail photo via Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images
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