When the Boston Bruins learned they would be without center David Krejci for the foreseeable future, the message to Ryan Spooner was simple:
Now’s your chance. Make the most of it.
He certainly has.
Spooner has been a force since taking Krejci’s spot on the Bruins’ second line, recording at least one point in seven of Boston’s last eight games. The 23-year-old has totaled 11 points over that span, highlighted by his one-goal, two-assist showing in Friday night’s much-needed win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Spooner had a hand in each of the Bruins’ first three goals in the 4-1 victory, which snapped a three-game losing streak and prevented Boston from falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“We?ve been on a little bit of a slide here, and we just said that we just have to go out there and play how we can,” Spooner told NESN rinkside reporter Sarah Davis after the game. “We got some pucks to the net, and it worked out for us. It was good.”
That slide has featured far more negatives than positives for the Bruins, but the play of the second line has been a bright spot. The trio of Spooner and wingers Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson has combined to produce 22 points in the eight games since Krejci went down, including seven in Friday’s win.
That’s actually an uptick from the eight previous contests, during which Krejci totaled six points, Eriksson added four and Beleskey contributed three.
“(I’m) happy with the way that (Spooner) has taken on that responsibility of losing David and given us a second line that has been pretty good,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters, according to the team.
The change from playing between Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes on a nightly basis to centering Beleskey and Eriksson clearly has had a positive effect on Spooner’s production. The fact that one-third of his 33 points this season have come during his eight games as a second-liner is proof of that. And his play in relief of Krejci has been a big help for the Bruins, even if it hasn’t exactly shown in the team’s 3-4-1 record since the injury.
The true measure of Spooner’s growth, however, won’t come until after Krejci returns to the lineup. With Patrice Bergeron locked in as Boston’s No. 1 center, the veteran more than likely will slot back into his usual second-line spot, pushing Spooner down to the third, where he’s spent the bulk of his time this season.
If the latter can continue to produce the way he has once Beleskey and Eriksson no longer are on his wings — as he proved he’s capable of doing during his 10 points-in-six games stretch in early December — it would provide a massive boost for a Bruins team that until recently did not receive much scoring from outside its top-six forwards.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images