Spooner Keeps Making His Case
BostonBruins.com - Ryan Spooner is well aware that the Bruins are deep at center.
"I think the writing's on the wall with that, I haven't played the wing here yet. I think they want to keep me at the center position," Spooner said following his fifth preseason game Thursday night, in which he helped the B's to a 3-2 overtime win with his tying goal and then slick feed to Loui Eriksson for the winner.
"And I've played that my entire life, so I don't mind waiting. Whenever they think that I'm ready, I'll be ready to go."
With Spooner making a strong case for himself to stay with the big club, based on play alone this preseason and marked improvement to his all-around game, patience may now be the toughest part.
"Well, he's been good, he's opened some eyes there's no doubt about that," Head Coach Claude Julien told reporters following the win.
"His skating, playmaking ability…there's still some areas where we keep talking to him about improving but he's certainly one of the guys that's got himself in the mix and certainly deserves some consideration once we make that final decision."
That improvement, as Julien notes, comes from Spooner battling stronger along the boards, in the corners, and increasing his puck pursuit. The offense and speedster skating has always been there for Spooner; it's been about making himself tougher to play against.
It's an attribute crafty centerman David Krejci always demonstrates with ease. One would think on first glance at his vision and soft hands on the ice, that he wouldn't be as much of a battler on the ice and in front of the net. But, he is.
Spooner appears to be on the same trajectory.
"I'd say probably my two camps before this, I didn't really play my game. I was, I guess, kind of nervous to make plays, kind of hesitant," said Spooner. "But now, I know that in order to try and play, [I have to do] what I'm best at - and that's just kind of skating and trying to make plays - so that's what I'm trying to do."
Making plays is the easy part for the centerman, however that may happen.
For his tying goal, Spooner protected the puck behind the goal, before sending a half-wall feed to Matt Bartkowski, who danced his way along the blueline and hit Spooner skating backwards towards the point. A quick shot towards the goal, with Matt Fraser providing the screen.
"Yeah, kind of a lucky shot, I just kind of threw it on net. I was actually going to change after that and it found a way in, so that was good," said Spooner.
How does the saying go? 'You create your own luck…'
On the OT-winner, he first blocked a Dustin Bfyuglien shot in the Bruins' zone. It caromed off his leg to Dennis Seidenberg, who quickly sent it right back while taking a hit.
As Spooner streaked down the right side, with Eriksson in stride directly to his left, he stickhandled, eyed the shot, and quickly decided to find a brief seam under the Jets' defender's stick, sending a backhand feed through the hash marks.
Eriksson quickly kicked the pass (they will always tell you, there's no such thing as a 'bad pass' in circumstances like that) to his stick and roofed it under the crossbar behind Ondrej Pavelec.
"He's playing really well. I think he's gaining some confidence from every game and that's great to see from a guy like him," said Patrice Bergeron.
"I think he's got loads of talents and you know, he's using it right now," the alternate captain added. "He feels good on the ice, you can tell he's got the confidence and he makes things happen."
Spooner added a goal and an assist Thursday night to his two assists through the first four preseason games. He finished the night at 64-percent on the faceoff dot, going 3-for-4 against Olli Jokinen.
"He has to get better in that area. Again, you’re going up a level here so it’s expected that those guys," Julien had said pregame, of Spooner's preseason struggles on the dot. "He’s a pretty decent face-off man from what I hear."
"So it’s one of the things that you can keep working on day in day out and get better at that, but that’s an area where he’s working on right now and knows that he has to get better."
It looks like Spooner learns pretty quickly.
"Obviously coming into camp, my goal was to make the team but at the end of the day, if it doesn't happen obviously I think I played well enough to at least get the chance to come up here if something happens," he said.
Coach would agree.