Reilly Smith is just trying to ‘keep the ball rolling’
|11.23.13 at 8:22 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien looks on the ice and sees the skill of Reilly Smith. Then he has to remind himself and others that he is just 22 years of age.
On Saturday, he saw a sure-fire sign that Smith is fully capable of handling the load at the NHL level. With 6:29 left in the second period of a 1-1 game, Smith broke in on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward and had the puck on his backhand. Earlier in the season, Smith’s eyes might have gotten too big and he might have felt the pressure to rush the shot. But not Saturday. He waited.
Smith took a pass from Carl Soderberg in the low slot between the circles, skated across the crease and flipped the puck just hard enough that Ward couldn’t control it, providing the go-ahead goal, already the fourth of the season with his new team.
“Kells [Chris Kelly] was tied up in front so he kind of set up a good pick, I didn’t want to force it right through and I thought I might have a little more net going to my backhand,” Smith explained. “Cam [Ward] still almost had it so I was kind of lucky that it snuck through.”
Does Saturday’s patience on the goal show he’s getting more comfortable?
“Absolutely, just 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,” Smith said. “With every day, you build confidence.
“Every day gets a little bit easier. When you stay with the same linemates, for a few weeks or a month, everyday gets easier, chemistry builds every day so just take it day by day but I think everything is going pretty well right now, just try to keep the ball rolling.”
With Kelly and Carl Soderberg on the third line, the young winger acquired along with Loui Eriksson from Dallas for Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley is looking more and more ready to fit in on a regular basis.
“They just feel better more and more about playing together,” Julien said. “They’re reading off of each other extremely well; I said that earlier in an interview about how they’re just reading off each other, they’re anticipating, so they’re always on top of the puck. We still have some lines right now that are kind of waiting to see what the puck carrier is going to do with it and you hope that with time we can get that same level as that third line is right now of anticipating well. They know exactly where they want to go and where they’re going to put the puck so they’re on top of it all the time and the last few games they’ve had a lot of chances and a lot of offensive zone time.
“Again, we’re talking about a young player here. I keep saying it all the time, we always seem to overlook his age and he’s a young player. And the way I think he’s handled himself in pressure situations and handling the puck a little bit better and holding onto it. And at the same time, I thought tonight he shot the puck a little bit more; he had a little bit better of a nose for the net and before, looking to make plays versus shooting the puck. So he’s really turned a corner and is really coming along well for a young player.”
It’s not just Julien either. Smith is winning over veteran teammates at the same time.
“I didn’t know much about him before he got traded,” David Krejci said. “I know he’s a great player, he’s still young, but he’s playing like a ten year vet [veteran]. It’s good to see him doing well; hopefully he can keep it up.”