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Reilly Smith ‘finally’ back to scoring for Bruins

03.18.14 at 9:54 am ET
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When Reilly Smith jumped out to a hot start as the Bruins’€™ leader in goals through the first three-plus months of the season, he didn’€™t soak it in the same way other young players might. He stayed quiet and it didn’€™t go to his head. Respectfully, he was boring.

So when he finally snapped his nearly seven-week-long scoring slump in the third period of Monday’€™s win over the Wild, there was no triumphant celebration — just hands in the hair and one spoken word: “œFinally.”

That, minus the “finally” was pretty much what the rest of his 19 celebrations have looked like. Nothing fancy, and nothing too proud; everything you’€™d expect from a kid who has maintained that his goals only matter to him if they help the team win.

Yet as even-keeled as he seemed to remain during that slump — which lasted 15 games and began after he notched his then-team-leading 18th goal of the season (he’€™s tied for fourth on the team now) — it weighed on him. Smith’€™s clearly the type of player who doesn’t get carried away with success, but when it wasn’€™t coming, maybe a little frustration did set in.

“€œHe demands a lot, and that’€™s a trait of a lot of players, to be honest with you,” Claude Julien said before Monday’€™s game. “He’€™s just one of those guys that has that trait, and it’€™s up to us to kind of take some of that pressure off him. He’€™s just got to go out there and play hard, and most of all you have to play hard but you have to have fun at this game. It’€™s work, but your work has to be a lot of fun, too.

“I think right now he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I think he was coming to the rink and getting on the ice there and instead of smiling was just carrying the weight that he didn’€™t need to carry. So we’€™re just trying to help him take some of that weight off his shoulders.”

Monday should have helped a little. Smith went to the net and jammed a rebound of a Patrice Bergeron shot past Darcy Kuemper to expand the Bruins’€™ lead to 3-1. For a player who made a name for himself early with rebound goals and finishing off Carl Soderberg backdoor plays, he was just glad it went in.

“€œI don’€™t think I’€™ve scored a pretty goal this year, so I figured it was going to come that way,” he said after the game. “It was a long time, so it was definitely a good feeling.”

Despite it being a long time, Smith wasn’€™t playing himself out of his spot as Bergeron’€™s right wing. The line was still producing — there was a stretch in Smith’€™s goal slump where he had five assists in eight games — and Smith’€™s place in Boston’€™s top six has provided them with superb depth offensively.

If he can get back to scoring the way he did earlier in the season, Boston’€™s offense — which ranks third in the NHL — will be as balanced as ever. The Bruins figure to end up having at least five 20-goal-scorers this season (Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand are already there; Bergeron and Smith are each one goal away), while both Zdeno Chara and David Krejci have an outside chance with 16 goals apiece.

Loui Eriksson doesn’€™t come up in that conversation because for much of the time he’€™s been in the lineup this season he’€™s been feeling his way back from a concussion. His goal Monday was just his eighth of the season, but the play of he and Carl Soderberg lately essentially gives them a third line that looks more like a top-six line than anything else.

A big part of Boston’€™s nine-game winning streak is the team’€™s offensive balance, and that was without Smith scoring. If he can get back to his earlier pace — and he had six shots on goal the game before he broke the drought, so maybe that’€™s coming — the Bruins will be even scarier.

“You could see it turning around, so it was just a continuation of that,” Julien said. “Right now, I think his work ethic and his mindset is good. As long as those two things are there, he’€™s going to get better all the time.”

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