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Bruins need a productive and confident Reilly Smith 03.24.15 at 10:23 pm ET
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Reilly Smith is capable of more. (Getty Images)

Reilly Smith is capable of more. (Getty Images)

If Brett Connolly hadn’€™t broken his finger, rendering him a non-factor down the stretch before he ever played a game for the Bruins, maybe the Reilly Smith problem wouldn’€™t matter as much as it does.

If Connolly were healthy and in the lineup, he would provide the B’€™s with a viable option to take Smith’€™s minutes and, with any hope, do more with them than Smith has.

Connolly isn’€™t there, however, and the Bruins’€™ playoff chances are slipping away while Smith’€™s confidence is seemingly nowhere to be found. On a team loaded with players who can run hot and cold, Smith has been at his coldest at the worst time imaginable.

The Bruins need the Smith of early last season and last postseason. The current Smith — the one who has no goals in his last 13 games and only 12 this season despite playing most of the year with one of the best centers in the world in Patrice Bergeron — needs to access the smarts and mindset that have previously made him a good top-sixer. It’€™s anyone’€™s guess as to whether that happens down the stretch, including him.

“I think you try to build it every day,” Smith said when asked if his confidence is where it needs to be. “Obviously when the team’€™s struggling and things aren’€™t working out, your confidence isn’€™t going to be as high as it usually is, but it’€™s something you’€™ve got to kind of work around.”

Smith missed the first game of his two-year Bruins career on Saturday when he was made a healthy scratch against the Panthers. Uninspired play — most notably a dreadful showing against the Senators last Thursday in which he had two turnovers that led to goals and was given just one shift over the final 28:03 — led to the benching, but he was back in the lineup the next day. Smith picked up an assist on Zdeno Chara‘€™s third-period power play goal against the Lightning, good for just his first point in seven games.

Tuesday’€™s practice saw Smith skate with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, while David Krejci held Smith’€™s usual spot to the right of Patrice Bergeron. Krejci playing with Marchand and Bergeron makes for a loaded first line, but the Bruins have historically had success with balance throughout their top three lines, if not all four.

That means that Smith needs to start producing regardless of where he plays. Even when Connolly returns, the prospects of him contributing are worse than they were prior to the injury, as finger injuries can still keep players off their games for a while after they return to action.

Four goals in 12 games. That’€™s what Smith brought to the table last postseason. It wasn’€™t anything remarkable, but it was consistent with his role. He’€™s been too quiet for too long this season, and he needs to find the aforementioned production to avoid being an easy scapegoat in a lost season.

“I think I can, and that’€™s obviously the goal, I think for everyone on this team,” Smith said. “These are a very important nine games coming up here at the end and we’€™re going to need our best effort coming from everyone. Anything you can do and anything extra is definitely going to go a long way in this stretch here.”

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Peter Chiarelli explains why he decided to extend Torey Krug, Reilly Smith: ‘Gives us comfort’ 03.07.15 at 1:06 am ET
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For about 10 minutes Friday, after the team practice on TD Garden ice, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli attempted to explain why he committed nearly $11 million of salary and cap space for Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.

“Torey on one year at 3.4 million, Reilly three years at 3.425 [million],” Chiarelli said. “Obviously there’€™s the contract in the past – beginning of the year. These are players we always liked and have a bright future for us. Term was important. It’€™s shorter term and gives us more flexibility and it gives them more flexibility as far as performing on a short term platform and becoming more of a fixture of us going forward.

“The one and two year terms were important to us. These were deals that came about, the ideas and the philosophies came out a little bit more after we signed the one year deals. Later in the winter and early spring we started’€”not spring but January and February we talked more. They worked very hard to bring together and these are two good, young players and two good young people.”

And they’re good people who won’t have to endure the frustration of sitting out of camp this summer because the team didn’t have enough cap space to sign them to contracts. Both Krug and Smith recalled Friday that uncomfortable feeling. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Peter Chiarelli, Reilly Smith
Reilly Smith has some job security for now: ‘Hopefully I can stay with this organization a while’ 03.06.15 at 10:20 pm ET
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After the obvious of getting a big pay raise, the best part of the two-year contract extension for Reilly Smith might be job security.

The Bruins right wing, like teammate Torey Krug, had to sit out the start of camp last summer because the Bruins were over the cap temporarily and couldn’t afford to sign them to new contracts until there was some roster manipulation and flexibility.

But there won’t be such worries this summer or the next as Smith agreed to a two-year extension through the 2016-17 season worth $3.425 million each season.

“It seems like through this whole thing, it’s always been me and Torey slotted together in this whole negotiation process,” Smith said. “It’s good and bad. It’s nice having someone with you through the whole negotiation process, especially in the summer when you’re sitting out camp when neither of us wanted to be. But it’s just good to have it behind us.”

Krug’s deal is worth $3.4 million, but is only good through next season. Still, having the piece of mind knowing that he’ll be in camp next summer is worth it to Smith.

“It was definitely tough. It was on my mind for a while,” Smith said. “It was a pretty stressful time in the summer, having to sit out camp for a while. I’m glad I don’t have to do that the next couple of years.”

The 23-year-old Smith was part of the package from Dallas along with Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button before the 2013-14 season.

Smith, who has struggle to finish scoring chances all season like the rest of his teammates, doesn’t mind the pressure that comes with expectations. Smith, still only 23, has just 12 goals in 63 games this season. General manager Peter Chiarelli, during a Friday press conference to announce the signings, admitted Smith is being paid like a 20-goal scorer.

“I think I welcome it,” Smith said of the pressure factor. “There’s probably a little bit more pressure but as a hockey player and playing in this organization and at this level, you welcome that every day because people get better every day and just being able to cope with challenges and changes in this league, I think it’s something every player in this league dreams to be able to do. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Reilly Smith, Torey Krug,
5 things we learned as Bruins got blown out by Sharks for third straight loss 12.05.14 at 1:05 am ET
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The Bruins were desperately in search of goals and they found them. So did the Sharks.

Then the Sharks found some more. And some more.

In finally putting up something of an offensive effort, the Bruins got crushed in a mess of a pond hockey game Thursday night. Their four goals were a minor detail in a game marked by hanging Tuukka Rask out to dry in a 7-4 loss (box). Rask had never allowed seven goals in an NHL game before Thursday night.

The Bruins have now gone 0-3-0 in the first three games of their four-game West Coast trip. They’ll wrap it up Saturday against the Coyotes.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday night:

DOMINATED IN THE SECOND

It all began in the second period. After a strong first, the B’€™s were blown out of the water in the second by the Sharks, who put four pucks past Rask.

They scored after long stays in the offensive zone, scored on the power play (twice) and scored off the rush. San Jose outshot Boston, 24-7, in the second.

The period was a reflection of some pretty shoddy work by the B’€™s in both the neutral zone and their own zone. While they would gladly take a period in which they scored two goals given their offensive woes of late, the second period showed that pond hockey doesn’€™t suit the B’€™s well.

Through the first two periods alone, the Bruins gave up 61 shot attempts, which, as Nick Goss from NESN noted, was more than they’€™d allowed in a game all season.

REILLY SMITH IS BACK TO SCORING

It wasn’€™t just that Smith didn’€™t have any goals in his previous 10 games entering Thursday; he didn’€™t have any points. That changed 29 seconds into the game, as he finished off a play courtesy of slick passing from Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. He would add a second goal shortly after a Sharks power play goal in the second period.

Speaking of Marchand and Bergeron, Smith was reunited with his longtime linemates Thursday after seeing David Pastrnak skate in his place the previous three games. Smith was put back on the line late in the second period Tuesday against the Kings and stuck there through the game Thursday.

With Smith back with Bergeron, Pastrnak was moved down to play with Chris Kelly and Matt Fraser. Seth Griffith was scratched for the third straight game. The lines were as follows:

Marchand – Bergeron – Smith
Lucic – Soderberg – Eriksson
Fraser – Kelly – Pastrnak
Paille – Campbell – Gagne

THREE-AND-ONE FAILS BRUINS

Dating back to some early-season shootout woes last season, in four-on-four play — particularly in overtime — Claude Julien has opted against skating two forwards and two defensemen and instead deployed a full forward line and one blueliner. That backfired Thursday night.

With Marchand and Tommy Wingels going off for matching roughing minors and the Bruins trailing by a goal, Julien sent Carl Soderberg’€™s line and Dougie Hamilton out. Joe Pavelski skated the puck around Hamilton and was going stride-for-stride to the net with Hamilton when Lucic, trying to break up the play, accidentally kicked the puck into the net as he tried to make a hard stop.

Given that there was less than 10 minutes to play in a one-goal game, there’s no issue here with Julien’€™s strategy as he looked for the equalizer. It just didn’€™t work.

PAILLE’€™S FLASHY ASSIST

Daniel Paille is known for being good at a lot of things and not-so-good at finishing. That doesn’€™t mean he can’€™t play a major part in a highlight reel goal.

Shortly after Smith had gotten the Bruins on the board early in the first period, Paille skated the puck through the neutral zone. With two men to beat as he went to the net, Paille spun around on his backhand and wheeled back forward to send a pass on his forehand to an oncoming Gregory Campbell, who promptly fired the puck into the net for his third goal of the season. Two of those goals have come against the Sharks.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith, Tuukka Rask,
Behind Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Bruins finding their ‘finishing’ touch 11.11.14 at 1:24 am ET
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Everyone in attendance at TD Garden will remember Monday night’s 4-2 win over the Devils for Seth Griffith’s spectacular effort late in the second-period.

But truth be told, the significance of the win goes far beyond that 10-second span. In winning their fifth straight game, the Bruins showed yet again they can actually finish around the net, something they struggled badly with in their 5-6-0 start.

At the center of the finishing was the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Bergeron had two assists and a goal, Smith had a goal and an assist and Carl Soderberg finished his power play chance in front.

Whether it was from the circle (Bergeron), or in the slot (Smith), or on the doorstep (Soderberg), the Bruins were finding ways to put the puck in the net.

“I think it’s finishing, yeah, because there’€™s been some games where we have given up too many shots and too many offensive opportunities and Tuukks [Tuukka Rask] has done a great job, same with Sveddy [Niklas Svedberg], but I think we are just doing a better job finishing the puck, and we are getting chances and it seems like we are doing a better job putting it in the back of the net than we did, you know, starting in the year,” Smith said.

“When Patrice gets the puck, I just let him do his thing,” he added. “You know sometimes you can call someone for the puck and you can kind of put someone out of their groove a little bit, because you know it’€™s not their first play, but Bergy has eyes in the back of his head so you know I just trust him that he will make the right play all the time.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith
5 things we learned as Bruins won 5th straight: Seth Griffith scores crazy goal 11.10.14 at 9:29 pm ET
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Seth Griffith scored another highlight-reel goal Monday. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Seth Griffith scored another highlight-reel goal Monday. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

One goal can make a game. Seth Griffith’€™s second-period goal did just that.

With the Bruins and Devils tied at two goals apiece late in the second period, the Bruins rookie scored what is likely the most impressive goal he’€™ll score in his career when, after blocking a shot, he battled for a puck through Bryce Salvador and got tangled up with Marek Zidlicky as he raced to the net. After getting spun around, he backhanded the puck through his legs and those of Cory Schneider to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead.

Reilly Smith would score soon after, giving the Bruins two goals in the final two minutes of the second period and sending them on their way to a 4-2 victory over the Devils (Check out the game boxscore).

Griffith, who was playing in his 12th NHL game after getting called up for top-six duty last month, is becoming no stranger to sensational goals. After flying through the air Bobby Orr-style on his Oct. 28 goal against the Wild, Griffith is setting the bar pretty high for himself going forward in his young NHL career.

The win was Boston’€™s fifth in a row. It improved the B’€™s to 6-1-0 since Zdeno Chara went down, while the B’€™s have won all three games that David Krejci has missed over this recent stretch.

Here are four other things we learned Monday night:

KRUG RETURNS

Torey Krug returned to the lineup after a four-game absence caused by a broken pinky finger suffered on Oct. 28.

Krug skated on the team’€™s third defensive pairing with Zach Trotman, taking the place of the injured David Warsofsky, who is out 2-4 weeks with a groin strain. The second-year defenseman also returned to his usual spot on the point of Boston’€™s first power play unit.

Matt Bartkowski served as a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Reilly Smith, Seth Griffith, Torey Krug,
Claude Julien still wants more out of improving Bergeron line 11.04.14 at 10:56 pm ET
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Part of the Bruins’€™ early-season struggles was that the team’€™s sure things weren’€™t sure things. Zdeno Chara wasn’€™t enjoying a strong start prior to his injury, while Patrice Bergeron‘€™s line was getting beaten far more than usual.

Obviously, it’€™s going to take some time for things to return to normal. Chara is in the second week of his recovery from a torn PCL and, assuming his recovery is on track, is expected to remain out for 2-4 more weeks. The Bergeron line, on the other hand, appears to be turning a corner.

Claude Julien broke up the trio of Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith three games ago, at which point Bergeron was an uncharacteristic minus-2 on the season and Marchand was looking for his first even-strength goal of the season. Smith, Julien had said multiple times, looked like he was behind after missing most of training camp because he didn’€™t have a contract.

Smith was put back on Bergeron’€™s line after a period in Buffalo and Marchand was returned to the line by the end of the game. It seems Julien got the attention of his most trusted line, as Marchand now has four goals (three of which came playing with Bergeron and Smith) and two assists in the last three games, while both Bergeron and Smith have two points apiece in the span.

The Bruins have won all three games, two of which came on overtime winners from Marchand. Both of the Bruins’€™ goals in Tuesday’€™s 2-1 overtime victory came from the Bergeron line, as Bergeron scored his first goal in 12 games with a second-period tally.

“I think tonight was a real big step forward for us,” Marchand said. “We played with a lot more confidence than we have in the past number of games, and it seems like were able to make plays now and hold on. I think that’€™s one thing we weren’€™t doing very well early on — we were throwing it away a lot, and weren’€™t supporting each other very well, but our legs seemed to be under us, we seemed to be more comfortable with the puck, and we felt really good tonight.”

Though the results are showing more and more, Julien said he feels the line isn’t yet where he wants it to be.

“I think the puck movement between them still isn’€™t quite where we’€™ve seen it before,” Julien said. “There’€™s still room for improvement and they’€™ve just got to keep working at it, because they’€™ve got one guy right now that’€™s really hot.”

Smith was strong on the puck and looked lightyears more confident than in games past Tuesday. Julien still expects more out of him. Reminded of his past critiques of the player and asked if he felt Smith had caught up, Julien was noncommittal. Asked again about Smith, Julien reiterated his stance that he feels the whole line could do more.

“He’€™s trying to get himself going,” Julien said of Smith. “I don’€™t think he’€™s playing bad ‘€” I mean, he’€™s just one of those guys with that line ‘€“ I think that whole line, the three of them together, are starting to come around. Two goals from that line tonight, so you can’€™t complain.”

Given Julien’€™s lack of praise, Smith was asked after the game whether he felt his coach was hard on him. Smith’s vague answer suggested the answer might be yes, but Julien trying to motivate his young players is nothing new.

“I think here, everyone’€™s used to that as a hockey player,” Smith said. “You get used to it. You have pretty thick skin. I think if you don’€™t have it, you’€™re not going to go too far.”

Bergeron is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top two-way forward, while Marchand and Smith are both looking to prove they can have consistent seasons after streaky showings last season. When that line is at its best, its among the most difficult in the league to oppose. Julien doesn’t think it’s there yet, but the positive steps its taken has helped the Bruins get wins at a time when they need them.

Read More: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith,
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