|3rd-place Bruins say they’ve ‘surprised,’ ‘proved people wrong’||01.27.16 at 2:15 am ET|
The Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break didn’t go their way, a 6-2 loss to Anaheim that dropped the B’s home record to a lousy 11-13-2.
However, the players in the Boston dressing room seemed content with their lot in life as they packed up for a week’s furlough, a 26-18-5 season mark in tow that was holding them third place in the Atlantic Division with 33 games remaining on the season.
“We’ve surprised a lot of people,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We’re not surprised in here where we [are]. We had a goal to be in the top three [of our division] before the All-Star break and we’re sitting right there.”
“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of people that probably thought that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” echoed forward Ryan Spooner. “You kind of heard that stuff, and that we would be a younger team. But we’ve shown that we can play with the top teams. We’ve proved a lot of people wrong and we just have to keep that up.”
The Bruins have indeed exceeded many preseason prognostications to this point. The team’s 21-10-2 record against the Eastern Conference shines bright, as does its 12-6-1 mark within the division. The latter includes a 4-0 performance against the two teams ahead of Boston in the Atlantic (Florida and Detroit).
That said, despite winning five of their last seven games, players also are willing to admit that their current playoff perch is a tenuous one.
|Ryan Spooner for Chris Stewart the best trade Bruins never made||01.26.16 at 1:00 pm ET|
Chris Stewart’s job seemed simple enough last season: Play and try to put up points until you get traded to the Bruins.
With Boston missing a big, tough right wing following the departure of Jarome Iginla, it became common knowledge that then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was keen on Stewart, a young former first-round pick of the Avalanche who was playing on a Sabres team that was sure to sell. Stewart expressed an interest in such a scenario unfolding, telling WEEI.com in December of last season that he felt he would be a good fit on the Bruins.
“You try not to buy into stuff, but usually when there’s smoke there’s fire,” the now-Ducks forward said Tuesday of being linked to the Bruins. “That was probably the most predominant team that I was hearing about all year. I’m not too sure what happened [that I didn’t get traded to Boston].”
Here’s what happened: Despite the Bruins and Sabres discussing Stewart throughout the season, no deal was ever struck and the Bruins eventually moved on to then-Lightning forward Brett Connolly.
The Bruins not acquiring Stewart was certainly not for lack of trying, however. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Chiarelli offered the Sabres a second-round pick and center Ryan Spooner for Stewart in October of last season, only to have the offer rejected.
In hindsight, that would have gone down as one of the worst deals of Chiarelli’s tenure as Bruins general manager. Stewart had a modest campaign (11 goals, 14 assists) with the Sabres and was made a healthy scratch at points of a 61-game stretch, diminishing his value and eventually leading the Sabres to send him to the Wild for a 2017 second-round pick at the trade deadline. Buffalo had to retain half of Stewart’s $4.15 million cap hit in order to secure a future second-rounder, far less than what Chiarelli had offered months earlier.
While the Bruins used the second-rounder towards acquiring Connolly, who has struggled with goal-scoring but has as many goals as Stewart (seven) this season at a smaller price tag, the most obvious reason why that trade would have been a disaster is Spooner.
Both last season and this season, Spooner has been far more of an impact player than Stewart, who is five years older than Spooner and had unrestricted free agent status awaiting last season. In 24 games following his Feb. 22 midseason debut, Spooner had eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points. Stewart performed well between Buffalo and Minnesota during that stretch, though his five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 24 games fell short of Spooner’s totals.
This season, Spooner’s taken a major leap forward, as he has 10 goals and a team-leading 26 assists for 36 points. Even better for the Bruins is the fact that because he’s on just his second contract and didn’t have enough of an NHL track record to warrant bigger money at the time of signing, he carries a cap hit of $950,000 for the next two seasons, after which the Bruins will still hold his rights as a restricted free agent.
After playing 20 regular-season games and eight playoff games for the Wild, Stewart took a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Ducks. Playing mostly as a third-liner, Stewart has seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 40 games for Anaheim. Given that the Ducks are his fourth team in as many seasons, he hopes that he can stay with the team for a long time.
At the very least, he has better job security on a team pushing for a playoff spot than he did last season with the Sabres. Because Buffalo was in full-tank mode for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the latter of whom they eventually got, Stewart knew all along that he had a better chance of finishing the season in Boston — or anywhere else — than in Buffalo.
“The biggest part of it was they were so open about the rebuild, that everyone who was on the last year of their contract knew they were getting traded,” Stewart said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before. There were probably about a good seven or eight guys who were all in the same boat.”
In the end, the Spooner-and-a-second-for-Stewart deal not happening has been a win for everyone but the Sabres. Stewart has been able to move on with his career, while the Bruins avoided giving away a big piece of their future for a rental.
|Ryan Spooner, Joonas Kemppainen, Brett Connolly jell quickly, create chances in Bruins’ win over Maple Leafs||11.21.15 at 11:50 pm ET|
A quick look at Saturday night’s box score wouldn’t reveal anything notable about the Bruins’ third line. Ryan Spooner, Joonas Kemppainen and Brett Connolly didn’t score. None of them played more than Spooner’s 14:40. They combined for four shots on goal, which is fine but certainly not something that jumps out at you.
But Saturday night was a notable game for that trio. They played really well together, even if it didn’t show up in the box score. They had a lot of puck possession and created some of the Bruins’ best scoring chances in a game that didn’t have many of them.
And to be honest, that was a little surprising. Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly had spent hardly any time together before Saturday, yet they appeared to have pretty good chemistry. Spooner had played the wing only in spurts before Saturday, yet he looked comfortable there and made things happen from the left side. Kemppainen hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire on the fourth line, yet he didn’t look out of place at all in a top-nine role.
“I think most of the game we played pretty well together,” Spooner said. “We talked a lot before the game and just said, ‘If we don’t have much, just try to get the puck in deep.’ We did that. And I think off the rush, we had a couple chances too. I thought it went well for sure.”
Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly all entered Saturday as negative possession players in terms of both regular Corsi and relative Corsi. You wouldn’t have been able to guess that watching Saturday night’s game against Toronto, though. They were the Bruins’ top three players in terms of Corsi-for percentage, with all three finishing the night at 69 percent or better.
They combined for one fewer shot attempt than Patrice Bergeron‘s line and three more than David Krejci‘s line, despite getting significantly less ice time. They also created a couple good chances that didn’t even count as shot attempts — a Kemppainen centering pass just missed a charging Spooner early in the first period, and a Spooner feed for a charging Connolly did the same midway through the third.
On the latter chance, Spooner’s speed down the wing was clearly a factor, something Claude Julien was happy to point out after the game.
“I think Spoons has really done a good job on the left wing there, adapting to it and using his speed,” Julien said. “A lot more involved in the last two games, and that’s what we need out of Ryan. And that’s a sign of a young player really who’s getting it. He wants to be better, so kudos to him.”
Spooner said after the game that he’s still not completely comfortable on the wing — he said he’s probably played wing fewer than 20 times in his life — but he also noted that having fewer defensive responsibilities helped, as he admitted that his defense as a center hasn’t always been great. Kemppainen helps in that respect, as he is pretty responsible defensively. And Kemppainen clearly benefited from playing with faster, more skilled players.
Whether Spooner, Kemppainen and Connolly stay together remains to be seen. Frank Vatrano is expected back soon, perhaps as early as Monday, so expect more line-juggling to make room for him. But even if they don’t stay together for now, it’s nice for Julien to know that he has this as a bottom-six option that can be effective in the future.
|Ryan Spooner benching a reminder Bruins’ can’t embrace potential as much as they’ve said||11.18.15 at 2:52 pm ET|
The Bruins have long said that this season is about potential. Yet it seems that they feel their best chance of realistically winning games is to bank on more sure things than embracing that potential. They’re not necessarily wrong in thinking that; they just might need to cool it on that P-word for a while.
When Claude Julien benched Ryan Spooner in the third period of Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, the worst part of it was that the change didn’t allow the Bruins to complete their comeback. The second-worst part of it is that it loaned more evidence to the historically incorrect Claude Hates The Kids argument.
If the Bruins had their act together on the back end and could kill penalties, do you really think Julien would have benched Spooner for his bad second period Tuesday? Of course not. Yet this season has seen him limit players like Spooner and David Pastrnak when they’ve struggled because the Bruins, for all the gushy stuff they’ve said about their young players, can’t actually give them the keys because the Bruins aren’t good enough to absorb their mistakes.
Asked after the game why he gave Spooner no even-strength time in the final period, Julien snapped back at the reporter, asking if he had noticed that Joonas Kemppainen had earned the ice time inherited by Spooner’s benching. On Wednesday, Julien was more willing to elaborate on his decision to limit Spooner’s third-period shifts to just the power play and the final minute with an extra attacker.
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|After strong (and statistically mean) start on power play, Ryan Spooner seeking 5-on-5 consistency||10.26.15 at 3:13 pm ET|
Five points in seven games is a statistical start that Ryan Spooner probably would have taken happily entering the season. Yet Spooner’s output to this point has been rather perplexing.
The eye test says that Spooner has been terrific on the power play and not-so-terrific in five-on-five play. The stat sheet hasn’t been kind to the young forward, however, as he has only one point on the man advantage despite turning in superb work on the half wall of the Bruins’ top-ranked power play (8-for-24). Spooner’s other four points (two goals and two assists) have come over two games in 5-on-5 play, where he’s experienced more peaks and valleys.
On one hand, Spooner is looking for more consistency as the Bruins try him with different players in even strength. On the other, it’s hard to say Spooner has really had a bad game this season because he’s been so good on the power play (and that’s even considering some poor possession numbers; Spooner is dead last on the team in Corsi Relative this season).
“The power play’s always been something that I’ve been not bad at. My first year in Prov, I played on a unit that was extremely good,” Spooner said. “I think with the unit here, I just try to get the puck up top and let those guys do what they do. I think for me right now, it’s trying to find a good balance on the power play and the 5-on-5 and being more consistent.”
Despite just the one assist last Saturday against the Coyotes, his work on the power play has never been in question. With a couple of flashes in even strength over the last four games (a pair of points against the Avalanche and another two Friday against the Islanders), Spooner should feel good about where his game is headed. In two of the three games that the Bruins didn’t score on the power play, Spooner scored in even strength.
After starting the season centering Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, Spooner had Chris Kelly on his left wing for parts of five games before being dropped to the fourth line to play wing. Though not particularly experienced on the wing (he tried it in training camp last season and briefly in Providence), he had success with Joonas Kemppainen and was teamed with the Finnish forward again in Monday’s practice.
When Kelly was Spooner’s left wing, the 34-year-old took some of the defensive responsibilities from the still-developing Spooner. With the move to wing, Spooner feels that he’ll be able to play to his strengths more as an offensive player.
“I haven’t been the best in my own end,” Spooner admitted, “so I think to get moved to the wing, it takes a lot of stress off of me.”
It might also lessen Spooner’s workload. Though Spooner and Kemppainen connected for a couple of goals over the final two periods of Friday’s win, they did so as fourth-liners. That meant that Spooner, who figures to be Carl Soderberg’s replacement, played just 10:24 on Friday, his second-lowest time on ice of the season.
That’s not a knock on Claude Julien. The coach has shown through seven games that he’ll keep trying different looks with his bottom six until he finds something that works. By the looks of Monday’s skate, the B’s could go with Kelly between Matt Beleskey and Hayes on the third line and Kemppainen with Spooner and Tyler Randell on the fourth.
Spooner’s obvious role is in the top nine, but it can’t hurt to try him with Kemppainen again to see if Friday’s spark can ignite.
“I think he excelled where he was last game and managed to score and get an assist, so we’re looking at what’s best for the team, and right now, what [the] best line combinations [are],” Julien said. “We’re trying things in practice. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that [in the game]. It could or it may not be. We’re just doing our jobs here.”
|Early training camp observations: Jimmy Hayes on left wing with Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak skates with David Krejci||09.18.15 at 3:29 pm ET|
The Bruins began their on-ice training camp sessions Friday at TD Garden in anticipation of Sunday night’s preseason opener. Predictably, Friday saw more change than Septembers past, both from personnel and strategic standpoints.
Here are some observations from the first day of camp:
– As expected, Dennis Seidenberg did not take part in Friday’s sessions. The 34-year-old defenseman is dealing with an upper-body injury that is expected to keep him off the ice for a few days.
– Breakouts were the name of the game Friday, as the B’s got right to work on implementing Claude Julien‘s changes.
In running through the breakouts, one defenseman fed the other behind the goal line before jumping to the front of the net. The strongside D then sent the puck up (both to the center and up the wall to the wing were practiced) and the three forwards, who were joined by the weakside D, raced up the ice as a four-man attack.
While the changes may take some getting used to, forwards and defensemen expressed their excitement for the quicker pace and, hopefully, increased scoring chances.
– As for who will play where, the three groups presented some interesting possibilities. The most notable trio was David Krejci between Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak. Such a trio would keep a bit of snarl to left of Krejci after Milan Lucic‘s departure while teaming a pair of Czechs in Krejci and Pastrnak.
Loui Eriksson, a left-shot right wing who could play left wing this season, skated on the right wing of a line with Alexander Khokhlachev and Jake DeBrusk.
Jimmy Hayes, a right-shot right wing with experience on both sides, played left wing on a line with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. That line could certainly be in consideration for a longer look.
The right wing fortunate enough to play Ringo to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron‘s John and Paul was… first-round project Zach Senyshyn. Consider that line more of a fantasy camp-type scenario than an indication that the 15th overall pick is anything close to a first-line NHL forward.
– Defensively, Zdeno Chara and Zach Trotman were paired together. The duo played together at points last season, including late in the season while Dougie Hamilton was out with broken ribs. Other pairs included Joe Morrow with Kevan Miller and Linus Arnesson with Colin Miller.
– With the NHL changing its overtime format to 3-on-3 and a shootout rather than 4-on-4 and a shootout, the B’s spent time scrimmaging 3-on-3. Julien, who used one defenseman and three forwards in 4-on-4 the last two seasons, sent out looks of either three forwards or one defenseman and two forwards.
– The second session saw the day’s first injury scare. Zac Rinaldo caught goaltender Zane McIntyre in the face with his stick during 3-on-3s, seemingly cutting the goaltender above the eye in the process. McIntyre went to the bench to get patched up, though he returned to drills in short order.
– Senyshyn led off the third session’s shootout by beating Tuukka Rask. Malcolm Subban was beaten by both Seth Griffith and Jake DeBrusk in the first session’s shootout, though he did stop the other shooter he faced in Eriksson.
|Source: Ryan Spooner agrees to 2-year extension with Bruins||06.30.15 at 10:06 pm ET|
According to a source, the Bruins and Ryan Spooner have agreed to a two-year contract extension worth a total of $1.9 million. The contract will carry an annual cap hit of $950,000.
Spooner, 23, concluded his entry level contract with the Bruins and would become a restricted free agent on Wednesday. In 34 games last season, Spooner scored eight goals and added 18 assists for 26 points.
The left-shot center is the favorite to replace the departed Carl Soderberg as the Bruins’ third-line center. Spooner served in that role late in the season following David Krejci‘s knee injury, putting together an impressive stretch on a highly productive line with Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak.
The Bruins originally drafted the Ontario native in the second round of the 2010 draft with the 45th overall pick.
With Spooner signed, the Bruins now have approximately $62,110,667 committed against the cap to 17 players for next season.
The signing of Spooner leaves right wing Brett Connolly as the only remaining restricted free agent the B’s have left to sign. Two of their restricted free agents were traded in recent days in Dougie Hamilton (Flames) and Martin Jones (Sharks), while the team did not send qualifying offers to Matt Lindblad, Rob Flick and Adam Morrison.
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