|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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|Milan Lucic: ‘Obviously, these are desperate times’||04.01.15 at 10:15 am ET|
The Bruins have been as streaky as Milan Lucic. A five-game win streak was followed by six straight losses.
It’s only appropriate the Bruins ended March with their third straight win, a key victory, spurred on by one of their better players in the month as the left winger provided the game-winning margin with some grit and good fortune.
His rush to the Panthers blue line with just over a minute left in regulation ended with a “why not” shot on goal that found its way through the skates of Roberto Luongo and gave the Bruins a 3-2 win Tuesday at TD Garden. Lucic has become a leader for young stars Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak on his line. On Tuesday, he led by example when it mattered most.
His drop pass to Spooner resulted in a bad-angle shot by Spooner from the left boards that tied the game early in the third period. His late-game rush with Spooner ended up being the difference in winning and losing.
“I was checking to see to see if Spoons was onside,” said Lucic, who finished the game with a goal and an assist and five of each for the month. “It was kind of a one-on-four situation and I just tried to get [the puck] past the two D-men [and] on net and I got a little bit of luck there and was able to find a hole there in the five-hole. It was one of those things where you’re kind of swarmed. You’re just getting the puck on net, and thankfully it went in for myself and ends up being a big goal for a big win.”
|Pierre McGuire on MFB: Milan Lucic has ‘elevated his game’ playing with Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak||03.19.15 at 1:40 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins and their push for the playoffs, as well as other NHL matters. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With David Krejci being out, the Bruins have shuffled their lines up front and currently have Milan Lucic playing with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. McGuire feels this has improved Lucic’s game, as he’s been playing more like a leader being paired with two of the youngest players on the team. He does feel once Krecji returns, Lucic will be reunited with him, but doesn’t know when that will happen.
“The thing that really stood out to me is he’s really relishing this role as a leader with those two young players in Spooner and Pastrnak,” said McGuire. “I think he’s elevated his game because of the leadership potion that has been put on his plate. I don’t know what Claude [Julien] is going to do, it’s a real debatable issue. I have to think at some point Krejci will be back with Lucic, I really do. I don’t know when or for how long, but I have to think at some point they will put them back together.”
The Bruins are in Ottawa Thursday night to take on the Senators. As it stands now the Senators are four points behind the Bruins for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. McGuire feels the Bruins are in a good spot to make the playoffs.
“I think Boston has a very good chance to be a playoff team,” he said. “In fact, I would be shocked if they didn’t make it. They deserved a better fate the other night (in a shootout loss to Buffalo). The biggest thing to be was Anders Lindback, he never played a game that good in his life. I give Buffalo a lot of credit. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of desire, but the Boston Bruins were [playing hard], they just couldn’t beat Lindback. I don’t expect goaltending like that every night against Boston.”
It seems the NHL getting rid of the shootout and going to 4-on-4, and 3-on-3 overtime is getting some steam to be put in place next season. McGuire thinks this change is needed, and will be a welcomed change with members of the league — both with the coaches and players.
“I think most people that really care about the sport want to see the best players play in the game and having the game decided by the players playing the sport rather than just having a skills competition,” said McGuire. “I am all for it and I think most of the players are for it. I can tell you 99 percent of the coaches are for it in terms of the people that I have spoken with, so I would be absolutely shocked if it was not put into place for next season.”