|Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner struggling to find confidence||10.12.14 at 2:54 pm ET|
It isn’t that the Ryan Spooner experiment isn’t working, or that the Matt Fraser experiment isn’t working; the Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser experiment isn’t working.
The two young forwards enjoyed success playing together on Providence’s first line last season, but struggled to do much for Boston when called up for third-line duty in the middle of the season. The first three games of this season, in which Spooner centered Milan Lucic and Fraser, were all the Bruins needed to see before pulling the plug. Claude Julien flipped Spooner and second-line left wing Chris Kelly late in Saturday’s loss to the Capitals, and, by the looks of Sunday’s practice, has now taken Fraser out of the lineup.
Spooner skates. Fraser shoots. Yet when they play together, they do neither. Through three games, Fraser has just one shot on goal.
Whatever the cause of it may be (Spooner says it’s mental) their poor start to the season has played a part in Sunday’s lineup shakeup. With Seth Griffith skating with David Krejci and Lucic Sunday and Patrice Bergeron‘s line remaining unchanged, Spooner was demoted to the fourth line and Fraser was bounced from the lineup. Spooner centered Daniel Paille and Jordan Caron, the latter of whom is expected to replace Bobby Robins.
Both Spooner and Fraser are clearly lacking confidence right now, with Fraser serving as his harshest critic.
“At the end of the day, we’re all good players,” Fraser said. “You’ve got to make the coach put you on the ice. For me, it was probably an easy decision for him to say, ‘No. Fraz doesn’t deserve to go.’ It’s hard to look in the mirror and recognize that and say, ‘Yeah. I don’t deserve to be in the lineup.’ That alone is very frustrating.”
Though Fraser is down on himself at the moment, it’s hard to see him staying out of the lineup for long. He’s a left wing playing the right side, which obviously doesn’t help, but his shot and goal-scoring prowess can be lethal if utilized properly.
Fraser’s success has come on the left side. He played there in the AHL, and his struggles as Spooner’s linemate at the NHL last season came on the right side. When he was recalled during the second round of the playoffs to play with Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, he was on the left and was effective despite playing on a broken foot.
There isn’t a left wing spot for Fraser to play, however. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic have cemented their spots on the first two lines, while Kelly holds down the spot that Fraser played last postseason. Paille is playing left wing on the fourth line. The Bruins need right wings, and Fraser insists he can do the job. The problem, he says, is his execution.
“At the end of the day, there’s all the Xs and Os you want, but if you’re not prepared to work hard enough to get to those spots, you’re not prepared to work in the offensive zone to get my shot off, it’s useless,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I can make up all the excuses in the world about my play or anything like that, but at the end of the day it falls on my shoulders. There’s no one that can correct it but me.”
As for Spooner, he can count himself fortunate that he survived Sunday’s lineup shakeup. Fourth-line center Craig Cunningham was sent down, but the B’s could have kept him and demoted Spooner.
“I’m not really happy with myself and how I’ve been playing,” Spooner said Sunday.
Spooner’s problem last season was that he didn’t shoot or take pucks to the net. So this summer, he shot 200-300 pucks a day to gain confidence in his shot.
Just three games into the season, Spooner admits he’s fallen back into his old habits, and he plans to better apply his offseason work going forward.
“I still need to shoot more. I’ve had some chances where I should have gone to the net. It’s just how I am. I’ve always been a pass-first kind of guy,” Spooner said. “I think for me, it’s just a mental thing. I’ve got to put it in the back of my mind to shoot more. It’s the only way you can score.”
|Ryan Spooner on Claude Julien: ‘I don’t think he hates skilled players’||10.08.14 at 12:29 pm ET|
Maybe, just maybe, Claude Julien and the Bruins don’t hate young, skilled players.
Maybe — and just hear me out on this — some skilled players need a bit more coaching than others. Maybe it takes skilled players longer to feel comfortable in the Bruins’ system. Maybe it’s OK for players to develop in the AHL.
Maybes aside, it’s definitely the second one.
When Tyler Seguin was traded, Ryan Spooner became the name at the tip of Bruins fans’ tongues when they wanted to make the “Claude hates the kids” argument. Spooner, a speedy playmaker at center with defensive deficiencies, was being kept in the AHL for too long (two seasons), they’d say, and it was because Julien wants to win games, 0-0.
The actual reason was because there was a logjam at center and because Spooner still had to work on his game, but now that Spooner has won an NHL job in training camp for the first time, he’s more than happy to be whatever the Bruins want him to be.
“I don’t think he hates skilled players,” Spooner said Tuesday. “If you look around the league, every team has them; they’re essential for your team, but you need a good mix of both.”
The Bruins have a mix of both, but they don’t want their players to be one-dimensional. If you’re a center, you’re encouraged to be as creative as you wish, but you need to provide support down low in the defensive zone. That’s why, after Spooner scored a goal in a preseason game against the Canadiens this fall, Julien spoke about the defensive shortcomings that led Spooner to watch the Habs while he was on the ice. Spooner was eventually sent down to Providence and recalled later in the preseason for a second look.
When Spooner scored twice as a left wing against the Islanders last Friday, Julien again held back on the praise, pointing out that much of the team iced by New York consisted of AHL players.
Tough love? You bet. Claude hates kids? Not quite.
Granted, Julien doesn’t talk the same way about other players, but Spooner can see that his coach is trying to motivate him. As Julien says, he doesn’t want to see good players rot in the AHL, so maybe he was simply trying to light a fire under Spooner.
“You have to listen to what he has to say, try to turn it into a positive and then just kind of go with it like that,” Spooner said. “It would be easy for me to take what he said and just mope around and go, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make the team now. He doesn’t like me,’ but if you look at it from a different angle, you can just kind of say, ‘Actually, you know what? He actually does care about me. He wants me to be a better player, and that’s his way of trying to motivate me.’ That’s kind of what I did with it, and I hope it works out.”
Spooner actually isn’t a complete stranger to this kind of treatment. When he got to the Peterborough Petes of the OHL when he was 16, his coach, Ken McRae, wasn’t overly hard on him. The OHL doesn’t expect its younger players to be smart players as they get their feet wet.
Yet by the time he got to his third season, Peterborough’s new coach, Mike Pelino, was more demanding. He didn’t want Spooner to be one-dimensional. He was tough on Spooner. The team ended up trading him to Kingston that season.
“He called me out on it,” Spooner said. “[He] wanted me to be a more complete player.”
So Spooner’s used to being coached a little tougher than other players, and it looks like Julien’s motivational tactics paid off. With David Krejci out for at least Boston’s first three games of the season, Spooner has centered a line with Milan Lucic and Matt Fraser the last two days.
Asked Wednesday if it was rewarding to see Spooner, a player he had publicly criticized in order to inspire a better push, make the team, Julien made it clear that he’s not done motivating the 22-year-old.
“This is not negative, but he hasn’t made the team,” Julien said. “He’s here. He’s got to hang on to a spot, and we’re giving him that opportunity.
“We’ve said that before: Anybody who feels comfortable here certainly doesn’t have the right approach to our team. It’s about earning it.
“The thing I like about what he did was, he had an average camp, he was sent down, he came back and he showed us that he wanted a second chance and proved that he deserved a second chance. So he’s got it now.”
|David Pastrnak sent to AHL, Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner, Bobby Robins make Bruins for now||10.07.14 at 1:09 pm ET|
Though Peter Chiarelli said that there is still some “roster manipulation” to be done on the part of the Bruins between now and the start of the season for the purposes of maximizing cap space, the Bruins’ roster became more clear leading up to Tuesday’s 5 p.m. deadline.
Right wing David Pastrnak has been sent to Providence of the AHL for the time being. The 2014 first-round pick is there in order to further acclimate himself with the North American game while the Bruins continue to evaluate him. Pastrnak suffered a shoulder injury in his second practice of training camp and missed all but two games of the preseason.
Chiarelli said that the B’s will likely take “two to three weeks” to assess what they have in Pastrnak at the AHL level. The B’s can play him in the NHL for up to nine games before burning a year off his entry level contract. If Pastrnak plays the season in the AHL, his contract will slide to the next season, meaning that his first NHL season will count as the first of three seasons on his entry level deal.
Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner and Bobby Robins have made the team for now. Fraser seems like a sure thing to earn a full-time spot, while Spooner’s play late in the preseason helped his case to begin the season in Boston.
David Krejci missed Tuesday’s practice and is questionable for Wednesday’s season-opener against the Flyers.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner to play in preseason finale for Bruins||10.04.14 at 11:10 am ET|
Both David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner will be in the Bruins’ lineup in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Red Wings.
Pastrnak made his preseason debut Friday night after missing the team’s first five preseason games due to a shoulder injury suffered in the second practice of training camp. The 2014 first-round pick is trying to push for a roster spot in Boston, but his lack of a training camp could make it more likely that the B’s either start him in the AHL or return him to his pro team in Sweden.
The Bruins could also either return the player to Sweden or keep him for up to nine games into the season before either returning him or keeping him in Boston. For 18 and 19-year-old players, entry level contracts to not begin until a 10th game is played. If he is sent to the AHL, his contract will slide to the next season, meaning he could play a full year at the AHL, and years wouldn’t start being burned off his three-year deal until he plays in the NHL the next season.
Spooner, meanwhile, played left wing Friday night and had two goals and an assist for the B’s. With the Bruins’ depth chart crowded down the middle and Spooner having struggled with the defensive responsibilities of center, the team is at long last giving the 2010 second-round pick a good look on the left wing.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Ryan Spooner understands Claude Julien is trying to motivate him||09.24.14 at 10:48 pm ET|
Claude Julien has given more than a couple of … let’s say “motivational” quotes about Ryan Spooner the last couple of days, as the Bruins coach has answered questions about the 2010 second-round pick with some rather blunt responses.
So after Wednesday’s game, Spooner was asked straight-up: Does he think his coach is trying to motivate him with his public comments?
“Yeah,” Spooner said. “At the end of the day I think he just wants me to be a more all-around player. It’s something that I’ve been trying to improve on, so I’m just going to go forward with it like that.”
Here’s what Julien said Tuesday when asked about Spooner knowing he was blocked on the depth chart in training camp last year:
“Maybe that’s why he didn’t make it, if he thought he didn’t have a chance. We give everybody a chance that deserves to be here. I think it’s important that he keeps an open mind.
“As always, if he’s that good, we’ll make room for him. We’ve always done that in the past. I don’t think we’ve ever let guys rot in the minors when they deserve to be here. That applies to him; it’s up to him again to come in here in these preseason games and show that he’s an improved player and that he belongs on this hockey club.”
Then, after Spooner scored a goal and was on the ice for two against the Canadiens, Julien said this, per The Boston Globe:
“We love his game offensively. At the same time, you can score one goal, but if you give up two, you’re not helping your team. We need commitment from that part of his game. He said he’s going to work hard at it. But it’s a good start for him. The goal he scored was one we’ve asked him to do — take pucks to the net. That’s a step in the right direction for him.”
|Bruins drop preseason opener to Canadiens||09.23.14 at 11:18 pm ET|
The Canadiens defeated the Bruins, 3-2, in the teams’ preseason opening game Tuesday at the Bell Centre.
The Bruins jumped out to a two-goal lead on goals from Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser, but three unanswered goals from Jiri Sekac, Christian Thomas and Drayson Bowman gave Montreal the victory.
Niklas Svedberg and Malcolm Subban both played net for the Bruins, with Svedberg making 16 saves on 18 shots over two periods and Subban stopping nine of 10 shots in the third.
The Bruins will host the Capitals Wednesday at TD Garden in the second game of their seven-game preseason schedule.
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Alexander Khokhlachev hungry for any spot with Bruins||09.18.14 at 10:56 pm ET|
Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that there are four forward spots open this training camp, though he wouldn’t specify which. In reality, there’s uncertainty in more places than that on Boston’s forward lines.
Jarome Iginla’s old spot on David Krejci‘s line is the only top-six position up for grabs. On the bottom two lines, however, Carl Soderberg centering the third line looks to be the only certainty. A gaggle of forwards are competing for the wing spots, while the fourth line is one big question mark with numerous potential answers.
That’s where Alexander Khokhlachev comes in.
Gregory Campbell has centered the fourth line for the last four seasons, but that may change. The Bruins have a pair of NHL centers knocking on the NHL‘s door, and the team has considered moving Campbell to wing if either one wins the fourth-line center.
One of those player is Ryan Spooner. The other is Khokhlachev, who was chosen in the second round in 2011, a year after Spooner. Both players stand at 5-foot-11, but Khokhlachev is thicker, having bulked up to 189 pounds this offseason (Spooner is listed at 181 pounds).
Spooner has more AHL experience, but Khokhlachev hopes that after putting up 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games last season in his first full campaign with Providence, he’s ready for the NHL.
There are two questions with the left-shooting 21-year-old. One is whether he could play wing if need be ‘ he did at points of a 26-game stint in the KHL during the lockout ‘ and the other is whether he would make sense as a fourth-liner at either position.
“Sure, why not? I’m not just a skill guy,” Khokhlachev said Thursday. “For sure, I like to score goals and get points and help my team win, but if this year they put me on the fourth line and want me [play a different role], I’m still a young guy and I develop my game pretty much every day, so I don’t care where they put me. It doesn’t matter for me. I will be happy.”
Campbell is out with a mid-core injury to begin training camp, so the Bruins will be able to get longer looks at Khokhlachev and Spooner, something that Chiarelli sees as a silver lining to having players missing.
“Those guys both tested well and ran well, and they both had real good seasons last year,” Chiarelli said of Spooner and Khokhlachev. “You’ll probably see some of the guys higher up on the depth chart for centers, and you might see them on the wing at some point.”
Khokhlachev said he didn’t do anything differently this offseason to prepare for being a wing, but he’s more than willing to play the position if that’s the opportunity given to him. His priority is being in the NHL.
“It doesn’t matter where they put me. Coaches, management, they know better,” he said. “For now, I don’t really care. I just want to make the team. Wherever they put me, I’ll be happy with that and enjoy it.”