Bruins

Spooner on last season: 'I looked at my game and I wasn't happy with it'

bruins-ryan-spooner.jpg

Spooner on last season: 'I looked at my game and I wasn't happy with it'

Ryan Spooner didn’t know what to expect this offseason, and the speedy center certainly had his doubts about whether he’d be back with the Bruins this season. The 26-year-old really struggled down the stretch last season following a concussion and was a healthy scratch for the last couple of playoffs in the first round against the Ottawa Senators.

So the former second round pick became a potential trade chip over the summer as the Bruins attempted to upgrade their defensemen corps, and the B’s signed a potential young replacement in Boston University standout Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. Still, Spooner ended up staying with the B’s after he was protected in the NHL expansion draft and now finds himself again as the odds-on favorite to be the third line center for Boston to start the season.

Clearly the tumult and the playoff benching did some good for Spooner, however, as it spurred on some soul-searching about his own game after he realized that he’d be getting one more chance with the Bruins.

“I wasn’t sure [about the future]. I heard a lot of the media stuff that I wasn’t going to be back, but I tried not to pay attention to a lot of that. It’s hard, though, because I had a lot of my friends and family telling me what they hard, but I do feel like I’ve got something to prove now,” said Spooner. “I really took it heart at the end of the year when I didn’t play [in the playoffs]. I kind of looked at my game and I wasn’t really happy with it. There are a lot of things that I need to work on.

“The offensive side for me is always something I’ve been good at, but in terms of the face-offs and the defensive side of the game I need to be a lot better at that. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

Spooner worked hard over the summer to gain some much-needed size and strength and finds himself all the way up over 190 pounds – 192 pounds to be exact -- for the first time in his pro hockey career. He hopes the added weight will allow him to play stronger on the puck and be a tougher player to play against after taking a half-step back last season.

“I tried to put on five points, but I ended up putting on seven or eight…so that’s good,” said Spooner, who dropped to 11 goals and 39 points along with a minus-8 last season after posting 13 goals and 49 points the year before. “Just given how the season ended, I was also looking more at the mental side of the game for me. I just looked at the things that I need to work on. This is the year where I kind of need to work on some things, or I’m not going to be here anymore. I just want to focus on the things that I can get better at and then go from there.

“I think I can be a much harder player to play against, and if I can do that then it’s going to help me out a lot. That’s the flaw in my game that I see.”

One thing Spooner isn’t worried about with the added bulk is losing the skating speed that’s his bread and butter. He made certain to skate and keep up the conditioning while upping the calorie intake over the summer, and it should make him a speedy, stronger competitor more able to engage in the one-on-one battles necessary for success at the NHL level.

That’s something that could really add to his offensive game during 5-on-5 play where he hasn’t always been as productive as he his masterfully working the half-wall on the power play.

“I was 182 or 183 pounds [last season] and now I’m up to 192 [pounds], so hopefully that can help me out in the corners and on the compete side of things. I’ve just got to keep the cardio side of things and I’ve been doing that, so hopefully it works out for me,” said Spooner. “I did it slowly and made sure I was still skating and doing the cardio at the same time. So I’m satisfied with the [skating] speed. Sometimes it can be a bit of a concern when you’re up seven or eight points that you can get a low slower [on the ice].”

Spooner was also crystal clear he knows that this season represents his last chance with the Bruins based on the one-year deal he received as opposed to a multi-year contract. That being the case, this season should be the absolute best that Spooner has to offer knowing that his future with the Bruins, and perhaps long term in the NHL, hangs in the balance.  

A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

bruins_mcquaid_061817.jpg

A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – It sounds like the toughness quotient might be going up quite a bit higher for the Bruins in the near future.

Adam McQuaid may be cleared to play as soon as Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least later on in the week if it doesn’t happen against the rough-and-tumble, Metro Division Blue Jackets. The 6-foot-5 hard-nosed defender has been out for nearly two months with a broken right fibula, but has been back skating with the Bruins for a couple of weeks.

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he’s getting close. He’s practicing with us, so it’s imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact day,” said Cassidy of McQuaid, who was one of a handful of players along with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Frank Vatrano, Paul Postma and Anton Khudobin that skated on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena.

There certainly may be some rust in McQuaid’s game after missing the last 24 cgames dating back to the Oct. 19 injury. Ddding another tough customer and D-zone warrior certainly won't hurt the Bruins. In the short term, the presence of McQuaid could protect some of B's top players like Brad Marchand who has received some questionable hits over the last couple of months. In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.

In terms of pairings it would be logical to swing Kevan Miller back over to the left side, and potentially pull rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup once McQuaid is ready to play. But Bruce Cassidy indicated it won’t be that simple, and there may be times when the Bruins roll seven defensemen given their strength in numbers once McQuaid comes back.

“If you take the last guy in, Grzelcyk, [out of the lineup] then you’re back to your four righty [defensemen]. We had mixed levels of success with that, and then it’s a matter of who on the right Is going to come out if he stick with the three lefties,” said Cassidy. “That’s an internal discussion that we’ve already started to have. He will definitely help the penalty kill. It could be a different lineup every night where we go with six D one night, and then go with seven D the next night. It will create good competition.”

McQuaid wants to temper the excitement now that he’s on the verge of a return, and is simply putting in work until he’s given the green light to play. The busy NHL schedule and the lack of quality practice time isn't the perfect scenario for the 31-year-old defenseman to return, so it’s simply a matter of doing what’s best for player and team.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 in the six games he did appear in. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. The more and more game-like situations you get in [can help].

“We haven’t gone too far down the road so I don’t know exactly [when I’ll return]. I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

senators_canadiens_121717.jpg

Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I still remain pretty conflicted about my thoughts on the Last Jedi. See yesterday’s morning skate for the full review.

*Happy Holidays from the Boston Bruins, who all wore spiffy Christmas-inspired suits into TD Garden for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers. The clear winners are Christmas Elf Brad Marchand and bedazzled Patrice Bergeron, but everybody is a winner when they’re in the holiday spirit.

*Here’s a blueprint for all 31 NHL teams to get an outdoor game next season if you’re really looking to run the concept into the ground.

*Everybody loves a goalie fight, and the Providence Bruins had one last night even if it was more like slightly angry hugging than actual fighting.

*This quick snippet from an Ottawa Senators radio broadcast this weekend is one of the oddest things I’ve heard in a while. No idea what took them down that path.

*Speaking of the Senators, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says he has no idea why the Sens are having such big attendance problems at their arena. I can think of one reason: location, location and location.

*Larry Brooks goes over the Sean Avery memoir just in time for Christmas for all those looking for a stocking stuffer, or just looking for the perfect gift for that hockey rat in your life.

*Hacksaw Jim Duggan dropping the puck for a minor league hockey game is definitely something to brag about. Ho!

*For something completely different: 20 years later, the crazy story of how the blockbuster Titanic ultimately got made.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE