Bruins

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

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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.  

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

David Krejci, Adam McQuaid forced out of Bruins win with injuries

BOSTON – The Bruins returned Patrice Bergeron and David Backes to good health and their lineup on Thursday night, but they also saw a few more players get banged up in their win over the Vancouver Canucks. 

David Krejci exited Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the Canucks with an upper body injury after scoring a power play goal, and Adam McQuaid also had to leave the game after dropping to one knee to block a shot with his right leg. McQuaid was also already banged up after taking a shot off his knee in last weekend’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so taking another shot off the leg certainly wasn’t a helpful development. 

“He blocked a shot, so he’ll get evaluated tonight or tomorrow. I don’t know how serious – he blocks a lot of shots. This one stung him obviously so we’ll see how it turns out. Adam [McQuaid] has been doing that for years around here. He’s one of the unsung heroes in that locker room. Doesn’t get a lot of credit for what he does, the tough parts of the game, blocking shots, sticking up for your teammates,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He actually manages the puck very well. He’s not a flashy player. He’s not a guy that just throws it away either. He makes good decisions with it, and every team needs an Adam McQuaid. We’re certainly fortunate to have him.”

With Krejci it appeared that he suffered some back spasms after getting cross-checked, and that’s what ended up forcing him out of the win. Cassidy doesn’t foresee it being a long-term thing with Krejci, who finished with a goal and two points in 8:21 of ice time centering Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak.  

“He has an upper body; he had to leave. He wasn’t feeling too terrific today, and then he got, I think there was a cross-check there. He tried it, but couldn’t continue [playing]. I think he had some spasms, but I don’t think there’s anything long-term there at all.”

It remains to be seen if either McQuaid or Krejci will miss any time with the bumps and bruised suffered on Thursday, but it goes without saying that the Bruins hope they can stay in a lineup that’s beginning to take shape with the full group. 

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

Haggerty: Patrice Bergeron returns as game-changing force for Bruins

BOSTON – To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the presence of Patrice Bergeron is a major game-changer for the Boston Bruins. 

Bergeron finally felt good enough to return to the B’s lineup after missing the first five games of the season with a lower body injury, and the impact was immediate and unmistakable with a goal and four points in a 6-3 win for the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. It was also a far-reaching impact with the Bruins center pumping life back in the B’s power play with a return to his bumper position, returning a top penalty killer to the Bruins rotation, bringing normalcy back to the forward group by slotting fellow forwards back into their rightful spots and simply giving the B’s their best all-around player back. 

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Clearly it was a joyous moment for Bergeron to get back on the ice and play after getting a couple of good days in on the practice ice leading up to Thursday night. 

“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time, it’s… you miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team. It’s good to be back,” said Bergeron. “You don’t know what to expect obviously [after a long layoff]. You’re trying to hope for the best. I don’t want to say I was surprised [at his high level of play] because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice.”

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork finally skated together for the first time after building chemistry all throughout training camp, and they finished with four goals, 10 points, a plus-6 rating and 13 of Boston’s 35 shots on net for the game. It was the way that the Bruins roster was drawn up headed into the season before they had a five-game detour due to the injuries, and the hope is that’s the way it will continue to look for the Black and Gold moving forward. 

“I mean it’s pretty evident, you know, the way [Bergeron] played out there. He just, it’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, you know?” said Brad Marchand, who finally has his longtime partner-in-crime back. “He’s just such a big part of the group. He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. He just does everything that a top guy does.”

Perhaps most striking of all was the emotion and organization that the Bruins played with having Bergeron and David Backes back in the lineup. The breakouts, reloading counter-attacks and defensive zone coverage all had more noticeable structure, and the Bruins were able to get the wave after wave attack from their forward groups that spurred on goals both during 5-on-5 play and when special teams were involved. 

Some of that is getting two highly talented players like Bergeron and Backes back from injury, and some of it is getting an important, tone-setting leader like No. 37 back for everything he does off the ice as well. 

Bergeron set up the important answering goal in the first period by firing a puck that created a rebound for Bjork to clean up, he did the same for David Krejci’s power play to close out the first period scoring, he created the turnover that led to Marchand’s goal in the second period and then he sniped home his own goal from the bumper spot to finally clinch things in the third period. It was clear that Bergeron is still navigating through discomfort and some level of injury while playing at this point, but his hockey IQ and his gritty toughness are allowing him to still be a highly effective player. 

“I think it was self-evident out there that the play on the ice, first of all, built a matchup against whoever we really want. The Power play obviously [was a] big impact there. I think it’s just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Those intangibles, leadership, first shift of the game, he’s standing up. They had scored a goal and [he’s] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game. 

“[He’s talking about] finishing your routes on the fore-check and reloading all the way to our zone.

[It’s the] stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. When you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more. To have that back in the room and along with David Backes, those are guys that are just vocal players that bring a lot in that aspect. It’s generally, a quiet group. That doesn’t mean you can’t be effective and win as a quiet group, but it just helps sometimes to have a little bit of that energy.”

While it was a clearly a feel-good story to see Bergeron back in his proper environs on the ice, it was also just as apparent there’s still some lower body discomfort with the Bruins center. He looked like he was in pain or laboring at times out on the ice, and admitted after the game that the lower body injury might be something he’ll need to manage for the time being. That would tend to mean that once again this isn’t something that’s going to go away anytime soon, and Bergeron will again need to grind his way through the pain. 

“That’s the million dollar question, right? I don’t know what to say to that. I guess yeah, I mean I’m feeling good,” said Bergeron. “But there’s… we might manage a little bit for quite a while. But I’m feeling good and tonight was no issue.”

Clearly Bergeron and the Bruins will gladly take it if he can be a difference-maker like he was on Thursday night with a four points, eight shot attempts and plenty of hard-working shifts in his 20:58 of ice time for the game. They’ll just need to keep their fingers crossed that No. 37 can keep suiting up and playing at a high level, and that the 32-year-old can avoid any further problems after already sitting out the first five games of the regular season.