Spooner positioned to benefit from Bruins' coaching change

Spooner positioned to benefit from Bruins' coaching change

BRIGHTON -- There are several Bruins players who might benefit from the coaching change from Claude Julien to Bruce Cassidy, but perhaps none more than third-line center Ryan Spooner.

Spooner, 25. has struggled while being forced to play wing most of the season, with 8 goals and 27 points and a minus-4 rating in 54 games. Coming off a year in which he posted 13 goals and 49 points in 80 games in his first full NHL season, it was assumed Spooner would make a step forward this year playing an offensive game based on his speed and playmaking ability.

Spooner seemed as disappointed as anyone that Julien was fired on Tuesday morning, but is undeniably optimistic that a change to Cassidy, his coach for several successful seasons in Providence, could mean a greater focus on the speed, skill and offensive creativity that favors his game.

“At the end of the day [Claude] just wanted me to be the best player that I can be,” said Spooner. “He’s going to move on. He’s a great coach and I think he’ll do well.

"[Cassidy] likes to play with pace and he’s more of an offensive-minded coach, so it’s good. Last season as a centerman I had some ups and downs . . . but I thought it was a pretty good season for me as a whole. So it’s a challenge for me [now] to go out there and play well.

“The coach we have now was my coach for 2 1/2 years [in the AHL], so he knows what I can do. It’s a little bit like a fresh start.”

Spooner's never gotten untracked this season, mostly playing left wing with David Krejci and David Backes, and it was speculated he might be involved in a trade. Instead, Cassidy said the organization needs to make a determination on which position best suits Spooner's skill set, be it wing or center, and seems determined to get the best out of him.

Cassidy also dropped some pretty lofty names when alluding to Spooner's ability to control the puck and create offense from the wing position.

“I think moving from center to the wing, I don’t know that he’s bought into it yet if that’s the right term . . . or if he’s embracing that role,” said Cassidy. “Only he can answer that. But no matter where you play on the ice this is a difficult league, especially as a young guy. You have to embrace the role you’re put in if you want to have success. He did at times, and I thought he was good at times on the wing. There are a lot of guys like him on the wing. He could emulate a Johnny Gaudreau, or pick a skilled, speedy guy that’s not a big, heavy guy. You just have to be willing to put the work in on the walls and go there while embracing that part of the job.

“Every position has kind of a lousy part of the job too it, right? But you’ve got to do it, and there’s times where he needs to go to the net. So those are the areas where the staff is trying to encourage him to do without the puck. He’s a guy that’s used to being a center, and making plays while having the puck through the neutral zone. That’s where it changes as a winger, but there’s nothing to say you can’t become a little more like Patrick Kane. He’s a winger and he has the puck all the time, so he finds ways to get it and excel at what he does best. Some of it’s reps and getting comfortable with it. He would have to answer that question, but I think he’d prefer to be a center iceman. That’s he’s been. So we have to do a better job of selling the value of being a winger, or he goes back to the middle and see if we can get the best of it.”

There are others besides Spooner -- like Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, or even Krejci and David Pastrnak -- who could benefit from the change to a coach with more of an offensive bent. But there’s also little doubt that No. 51 might just be the guy on the ice who's helped the most.

An energized, confident and fully productive Spooner could also be the key to the Bruins getting a lot more offensive production from their bottom two lines, which have been offensively barren for far too much of this season.


Morning Skate: Is the NHL playoff system broken?

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Morning Skate: Is the NHL playoff system broken?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while the Bruins are finally back in Boston.  

*Larry Brooks says that the NHL playoff system is broken as it continues to “pass off mediocrity as parity.” I don’t really agree that there’s a big problem, but it will be too bad that one of the Eastern Conference’s two best teams (Boston and Tampa Bay) will be done after the second round of the playoffs.

*A pretty cool gesture from the Montreal Canadiens as a group of them wore turtlenecks during warm-ups on Saturday night prior to playing Tomas Plekanec for the first timer as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

*Congrats to the Team USA Paralympics squad for capturing another Gold Medal for the Red, White and Blue. What a great story they are.   

*Evander Kane opens up about Winnipeg, his past on social media and hockey culture as he seems to have found a place where he’s comfortable in San Jose.

*The Carolina Hurricanes are suspending their GM search until the group of available candidates can widen in the offseason. That was probably always for the best.

*The New York Islanders are getting a little weird with things here late in the season as they’re taking a look at John Tavares on the wing. Hmmm. Seems like an odd move.

*For something completely different: A great return for Bill Hader to Saturday Night Live where he revisited a number of his best characters.


Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

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Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that 'wasn't too dangerous'

TAMPA – David Backes certainly didn’t escape the scary situation with an errant skate blade unscathed, of course. 

The 33-year-old limped his way to the Bruins team bus out of Amalie Arena after Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and needed approximately 18 stitches to close up the gash on his right thigh. But Backes was still able to joke about it as he exited the dressing room while knowing that it could have been much, much worse with that kind of freak accident on the ice. 

"I'll play a second period one of these days,” said a smiling Backes, who was forced out of Saturday night’s loss with the skate blade cut in the last minute of the first period and exited the Florida loss as well after catching a match penalty in the first period as well. Luckily for him, there was no structural damage to Backes’ right leg after Yanni Gourde caught him in the thigh area as both players were down on the ice around the Tampa net.

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There was a lot of blood, however, as he quickly exited the ice, sped past the bench and headed right to the Bruins dressing room with Bruins trainer Donnie DelNegro trailing right behind. 

“I went in and saw him between periods. He’s okay. There’s no structural damage. There will be concern going forward about swelling or infection, but it looks like he’ll be okay. We’ll classify him as day-to-day, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play on Monday,” said Bruce Cassidy of Backes, who actually scored the second goal of the game for the Bruins as a power play strike. “You see a guy coming off like that and you see the blood pooling up, and you’re always worried they could hit an artery somewhere. He was able to get up. That was the first good sign and he was able to be tended to quickly. 

“It is scary. But we were told it would be a deep cut that would require some stitches, and it wasn’t too dangerous.”

For now it just becomes an eventful month for Backes where he’s been suspended, tossed out of a game with a match penalty and now forced out of a game after a freak skate blade incident, but there’s no doubt he’ll return better and stronger than ever in rapid fashion as he’s done through the last two seasons with the Bruins.