Spooner growing into his role with the Bruins


Spooner growing into his role with the Bruins

WILMINGTON Ryan Spooner was probably the most baby-faced Bruins prospect when he first showed up at the Bruins Development Camp two years ago with Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight, among others.

He looked about 14 years old off the ice. But on it, he dazzled with a skill set and offensive game that allowed him to stick around in training camp until the very last few roster cuts.

Fast forward to today.

Spooner, now 20, still has the baby face, albeit with a touch more facial hair. He's also worked hard to add some muscle to the 182 pounds on his 5-foor-10 frame.

At least hes starting to get a little peach fuzz on his face, said Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. Hes starting to look like a little bit of a man now, so thats the biggest things I noticed about Spoons."

But one thing that remains the same: He still possesses a playmakers creativity and the natural ability to score. Just ask first-round pick Malcolm Subban, whom Spooner has put into the torture chamber of double and triple moves when during penalty-shot drills.

I guess Id have to say Spooner, said a smiling Subban after long moments of hemming and hawing about the toughest shooter hes faced this week. But thats only because he tries so badly to score on me every single time.

That kind of competitiveness in a relatively meaningless prospect camp is music to the ears of the Bruins.

Spooner will be in a group of players battling for the third-line winger position in training camp this fall, along with Knight, Jordan Caron, Chris Bourque and any veterans that general manager Peter Chiarelli brings in between now and September. Spooner might have the longest odds, but thats not a bad thing given the lessons he still needs to master with the Providence Bruins.

Hes already learned one, painfully: Find a safer, smarter way to battle with players who are much bigger and stronger. In a game in Providence last year, he went into the corner battling with a 6-foot-6 defenseman for the puck and got lifted up and tossed into the boards like a ragdoll.

I still have tons of work to do, said Spooner. I have to get much stronger. There are things I definitely still have to work on, said Spooner. I have to be patient. I hope one day to be in the National Hockey League, but I also need to pay attention to the little things that will get me there.

Skill-wise I think I can keep up with NHL players, but the little things and strength-wise adjusting to that kind of game might take some time. Everybody wants to be in the NHL right away, but when youre playing in a great organization like the Bruins, sometimes it takes a little longer.

Still, Spooner has been close to a point-per-game player during his limited time in the AHL and has the kind of offensive playmaking instincts the Bruins desperately need, both five-on-five and on their power-play unit. He needs to master playing away from the puck and tightening things up in the defensive zone, but he might have the highest upside of any forward at this years development camp.

It would be between Spooner and Russian prospect Alex Khokhlachev for those honors, and the young centers passing ability might be what puts him over the top.

Hes very creative, said Cassidy, who ran the development camp practices on the ice this week. He makes some no-look passes that some of the other players on our club just dont have the ability to make; its one of his best gifts.

"The difference I noticed from last spring to the previous one" -- Spooner played three games for the P-Bruins at the end of the 2010-11 season, and five games there last year -- "was his attention to detail. Away from the puck, hes starting to become more of a student of the game.

A year older, he wants to know the position where he needs to be, to have a good stick, and the things that hes going to need to do when the offense dries up in spurts. I noticed that difference about him. He also shoots the puck better than he did the year before.

It sounds like Spooner has his priorities straight as he heads into his first full pro season of hockey, and he has the natural ability to push for a role with the Bruins in the near future.
The marriage of the two should bring Spooner to the NHL level sooner rather than later as his dominating development camp performance shows just how ready he is to graduate to the next level.

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks


Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.

3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems


Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.