Ryan Spooner is a changed man this season


Ryan Spooner is a changed man this season

It’s the mark of somebody with true character and fighting spirit that they continue to grind, work and compete even when the odds seem continually stacked up against them.

Ryan Spooner has been in that situation for much of his career in Boston, with trade rumors seemingly associated with him non-stop over the last few years. Yet there was always a sense of untapped potential locked within his game. The Bruins have continually moved him off his natural center position over the last couple of seasons, and it's clearly been a challenge for him bouncing back and forth between center and wing. 

The Bruins signed one of their prospects in center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson last spring, a two-way center that is ostensibly looked at as Spooner’s eventual replacement on the NHL roster. All of it led up to the Bruins avoiding arbitration and signing the 26-year-old to just a one-year contract this summer. The organization seemed to be putting some limitations on Spooner’s place in the long term future with the B’s, and also issuing a tacit challenge that he needed to elevate his game. 

For all those reasons and more Spooner knew this season needed to be different, and full credit to him to this point for going out and making a change where it matters most: on the ice.  

“This is kind of the year for me where if I don’t do well then I might not be here anymore, so I kind of need to focus on the things that I can be a lot better at and go from there,” said Spooner all the way back in September while recognizing that he needed to be better for the Bruins. “I just needed to be a lot harder player to play against, and if I do that then it’s going to help me out. It’s the flaw in the game that I see for me.”

Add in groin issues that began cropping up with Spooner in training camp this season, and some players might easily have faded into the background with one too many things working against them. 

Spooner hasn't faded away for the Bruins, however, and has bounced back to become a regular contributor for the B’s whether it’s at center or on the wing. He has played well centering Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork during the six games that David Krejci was out of the lineup with an upper body injury, and Spooner lit up the scoreboard with a pair of goals in Saturday night’s win in Ottawa after shifting back to the right wing.

Clearly some of Spooner’s natural talent is coming to the fore. In his last seven games, Spooner has two goals and seven points in seven games with a plus-5 rating, and he’s done it almost entirely during 5-on-5 play with just two of his eight points this month coming on the power play. That part speaks to competitiveness in 1-on-1 battles and a willingness to stick his nose in the danger areas more of this season than ever before.

It’s something that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has noticed from the beginning of the season, and it was clearly evident in Spooner’s game when he was healthy enough to show it dating back to the preseason.

“I think [Spooner] is committed to trying to play the right way, and help and do his job defensively away from the puck, whether it is back-checking and reloading well and getting in the shooting lane. I see a commitment there, and when we put him on the wing when [David] Krejci was in, he was willing to do that,” said Cassidy. “I think he enjoys the atmosphere right now and wants to be a part of the winning program here. It is just a matter of his health, and now it seems to be he is getting through these games without any reoccurrences.

“I think he is a different player. I don’t know if there was a little bit of something going on with him to start health-wise, only he could speak to that. He was definitely hurt at the start, trying to play through it. He is a guy who needs his legs; that is his greatest asset.”

Spooner really exemplified his improvements in one play on Saturday night when he blocked a Ben Harpur shot, and then sped the other way for a breakaway score against the Senators that helped bust open the eventual blowout win. It’s that little extra pinch of puck battle and shift-to-shift feistiness that’s allowed Spooner to be much more productive during even strength play as of late, essentially pushing Anders Bjork out of the top-9 as a result.

One could easily envision a situation in the future where Bjork perhaps gets a stint in Providence to log big minutes, play in all situations, and continue to develop his game to be more prepared for the NHL level. Spooner is playing like the speedy, playmaking offensive asset that most projected Bjork to be at the start of the season, and upping his value around the league.

It may end with Spooner being dealt at the deadline if he continues to hit a peak entering the prime of his hockey career, or it might end up in him finally securing a spot in Boston’s lineup with no qualms or qualifiers. He could have some value on the trade market as a speedy, versatile player with an offensive bent, and an ability to improve a team’s power play from his spot along the half-wall. Spooner could also play his way into being part of the picture in Boston by simply, consistently playing with the same competitiveness and assertiveness on the ice he’s shown with the Black and Gold over the last month.

Spooner has always had the potential within him to become a consistent staple in the Bruins lineup that can provide the kind of speed and offensive creativity that they’re always looking for. Now he’s beginning to consistently show it at a time when it’s “put up or shut up” time in his Bruins career, and it’s a credit to him that he’s battled his way into current contributing position after a tough start to his season. 


Marc Savard officially retires from NHL seven years after last game


Marc Savard officially retires from NHL seven years after last game

It was a foregone conclusion because he hadn’t played an NHL game in seven years since suffering a final concussion whole playing for the Bruins, but Marc Savard called it a career on Monday by officially retiring from the NHL.

Savard played 13 NHL seasons for four different teams and was one of two heralded free agents to sign with the Bruins in 2006 along with defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Savard effectively had his career ended by a nasty head shot delivered by Penguins cheap shot artist Matt Cooke in the spring of 2010, but came back to play 25 games in 2010-11 for Boston the following season.

A Matt Hunwick hit delivered afterwards in Colorado was the final blow.

It was the Cooke hit on Savard that spurred the NHL on the very next season to finally begin outlawing blindside hits and any kind of illegal hits targeting the head.

Savard still had his name included among the Bruins immortalized on the Stanley Cup when the B’s won it in 2011, and was forced to prolong his retirement announcement due to the seven year, $28.15 million contract extension he signed with Boston back in 2009. His contract was included in trades with the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils over the last few seasons, but it officially expired at the end of last season.

So the 40-year-old Savard officially announced his retirement on his twitter account: “While I, unfortunately, haven’t been able to play since January 2011 after suffering a career-ending concussion, and with my NHL contract recently expiring, I’d like to officially announce my retirement from the National Hockey League. I wish to thank the New York Rangers, the Calgary Flames, the Atlanta Thrashers and the Boston Bruins organizations for giving me the opportunity to play in the NHL for 13 incredible seasons. I owe everything that my family and I enjoy today to the great game of hockey. It has been a wild and wonderful journey, and one I’ll remember forever. It is impossible for me to give credit to all of the people who have contributed in so many ways to my career, but to those that believed in me, and helped me believe in myself, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I believe I can make a positive impact in the world. I love hockey, and I will forever have a passion for this game. I look forward to the chances I may have to give back to the game that has given me so much. I’ve learned a thing or two from some great people throughout my career and life, and I look forward to a chance to pass that along to others. This is not an easy thing for me to put down into words, but I feel as though I’m ready now for the next chapter in my life to begin. Also, last but not least my health is the best it’s been in a very long time and I’m grateful for that.”

The best news for Bruins fans and any fans of Savard is that many of the post-concussion symptoms appear to have lessened, or disappeared, over the years away from the ice. Savard coached his sons at the junior level in Canada once he stepped away from playing, and it sounds like he’s feeling good enough now to purse the coaching thing with a little more fervor.

“I think the biggest thing is that I’m happy where I am in my life,” said Savard to “I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time. I didn’t want it to linger on any more. My contract is up and I wanted to get it out there and head off in a different direction to pursue a coaching career.”

Savard finished with 207 goals and 706 points in 807 games during his NHL career, but there’s no telling what those final numbers could have been given his offensive skills, his creativity and his place on a Bruins team just beginning to get rolling offensively. Those high-flying days were a long time ago for Savard, however, and it’s good to hear that he’s simply healthy and very much looking forward to the next steps in his life.  


McAvoy undergoes procedure for 'abnormal heart rhythm'


McAvoy undergoes procedure for 'abnormal heart rhythm'

BRIGHTON, Mass – As a workhorse 20-year-old hockey player, it wasn’t much of a warning signal when Charlie McAvoy missed Monday’s Bruins practice with what the team initially called “a doctor’s appointment.” But it turned out to be a fairly serious absence as the Bruins announced later in the afternoon that their prized rookie is going to miss roughly two weeks after undergoing a procedure at Mass General Hospital to address an abnormal heart rhythm. 

According to the Bruins statement: “After the Nov. 26 game, Charlie told team physicians that he experienced heart palpitations during the game. Subsequently he underwent an evaluation, which diagnosed him with a supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The type of SVT Charlie has is not considered to be dangerous to his health but can recur at any time and causes significant symptoms.”

After consulting with a multitude of doctors, McAvoy and the Bruins opted for the procedure because of the high likelihood of the condition’s recurrence. McAvoy will spend the night at Mass General, and is expected to return to the lineup in a couple of weeks. 

The timing of McAvoy’s procedure around the NHL All-Star break means he’ll miss fewer games than he might have otherwise, but it also means the 20-year-old is obviously out of the running to be a replacement for the injured Victor Hedman on the Atlantic Division squad. At this point it’s just good news that the B’s prized young rookie is going to be okay by all accounts, and that the team was able to catch the condition early on with McAvoy’s entire career in front of him. 

The 20-year-old McAvoy has been one of the best rookies in the entire NHL this season with five goals and 25 points in 45 games along with a plus-18 rating, and the B’s D-man also leads all NHL rookies by a wide margin with 22:49 of ice time per game.