Bruins

Stronger, feistier Spooner shows he can be effective

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Stronger, feistier Spooner shows he can be effective

BOSTON – Ryan Spooner talked about adding almost 10 pounds of muscle to his frame over the summer and made a point to say that he needs to be more competitive if he wants to remain with the Bruins.

It appears that the action is going to meet the words as the speedy, skilled center lived up to some of those promises and played a strong game for the Bruins in their 4-2 preseason win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night at TD Garden. Spooner threw around his body on the first shift registering a pair of hits, including one that jarred loose the puck and eventually led to David Pastrnak’s sniper shot goal at the other end of the ice.

Spooner, 25, picked up the secondary assist on Pastrnak’s goal after Matt Beleskey worked the puck up the ice to the right winger, and finished with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and a blocked shot along with a plus-1 rating in 16:32 of ice time.

“[The added competitiveness] is something that we’ve talked about, and it’s always good to get that kind of result. I think the thing for me right now is to just try to take it game by game. Just trying to do that and see how it goes for me,” said Spooner. “They told me that was something that they wanted to see me do and I’ve been trying to do it. It worked out there [on the goal].”

Spooner admitted that he was playing a little angry on the first shift after losing the opening face-off of the game, but whatever it takes to get a feistier player is better for both the center and for his team.

“He was a crusher on that [shift]. Buried a guy. I don’t know if physicality is the proper term. What I want to see is compete. We’ve talked about that," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "I don’t expect Ryan Spooner to lead our team in hits. But he has to win his share of pucks. How you do that, [being] hard on your stick, sometimes it is body position and sometimes it is knocking a guy off the puck. It was good to see, and it led directly to [the first goal]. We come back up the ice, he makes a play, [Matt] Beleskey passes it and we score a goal.

“Then the third period [we] specifically, put him out for a D-zone faceoff and he won one, he won maybe both. It’s just some situations that he knows he has to be harder in, and I think the rest of his game will take care of itself. I thought he was good in that area of the game tonight.”

Clearly, Spooner won’t be playing much with Pastrnak in the regular season as he was in David Krejci’s absence on Monday night, and the spike in battle and determination needs to carry over from the preseason into the regular season. But a who Spooner will do more of the little things to go along with skill and power-play acumen could portend some very good things for the Black and Gold, and a possible breakout season for No. 51 if he can keep it up.

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

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What We Learned in B's 4-2 win over Kings

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on Saturday night:

1. Not only is Charlie McAvoy rounding into form after a first half full of injuries and getting up to speed, but he’s starting to regain that confidence and clutch ability that he regularly flashed in previous seasons in a Bruins uniform. After a rough game on Friday night against the Ducks, the 21-year-old McAvoy bounced back with a clutch game-winning goal late in the third period against the Kings on Saturday. It was a sweet give-and-go play with Jake DeBrusk to score the goal in the final two minutes of regulation play, and sparked a two-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to finish the second night of road back-to-back games with a big time kick. But it wasn’t just the final play for McAvoy. He finished with a plus-1 in 19:16 of ice time, four shots on net, six shot attempts, three hits and a pair of blocked shots in an excellent all-around effort. McAvoy continues to put together consistently excellent efforts over the last few weeks, and has two goals, four points and a plus-8 in eight games during the month of February while playing like a No. 1 D-man in the making.

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2. The Bruins continue to put themselves in a very good position. They’ve now won five games in a row and moved past the Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division, which would give them home ice advantage in a repeat first round rematch against the Maple Leafs if the season ended right now. It would also put two of the NHL’s best teams, according to points, in the first round of the playoffs, which is perhaps inevitable given how stacked the Atlantic Division has been this season at the very top. But credit where it’s due with the Bruins, who continue to play very well when injuries throw a monkey wrench into their plans. One other correlation between the B’s winning streaks and a common denominator from their play: The Bruins get great goaltending whenever they start stringing together wins in a row and making a push up the standings. Jaroslav Halak was excellent in shutting out the Ducks on Friday night, and Tuukka Rask was similarly excellent in the 4-2 win over the Kings including a stupendous double-stack stave on Alex Iafallo in the second period when things were still very tight with the Kings.

3. The jury is out on Karson Kuhlman. The center played under 10 minutes of ice time and had a shot blocked in his only mark on the stat sheet. Credit Kuhlman for not looking out of place and for playing a strong all-around 200-foot game, but he also didn’t do much to distinguish himself from anybody else, or from being more of a factor than David Backes is on most nights after Backes was the one scratched in place of him. He’ll certainly get more of a look given the strong game he played in Providence, but he’ll need to be better than he was on Saturday if he wants to stick around Boston. 

PLUS

*Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal, filled up the stat sheet in almost 20 minutes of ice time and generally played another excellent game against the Kings and one of his NHL role models in Drew Doughty.

*Tuukka Rask stopped 23-of-25 shots that he faced, and made a highlight reel-worthy double-stacked save on Alex Iafallo in the second period during an odd-man rush for the Kings. Rask made 10 saves in that pivotal second period and did a good job of keeping the Bruins in it.

*Jake DeBrusk has now scored goals in three straight games and is riding a hot streak to rival the cold stretch where he didn’t score a goal for over a month.

MINUS

*Drew Doughty was on ice for three of the four goals allowed by the Kings, and that is something you really don’t see every day. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t his usual Doughty-self either while being forced to play almost 30 minutes of ice time.

*Anze Kopitar finished a minus-2 and lost 12-of-19 face-offs in an uncharacteristically bad game for the usually adept two-way center. Call it to the Patrice Bergeron factor if you want, as he always seems to play top level against his Selke Trophy-winning peers.

*Matt Grzelcyk finished a minus-1 and looked rusty for the Bruins after returning to the lineup from a lower body injury that cost him the last few games played for the Black and Gold.  

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

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This stat shows Bruins forward Brad Marchand's impressive consistency

There's no question Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand is one of the best wingers in the NHL, and consistency has become a huge reason for that.

Marchand scored a goal in Saturday night's 4-2 road win against the Los Angeles Kings, giving him a team-leading 70 points (also leads the team with 47 assists) through 58 games. It's his third straight season with 70-plus points, moving him higher on an impressive list of scoring wingers in Bruins history.

Hitting the 70-point mark in three consecutive seasons is pretty good, and Marchand is the first Bruin to accomplish that feat since Marc Savard from 2006-07 through 2008-09.

Marchand has scored at better than a point-per-game level in each of the last two seasons, and he's projected to do it again in 2018-19. His current pace would put him at just under 98 points by the end of the regular season. Marchand also is well on his way to finishing as the B's top scorer for the third consecutive campaign. 

The Bruins are on a 10-game point streak (including five wins in a row) entering Monday night's game against the San Jose Sharks. Marchand has tallied 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) during the team's point streak, serving as the catalyst for the Boston's offense without leading goal scorer David Pastrnak, who will miss several weeks with a thumb injury.

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