BOSTON – Reilly Smith let a “Finally!” escape his lips, and didn’t hold back a smile when he scored his first goal since the end of January.
But there was no “throwing the monkey off his back” like Brad Marchand, or any old-school Bruins fist pump in celebration, after Smith ended a 15-game scoreless drought in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden on Monday night.
“I’m not a big celebration guy,” said Smith, who scored his 19th goal of the season on Monday. “The biggest thing is just being able to score a goal to help our team win a game. Personally it was a little tough not scoring for that many games, but the biggest thing I try to do is just stay positive, and not get too down on myself. The chances were still coming.”
The Bruins were holding a 2-1 lead in the third period when Smith knocked home the rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot.
Entering the game, the 22-year-old right winger wasn’t sure he'd end his slump. But he knew his game was trending in the right direction.
In the first eight games in the month of March, Smith had just two assists and only a meager 11 shots on net. In the last two games Smith has 10 shots on net and was starting to get the puck closer to the painted area where goals are made. The large volume of shots were perhaps a little bit of a departure for Smith, but he was looking to do whatever he could to finally get that good goal-scoring feeling back again.
“Last game [against the Carolina Hurricanes] he had six shots on net,” said coach Claude Julien. “You could see it turning around, so it was just a continuation of that. I think his work ethic and his mindset is good. As long as those two things are there, he’s going to get better all the time. I think [tonight’s goal] was a proof of that.”
While the slump does make one wonder how consistently Smith can produce at the level he has this season, Smith will complete his first full NHL season with at least 20 goals and 50 points. Then it will be up to the youngster to really prove his mettle once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.