In the end, the speed and skill of Ryan Spooner finally overcame the fear of making a crucial mistake that would get him a ticket on the first bus back to Providence. The 22-year-old admitted he was “nervous” for the first four or five games after being called up to Providence, but those raw nerves have been harnessed into pure unadulterated speed and playmaking ability in the last two games.
The skilled playmaker that electrified the Bruins during the preseason finally showed up last weekend in the win over Buffalo with an assist on the power play, and plenty of offensive chances. He built on that with a game-high six shots on net and three assists in the B’s 6-2 thumping of the Nashville Predators at Nationwide Arena on Monday night, his first multi-point game at the NHL level.
Spooner had four assists in 13 career games prior to suiting up against the Predators, and nearly doubled that output in 14:34 of productive ice time. He helped orchestrate the second power play unit from the half-wall position, and once again earned the second assist on a Carl Soderberg-to-Reilly Smith backdoor play. It was actually the same exact play as the one that the B's successfully scored last weekend against Buffalo as well, with Spooner first passing to Patrice Bergeron in the slot to draw defenders away from the net.
Then Bergeron feeds it right back to Spooner, and he gets it to Soderberg down low before the Big Swede gets it to Smith crashing from the left point position. It worked in the first period vs. Buffalo last Saturday night, and it worked in the first period against the Predators on Monday night.
Spooner also picked up a helper before hopping off the ice when he fed Soderberg the puck in the neutral zone on a freak play. Spooner watched as the Big Swede’s floating shot from beyond the blue line kicked right to Matt Fraser camped in the slot for his first goal, and then Carter Hutton was pulled from the game when Fraser snapped one past his glove hand.
The third score was perhaps the most tantalizing for Spooner, as it shows off all the possibilities for him on a Bruins team that got markedly slower when they dealt speedy skaters Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas. Spooner used his speed to circle right around Nashville defenseman Kevin Klein, and nobody on the Nashville ‘D’ could contain the center’s pass from the goal line to a waiting Soderberg for the bang-bang score.
The video of that final Spooner-aided goal shows exactly the kind of burgeoning confidence level enjoyed by the B’s rookie after registering as more than a point-per-game player at the AHL level. The Bruins are still looking to toughen him a bit defensively, and Spooner is slowly getting the hang of life in the face-off circle after going 4-for-8 on Monday night.
There will be some interesting roster decisions when all of the Bruins are headed back to good health. Adam McQuaid marked his return to the B’s lineup with a couple of sledge-hammer punches toward Eric Nystrom early in Monday night’s game, and looked like his old self in the process. If Spooner keeps playing like the free-wheeling, aggressive center that assisted on four goals over the last two games while firing 11 shots on net, then he won’t be anywhere but Boston.
Instead perhaps he gets teamed with Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg on the B’s third line, and that kind of setup could have been the best kind of positive development.
But that’s another worry for another day while breaking down Spooner’s best spot on the team. Right now one expects the speedy forward would take whichever show he’s wanted for, but it’s all part of the big picture.