BOSTON -- Pretty soon the Bruins are going to run out of adjectives to describe what 22-year-old Reilly Smith has brought to the team this season.
The right winger has played with different linemates and faced different situations through the season’s first three months, but he simply keeps producing offense at every turn. Smith opened and closed the scoring for the Bruins in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, and had his second two goal game in his last four overall games.
That's six goals and eight points for Smith in nine games for the B's during the month of December.
The two goals couldn’t have been more different: the first was a power play strike as he crashed the backdoor on a play he’s perfected with Swedish teammate Carl Soderberg, and the second was an empty net score he freed himself for after snaking through Buffalo defenders with the puck.
Those are the kind of silky smooth skill moves on the power play that the man Smith was traded for – Seguin – wasn’t consistently capable of over the last three years.
“[Soderberg] has got eyes on the back of his head, so he sees everything,” said Smith of the Big Swede, who snapped a pass through traffic in front of the net. “If he gets that pass through, I pretty much have an open net. He’s done a great job so far of getting the puck through, and it’s just my job to find the back of the net.”
Smith is now second on the team with 11 goals behind only Milan Lucic on the B’s, and has 25 points in 36 games this season for the Black and Gold.
It’s a big step up from the three goals and nine points he scored for Dallas last season, but he’s also playing in a different role than the one he played last year. Admittedly he’s already surpassed any objective goals that he had for himself prior to this season while playing with better linemates.
But Smith knows there is little room for complacency on a team as competitive as the Bruins, and he’ll need to embrace the intensity if he hopes to keep improving on what’s looking to be a charmed year.
“I set high goals for myself coming into this team and this organization. It seems like I’ve kind of surpassed some of them,” admitted Smith. “The biggest thing is just to keep your foot on the pedal, and make sure you’re not getting too comfortable.
“That’s when your game starts to slow and when it slumps down like that it takes a toll on your confidence and play making. The biggest thing is just the daily approach, to get better everyday.”
That home improvement idea of getting better everyday is a nice one to shoot for in the life of a bottom six forward looked upon for energy rather than offense, but it wasn’t necessarily possible prior to Boston.
“He’s a good player. I think this is the first time he’s really had a good shot at playing at this level, and [with somebody] making sure he has the opportunity to play in the areas that we think he can excel,” said Claude Julien. “He’s done a great job. He’s a crafty player, he’s a smart player, he makes a lot of good plays and he’s very reliable.
“I like his game and I’ve liked it since the beginning of the year.
Smith’s shot, skating speed and hands for Smith are all above average when talking offensive tools,
But its clear Smith’s hockey mind is his biggest weapon on the ice. It was on full display once again for the Black and Gold in the two goal performance vs. Buffalo, and has been appreciated greatly during the recent rash of injuries for Boston.