CHICAGO – By all accounts Bruins rookie Ryan Spooner has enjoyed a successful stint with the Bruins, filling in for the injured Chris Kelly as the third line center over the last six weeks. The 5-foot-11, 181-pound Spooner has 10 assists in 20 games, and has won the B’s several games utilizing his speed and hockey smarts to make plays in the offensive zone.
But the 21-year-old Spooner is also a minus-1 through those 20 games, and is winning only 41.7 percent of his face-offs in a number that puts him in company with Tyler Seguin. Those are the areas he needs to work on to become a well-rounded two-way center at the NHL level while constantly playing at that fast-forward pace that produces his best games.
The Bruins would also love to see Spooner get a little more aggressive looking for his own offense after going 20 games without scoring a single goal.
“When you look at the stat sheet he’s got a fair amount of assists because he’s a good playmaker, but right now he’s got to work – not only the D zone work – but he’s also capable of scoring some goals,” said Claude Julien. “He’s got to find a way to get some of those goals, and get that zero off the score sheet. I think he’s very capable of doing that.
“I’ve seen him in Providence take pucks to the net and score some nifty goals. For him it’s just a matter of gaining more confidence to take pucks to the net.”
Spooner has 37 shots on net in 20 games and has enjoyed some decent scoring chances, but he also has a tendency to think “pass first” while skating between talented Swedish wingers in Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson.
It’s likely Spooner already knows how to say “pass me the puck” in Swedish, but knows he needs to always remind himself to be a little more selfish around the net.
“I think I need to just play a little more simply, and eventually one is going to go in for me. I just want to focus more on creating more scoring chances,” said Spooner. “I think I have to attack the net more when I have the puck, and use my speed. When I have a step on a guy I might not score, but I can draw penalties or create rebounds that somebody else can put in. Everywhere I’ve played my coach has always told me I need to shoot more.
“For someone like me I’ve always been a guy that’s first, and coming to this level you don’t have as many scoring chances as you do at the AHL or junior level. It’s a challenge to score when I was getting 6 or 7 shots a game in junior, four or five shots a game in Providence and now it’s one, two or three [at the NHL level]. As time goes on I’ll get used to it. If I’m all alone in the slot I’m looking for someone that’s got a wide open net to the right or left of me. Maybe I need to change my mindset a little bit that I’m in the best scoring position right now, and I need to be a little bit selfish with the puck. It’s about whatever I can do to create more scoring chances.”
Marc Savard often went through a very similar balancing act in his career deciding between the pass and the shot, but those players can be the most unpredictable to defend once they’ve figured it out.
Spooner had five goals in 21 games for the P-Bruins this season, and 17 goals during his first pro season at the AHL last year. So the rookie hasn’t really been a big time scorer at the AHL level, and is still building that confidence that he was the skill, speed and shot to score goals regularly at the pro level.
The Bruins hope that happens at the NHL level for Spooner, who could use another cluster of high energy games after feeling a little under the weather in going scoreless against Toronto and Dallas.