This past offseason saw a lot of changes for the Boston Bruins. Coming off their second shot at a Stanley Cup in three years, albeit unsuccessful the second time around, it looked like the Bruins had everything in line to keep the playoff pressure on for years to come. Then there are those ugly words no fan of a good team likes to hear: Cap Space. The Bruins needed to make space to pay one of the top, if not the top, goaltenders in the league Tuukka Rask as well as other contract signings and extensions for other key parts of the organization. That meant there were some players who were going to move during the offseason due to trades and free agency. We saw some big names leave, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton, as well as a fan favorite and tough defenseman Andrew Ferance, among others.
Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson
The players coming to replace them though were exciting. We have some youthful, goal hungry players to platoon on the blue line and big names making their Bruins debut up front, Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson. Iginla made the mistake the year before siding with Pittsburgh instead of Boston and that mistake was driven in hard when the B’s swept the Penguins in the playoffs. Still we were excited to see him coming to the team to replace Horton. They were somewhat similar, big bodied, 30 goal scorers who weren’t afraid to take the body or use their knuckles to get their point across. Then there was Eriksson who was a 20-25 goal scorer who could replace some of the speed and add somewhere in the range of 40 assists that the B’s lost from Seguin. Eriksson came to Boston via the Seguin trade with the Dallas Stars.
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Knowing what those two players could provide if you told me in August the player I would be most excited about in November would be Reilly Smith I’d point to those two players and tell you that you were crazy. But you’re not crazy. With a goal in the second period Saturday against Carolina that brings his total to four, the same amount as Eriksson and Iginla. He’s also got 11 assists for 15 points, two more than Iginla. Eriksson has 10 points but gets a little bit of a pass as he’s played five fewer games than the Iginla and Smith thanks to perennial asshole John Scott.
Numbers and stats aside, I think the kid is fun to watch too. The 22 year old Smith has helped the third line of Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly become a shining star as of late with them and the Merlot line putting up a lot of points in the midst of a small slump for lines one and two. Coach Claude Julien decided he was good enough that during Eriksson’s down time with injury and when Brad Marchand was working through the tough start to the season he had Smith is the one who was brought up to the second line.
He was originally to compete for a spot on the third line with Soderberg and Jordan Caron but the three way battle for two spots was quickly knocked down to Soderberg and Caron battling for the last remaining third line spot as Smith propelled himself to the top of the heap during camp and preseason.
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Reilly is a Canadian born player who played Division 1 college hockey with University of Miami Ohio. He played there three years scoring just over a point per game with 122 points in 121 games. He was drafted by the Stars in 2012 and signed to a 3 year entry level contract. He scored three goals and nine assists in 37 games during last year’s lockout season which he’s already surpassed in just 23 games this year.
Julien trusts him enough to have even been using him as a point man in certain situations. He does have experience on the blue line where he played with Dallas’ AHL club the Texas Stars. All this and we’re only a quarter into the season and I can’t wait to see what is to come the rest of the season from utility player Reilly Smith.