For the first time in a few years, the Bruins have legitimate openings on their starting offensive roster. Last night, Ryan Spooner showed that he could be the player to take one of those spots. Spooner scored early in the first period on a nice finish and nearly potted another goal on the Penalty Kill later in the game. Unfortunately for Spooner, Bruins' coach Claude Julien said in an article on csnne.com "if you score a goal and give up two, you're not really helping your team".
You can hear the collective sigh of Bruins fans saying to themselves "here we go again". This is nothing new from Julien as he has always stressed defensive play for everyone on his team, especially the centers. Spooner clearly has all the attributes offensively the Bruins are looking for. He has an NHL level shot, blinding speed, and 27 big club games under his belt.
But for Julien, these attributes are only as important as the amount of back checking and defensive zone work you put in. In that same article Julien said "if you're going to be a center then your job is to be reliable down low". Spooner should take his coach's words very seriously if he hopes to grab a spot on the bottom two lines in Boston.
Spooner will not be replacing David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron or Carl Soderberg so the only center role for the 22-year-old belongs to Greg Campbell. Campbell is a prototypical center under Claude Julien's goal prevention system and is counted on to play a key role on the Penalty Kill. But the veteran is injured and Spooner is showing good chemistry with Daniel Paille, another strong skater, on the fourth line.
This follows along with the speed and skill trend on the bottom lines of top NHL clubs and is what the Bruins need to stay with teams like Montreal. The Bruins realized this letting long-time Bruin Shawn Thornton go in the offseason.
Spooner is the perfect player to replace Thornton and improve on a weakness exhibited in last year's playoffs. However, Spooner's defensive shortcomings may push him over to the wing to compete with Matt Fraser, among others. Unfortunately for Spooner, Fraser also played well last night and remember it was Fraser, not Spooner, who got the call in last year's second round playoff series against the Habs.
It will be interesting see what the Bruins ultimately decide, but the competition is certainly heating up. The Bruins take the ice again tonight at home against the Washington Capitals.
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