Boston Bruins: Julien Gave Spooner Chance He Deserves


After Sunday’s overtime thriller against Carolina, in which the Bruins defeated the Hurricanes 2-1, the oldest Bruin to score a goal was a 23-year-old. They were David Pastrnak (18-year-old) and Ryan Spooner (23).

With this new wave of youthful Bruins entering the system, it appears coach Claude Julien is revamping his typical system. Julien has been known for endorsing more veteran, grinder bodies in his past which has called for more ice time for a player of that caliber. More recently, Julien has beheld trust in forwards such as Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly, and Daniel Paille, and now fourth line grinders like Max Talbot.

Yet desperate times call for desperate measures.

On Mar. 10th, when the Boston Bruins defeated the Ottawa Senators (3-1), Boston was still in a close race for the 8th and final Wild Card position. That is also when Spooner made a name for himself and sheared the gap between his time in the AHL and NHL.

Team President Cam Neely told a Boston radio station that the team asked Spooner to loosen up his grip on the stick and to take more shots when the opportunities presented themselves. As a centerman, the Bruins wanted the 23-year-old to be a stronger two-way forward who could create chances with his off the rush speed and ability to pass the puck.

He has done just that.

Spooner has played, when recalled, with the Bruins since Oct. 8th. He has played at total of 23 games. Since the Mar. 10th game against Ottawa, when he scored his 2nd and 3rd goals of the season, Spooner has tallied a total of 31 shots in 11 games. Since his recall on Feb. 22 after David Krejci went down against St. Louis, Spooner has a shot total of 47. The message was heard and received for the young forward.

Spooner has now scored 6 goals in 11 games after the OT win against Carolina this past weekend. Since Mar. 10th, he has averaged about 14 minutes of ice time. Also since that date, forth liner Campbell has averaged nearly 16 minutes. The gap is thinning between veteran fourth liners and youthful, budding forwards in Julien’€™s system.

If the Bruins were not in the predicament they have found themselves in, that is, battling for their playoff lives, it is quite possible young prospects like Spooner would not have the opportunity to showcase their talents and their improvements. Now, after Krejci’€™s injury called for his return to the lineup, Spooner appears to be going nowhere. That is Julien’s conflict: his inability to utilize young prospects unless injury calls for it.

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Prior to Boston’€™s Mar. 21st tilt against Florida, Julien disclosed the notion to the media that Spooner was not going anywhere. He had earned his spot in the lineup when Krejci returned. He had battled along with rugged defenses as a centerman. He led a productive third line of Milan Lucic and Pastrnak. He called for Lucic to rev up the engine with his quick skating ability. He made the players around him better. Most importantly, he was producing goals on a team that desperately needed them.

The Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak line scored a total of 11 goals through the last 11 games; the math doesn’€™t lie, they are averaging a goal per game since Mar. 10th. They have become one of Boston’s most productive lines. It seems Julien is now cognizant of the vitality by giving young players chances to produce, chances to make mistakes, and chances to learn from those mistakes. Though Spooner is performing well overall, his face-off performance is lacking; certainly no Patrice Bergeron in the face-off circle, especially in his defensive zone.

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  • The third line has not been perfect, but it is doing its job. Lucic has been the veteran coach of the line, and has yelled instructions to his fellow youngsters throughout the course of a game. Julien knows the kids make mistakes, but he knows that young NHLers make mistakes, and they can only learn from their mishaps.

    Now is the time for Julien to change his ways. He is giving talented young players the chance to showcase their abilities aside from the AHL, such as the cases of both Spooner and Pastrnak. Simultaneously, Julien did not have much room to alter with. He was forced to start Spooner when Krejci went down. Pastrnak’€™s fate was ultimately decided by General Manager Peter Chiarelli. The 26-year-old Matt Bartkowski was implemented into the lineup after defensive defensemen Kevan Miller went down with injury.

    What we do know about Julien’€™s current mindset is this: he has come to terms with Spooner’s ability and will give him the chance he deserves to start with the Bruins. He’€™ll even sit other starters if need-be, which has been unorthodox in Julien’€™s coaching style since his tenure with Boston.

    If the Bruins do indeed reach a playoff birth, there will be questions surrounding players like Spooner and his status with the NHL squad. With injured forward Brett Connolly’s return on the horizon, bodies will be plentiful, as Neely has stated. Julien and Chiarelli will have tough decisions to make in regards to a roster layout. Spooner has earned his starting role, as Julien has proclaimed, and apparently is not going anywhere. If Boston reaches the playoffs, will Julien feel otherwise? Only time will tell.

    Boston’s chief priority, though, is currently reaching the playoffs.

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