Boston Bruins Young Players Making Impact Felt


Dec 7, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) shoots the puck during the second period against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins Young Players Making Impact Felt

The Boston Bruins are leaning heavily on the emergence of their young players this season to fill holes left by the recent turnover of veteran players and also bring a little more speed and skill to the lineup as the B’s chart a new identity that melds the team’s traditional hard-edged game with pushing a faster pace on the ice sheets of the modern, high octane NHL.

The Bruins were pleased to see this on full display Friday night in a 6-2 win at Pittsburgh as 21-year old Frank Vatrano scored his first career hat trick, while his 23-year old center Ryan Spooner had the three primary helpers on the goals and tallied a career-high four assists.

“Those guys are doing a great job — that’s Spoons, that’s Vatrano, and all those young guys who are stepping in,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told the Bruins Blog.

Vatrano, known as a shooter, and the playmaker Spooner seem to be developing some good chemistry along with right wing Jimmy Hayes, who draws attention in front of the net and the corners with his 6’6”, 215-lb frame and added an assist on the night. The hat trick also broke a dry spell for Vatrano, who has continued to rack up shots with 48 over 17 games to go with five goals and an assist.

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“That’s just how goal scoring is sometimes — sometimes you’ll go 10 games without a goal, then they just come in bunches,” Vatrano said. “Everyone brought a full 60-minute effort and I think that’s what got us the win. I wanted to put the puck on net and that’s what I do, I shoot the puck, so my linemates did a really good job of getting me the puck. (Spooner) played awesome. He’s a really dynamic player. He plays hard and he makes things happen with the puck on his stick. He just makes plays, makes it easier on me, being a shooter, and also Jimmy works hard two ways, so having those guys and Spoons who can make plays like that happen, just makes the game a lot easier.”

Julien said Vatrano is a determined player. “He’s a young player that’s come a long way, so he just continues to get better all the time and that’s encouraging for us,” he said.

The left wing Vatrano, 5’9”, 201 lbs, told NESN that one of the keys to the line’s big game was keeping things simple and getting to the net. “In the past few games, we’ve been producing a good amount, and we always talk about spending a lot of time in the offensive zone instead of our D-zone,” he said. “The biggest thing with us is possessing the puck, and I think we did a good job of that, and I think we put more pucks on net than we usually do.”

Spooner’s 4-point night gave him 10 points in his last six games and 22 over 31 games this season, which surpassed his career-high of 18 in 29 games last year. Perhaps more importantly three of the assists came at even strength when the third line has been pushing to create more chances, and Spooner was also 50% on the faceoff dot to lift his percentage on the year to 41.2. He has been playing more aggressively of late, going to the front of the net and shooting more to complement his excellent passing skills, as well as digging pucks out of the walls and stretching the defense with his speed.

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But what may have earned Spooner, 5’10”, 181 lbs, the most praise Friday night was dropping the gloves for the first time in his career as he came to the defense of Dennis Seidenberg after a blind hit from Patric Hornqvist in the corner. Spooner immediately went after and grabbed the Pittsburgh forward, but Hornqvist declined to fight and Spooner ended up with a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty. His teammates and bench boss didn’t mind as they praised the effort to have one another’s backs.

“Everybody recognized who it was that dropped the gloves,” Julien told the Boston Globe. “I think he did a great thing and he showed his teammates that he’s going to be there for them. I didn’t mind that penalty, to be honest with you. I think the message that he sent to his team was much greater than the penalty itself.”

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  • “That’s something we’ve talked a lot about, and it’s not necessarily about fighting, but about standing up for one another, showing that we care,” Patrice Bergeron added. “That was a great example right there. It definitely sends the right message around the room, that he wants it and I think it’s great to see, especially from a young guy.”

    Spooner acknowledged it was the first time he dropped the mitts and said it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do since he still would have gotten an instigating call had the fight occurred. “I don’t know what got into me,” he said. “I just saw him get hit. I thought it was a charge, and just tried to stand up for him.”

    The Bruins have to be happy with the message that sent and the closer they continue to gel as a team with a lot of new faces. The steady progress of their young players at both forward and the blueline has been a key part of the Bruins reaching a surprising 18-9-4 record at this point in the year, and they also have the return of young, fast and skilled forward David Pastrnak to look forward to.

    “Our young guys are really stepping up,” Julien said in the Globe. “We asked them to do that a while back and make sure that they’re not just following in people’s footsteps, but they have their own identity and bringing their own, I guess, flavor to the game. They want to be contributors, not followers.”