If there is one thing to look forward to in preseason action, it’s youngsters battling night in and night out to impress the decision makers in their organization. That was the case tonight with 21-year old Ryan Spooner, who had a goal and an assist against the Jets to help his Bruins squad squeak out a 3-2 overtime victory in Winnipeg. Loui Eriksson netted the game winner with a gorgeous kick-to-the-stick goal, and Niklas Svedberg made 26 saves to earn the win in the Boston net.
It looked like the Bruins may have an easy night early after Patrice Bergeron beat Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec just four minutes into the game off a nice feed from Brad Marchand, kicking off a span of dominant play that led to 14 first period shots from the black and gold. Bergeron nearly tallied his second goal of the period a few minutes later, hitting the post off a nice tic-tac-toe passing play from linemates Brad Marchand and Eriksson.
But a late Dougie Hamilton penalty allowed the Jets to draw even before the first intermission, with Devin Setoguchi burying the rebound of a Jacob Trouba shot to tie the game at one. The Jets would carry the momentum into the second period where they put 13 pucks on Svedberg, while the Bruins mustered just three of their own. Svedberg, also fighting for a roster spot as Tuukka Rask’s backup, made some spectacular saves to keep the game tied including an athletic post-to-post save on Evander Kane.
But continued pressure and yet another Bruins penalty led to the Jets temporarily grabbing the lead, with Mark Scheifele outskating all four Bruin penalty killers to a loose puck along the boards and then catching Svedberg snoozing by cutting to the front of the net and tucking in the go-ahead goal.
The goal seemed to wake up Boston however, and it was Spooner who took control and drew the B’s back even. Taking a pass from defenseman Matt Bartkowski, Spooner rolled out of the right corner towards the high slot and wristed a shot through a heavy screen that found its way past Pavelec. Matt Fraser, who took the hooking penalty that led to the Scheifele goal, had parked himself at the top of the Winnipeg crease and was able to distract the Jets goaltender enough for the shot to get through.
Pressing hard, the Bruins tallied 14 shots in the third with good net-front chances from Reilly Smith and Jordan Caron that didn’t find their way to the back of the net. The teams took to overtime, where Spooner and Eriksson worked their magic for the winner, finishing off a 2-on-1 rush.
The teams will meet again tomorrow night for both clubs’ preseason finale. Expect the Bruins lineup tomorrow to closely reflect their opening night squad, with Tuukka Rask expected to get the start.
Spoonman, Feel the Rhythm With Your Hands
Spooner, who has repeatedly found himself on the bubble of the Bruins roster, continues to make a strong case for sticking with the big boys. His speed and offensive skill were on full display tonight in 16:33 of ice, making a nice backhand pass to Eriksson on a 2-on-1 that led to the winning goal, and tallying the game tying goal on his own with a heads up shot through traffic. The B’s 2010 2nd round draft pick was one of the most noticeable players on the ice, creating offensive chances with the puck but also playing a responsible defensive game as well. He also led the Bruins at the faceoff dot winning 7 of 11 draws (64%).
As has been mentioned, the challenge for the Bruins will be finding a spot for the youngster. A natural center who clearly is most comfortable at that position, he finds himself behind four players that aren’t going anywhere unless it is due to injury (Bergeron, Krejci, Kelly, Campbell). Spooner has too much skill to be sitting in the press box almost every night, so it’s not likely the B’s will keep him as the 13th forward (coach Claude Julien has basically already shot that idea down as well). That basically leaves the option of moving him to the wing in favor of Reilly Smith, who it seems has the spot already locked up, or moving Kelly to the wing and slotting in Spooner at center in his place. Both of those choices seem unlikely, but Spooner has certain put forth his best effort to show he belongs. I for one am interested to see how this plays out.
So Sveddy In Here
With Spooner making his case up front, Niklas Svedberg was doing the same in the Boston net. He put forth a pretty good effort with 26 saves on 28 shots, including a couple of dandy saves while the Bruins were under siege in the second period. He did also let in a soft goal to Scheifele (though the rest of the team was equally as bad on the play) though, a result that left him clearly frustrated.
Even so, Svedberg has a postseason save percentage north of .940, an impressive feat for a ‘tender that has no previous NHL experience. Like Spooner though, the question of whether there is value in the 24 year old Swede playing once every 10 games or so is a good one. And as we touched on yesterday there would also be some cap considerations to keeping him, tacking on another $400k. One thing is for sure though, his performance this preseason will certainly leave the Bruins brass with a tough decision to make.
It’s Miller Time
Ok, maybe not. But I was impressed with Kevan Miller’s game tonight. The undrafted University of Vermont product has had a strong camp, evidenced tonight by a one shot, three hit, four block stat line in nearly 19 minutes of ice. He finished +2 as well. While I don’t expect him to steal a job from the likes of Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski, he’s another guy that could provide valuable depth as the season gets going.
So we have this to look forward to…