Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 32 saves, barely missing a shutout, and Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal with a power play snipe almost halfway through the third period and his 21st goal would hold up as the game-winner after the Blues pulled to within one with just a minute and a half to play in the third on a extra-man tally that wrecked Rask’s shutout. But that ended up being the Blues’ only score of the game.
As important as the Bergeron goal was, and as huge as Rask played, it’s important to note the impact Ryan Spooner had on the game. He was good, very good in this one. And that is not something we are accustomed to saying about the twenty-six year old center turned winger.
Spooner recorded his 12th and 13th assists of the year to go with eight goals, good for 21 points in just 29 games played, his best points per game rate of his career. Spooner’s previous best came in the 2015-16 season when he notched 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists) in 80 games. However, he played those games under ex-head coach Claude Julien and Spooner was never used or deployed well under Julien.
Julien’s replacement, Bruce Cassidy is finding ways to get the best out of Ryan Spooner, and he is becoming a steady offensive force on the third-line right wing. Spooner is the fastest skater on the Bruins but not a defensive presence. Cassidy has stopped asking too much of Spooner on defense and is allowing him to play his game and make an impact. He can fly up ice and create scoring opportunities, that is his game, it always has been and probaly always will be. Asking Spooner to backcheck hard and get heavy on the puck is like asking stay-at-home defenseman Adam McQuaid to create more scoring chances and jump up on offense more frequently.
Cassidy deploys his players in a way that takes advantage of their strengths. He doesn’t try to fit square pegs into round, antiquated defensive systems. Ask the Montreal Canadiens how that is working for them.