- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- While Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has showcased his speed and playmaking ability since coming back up to Boston from Providence, let’s not put the kid in the hockey Hall of Fame just yet.
Some will focus only on the play he made to set up Johnny Boychuk’s goal at 4:55 of the third period during Boston’s 3-2 overtime win against the Nashville Predators Thursday night at TD Garden. Spooner’s speed and vision were impressive on that play and it helped the Bruins en route to victory, but he’s still learning that the defensive game is just as important at the NHL level.
Case in point: On Nashville’s first goal of the game, the Bruins were caught in a bad line change when the Predators created a quality scoring chance. Nashville’s Mike Fisher took the initial shot and Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg made the save, but Viktor Stalberg jumped all over the rebound and pumped it in to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.
Spooner should have picked up Stalberg on the play but he left him wide open.
“When you look at that first goal and that’s where you have to understand that he still has a lot to learn,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “And we’re not going to crucify him for doing something like that, but the thing is he’s got to keep working on his game because at this level every goal means a lot. But his speed, and his skill level, and we’ve got him on the power play. He’s a good playmaker, and that’s why he’s still here and why we like him.”
Since being recalled from Providence, Spooner is trying to make the most of this opportunity. He has six assists in the last six games, and overall has nine in 14 games for the Bruins. He’s only 21 and has the potential to earn significant playing time in the NHL. His confidence is growing, too.
“The first couple of games I was here I was kind of just not really making anything happen,” Spooner said. “But I feel like I’ve kind of went like this a little bit, kind of up and down, and I think if I can maintain creating chances and using my speed I think I’ll be fine,” he said.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand went through a similar development process earlier in his career, but he’s been impressed with Spooner’s play.
“He’s a phenomenal skater and he’s really shifty, very tough to hit, and he makes a lot of things happen because of that,” Marchand said.