Player of the week: February 16th-22nd
Before the five-game road trip started, Reilly Smith didn’t score a goal since January 29th against the New York Islanders where he also added two assists. In the six games in between, the 23 year-old had one assist and a minus-3 rating. To say he was struggling was an understatement.
What a difference a week can make. Even though the Bruins finished their road trip with a 1-2-2 record, Smith seemed to get back on track especially in his team’s 6-2 blowout win in Chicago at the United Center.
The right-winger finished the week with two goals, three assists and a plus-4 rating. He is now up to 32 points on the season in 59 games played.
Smith’s effort Sunday against the Blackhawks was evident. Right from the start alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, he was ready to play. This line caused problems for a talented Blackhawks team all day right from the very first puck drop. Smith put a great move on the Blackhawks defense, somehow keeping possession of the puck, where he then slid a back-handed no look pass to Bergeron in front of the net to give the Black and Gold a 1-0 lead where they never looked back.
Later in the second period with four seconds remaining, Smith welcomed backup goaltender Antti Raanta to the game with a blast top corner for his 12th goal of the season and a 6-1 B’s lead.
It seems since Smith was reunited with Bergeron and Marchand his confidence has grown. There were a few games last week where Smith couldn’t handle a pass or make a decent pass to a teammate’s stick. He was afraid to shoot too, but this road trip Smith was a different player.
Smith is a streaky player as we saw last year and countless times this season, but the second line winger is tied for third on the team in goals (12) and tied for fourth on the team in assists (20). It isn’t really saying that much due to the under performance of the entire B’s roster, but he is on pace to match his 51 points from a year ago or exceed it.
With an injury to David Krejci that could have him missing a chunk of time, it is up to more than Bergeron and Tuukka Rask to produce for Claude Julien. Marchand has some timely goals as well, but the likes of Milan Lucic, Carl Soderberg and Smith need to pick up the slack and fast. Even if Krejci returns, these three guys need to pick up the pace and start producing points instead of reiterating that the “effort was there.” It’s crunch time for the Black and Gold.
If Smith can build off his performance on this five-game road trip, it will be a big boost for the struggling B’s.