It’s becoming increasingly clear that even the Bruins might not have known how good a player Reilly Smith would become in their system. The 22-year-old winger set a new career-high when he backhanded his fourth goal of the season past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward in the second period, and was a vital contributor in Boston’s 3-2 overtime win over Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The play was a pretty good example of what Smith is bringing to the table for Boston: a player unafraid to drop himself into the thick of things allowed him to pick up the rebound of a Carl Soderberg shot from the slot as he moved across the slot area, and his skill took over as he elevated a backhanded bid for the goal. Smith waited for some shooting daylight to show itself while Chris Kelly engaged in the battle in front of the Carolina net, and didn’t miss with the backhand. Equal parts grit and skill have made Smith an excellent fit on a Bruins third line that’s helped carry the team over the last couple of weeks as the top six forwards have struggled to finish plays. Those recent streaks of production leave Smith third on the Bruins with 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists), and behind a couple of guys named Milan Lucic and David Krejci among offensive producers. “We’re talking about a young player here. I keep saying it all the time, we always seem to overlook his age, and he’s a young player,” said Claude Julien. “[I like] the way I think he’s handled himself in pressure situations, and handling the puck a little bit better while holding onto it. “At the same time, I thought tonight he shot the puck a little bit more; he had a little bit better of a nose for the net and looking to make plays versus shooting the puck. So he’s really turned a corner, and is really coming along well for a young player.” Smith now has four goals and 15 points in 23 games for the Bruins this season after managing just three goals and nine points in 37 games for the Dallas Stars last year.
Smith keeps improving on revamped third line
NBC Sports Boston | Nov 24