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X-Factor: Bruins need Smith to regain scoring touch

by Adam Kimelman

When the Boston Bruins traded Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars in July, the headline piece coming back was forward Loui Eriksson.

However, the player who made the biggest impact was the one no one expected. And after an up-and-down 2013-14 season, the Bruins still aren't sure what they'll get from Reilly Smith in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But if the 23-year-old forward can deliver like he did early in the season, it would make the Bruins' quest to return to the Stanley Cup Final a bit easier.

Reilly Smith
Right Wing - BOS
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 51
SOG: 146 | +/-: 28

Smith had three goals in 40 games in parts of two seasons with the Stars, so his addition to the Bruins' opening-night roster was a bit of a surprise. He rewarded the team's faith with points in six of his first eight games and played well defensively on a checking line with Chris Kelly.

Not long after making his debut, Smith played himself into a second-line role alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. His defense didn't waver with the move, while his offensive game really took off in December; he had a two-goal game Dec. 14 against the Vancouver Canucks and had five goals and seven points in a three-game span.

"When you see a guy who's responsible in doing the little things right, you have confidence in him and you're not afraid to put him in those situations," Bruins coach Claude Julien told in January.

Smith played a big role in the Bruins' climb up the standings. However, things dried up offensively after he scored in three straight games in late January. In his final 29 regular-season games, he had two goals and 11 points. He saw his ice time dip and he was moved to the third line. However, Smith continued to play a strong defensive game; he was a plus-16 in those 29 games and finished the season plus-28.

While playing capably defensively is a plus, the Bruins would like to get some of the offense Smith supplied back into their game. Can he shoot his way out of his scoring slump? That was the suggestion of his older brother and upcoming playoff opponent, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.

"The biggest thing I told him was to keep shooting," Brendan Smith told the Boston Herald. "It's like a basketball player when he's shooting bricks. You keep shooting to get yourself out of it; that's how you get yourself out of it. If you stop shooting, it's never going to happen."

The Bruins are led by their top line of David Krejci, Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic, and Bergeron, Marchand and Eriksson all are capable scorers. But Smith finished with 20 goals and 51 points; he brings a different element to the Boston offense with his speed, creativity and what general manager Peter Chiarelli called his "silky smooth" hands.

If he can rediscover that offensive touch, the Bruins' deep, formidable group would be that much harder for any team to defend in the postseason.


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