BRIGHTON, Mass – In a season where it hasn’t been easy to get acclimated to new surroundings, it sure feels like Boston Bruins winger Craig Smith has found himself increasingly comfortable in Black and Gold. Smith had a stretch in February and March where he had one point in 10 games while he was bouncing around between the top three forward lines, but he began finding the offensive range in the middle of last month.
A portion of Smith’s offensive outburst coincided with him getting the plum right wing spot on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but it’s been about Smith’s skating speed, tenacity on the puck and willingness to shoot turning into consistent offense. With the newly configured lines post-trade deadline, Smith found himself on the right wing with Taylor Hall and David Krejci in a line that could be a real difference-maker in the playoffs for a Bruins team yearning for scoring depth.
Finding some comfortable homes within the B’s forward group has definitely played into Smith’s growing success story in Boston. But, of course, it’s also been about Smith growing into being, and feeling like, a Boston Bruin after an entire NHL career previously with the Nashville Predators.
“Playing for the Boston Bruins is a pretty cool thing,” said Smith, who has nine goals and 24 points in 39 games this season and would be on pace for 20 goals and 50 points over the course of an 82-game campaign. “We play so many games here coming up. You just kind of stay even-keeled, get back to work and then put points on the board is huge for us.”
Smith has three goals and 10 points along with a plus-5 rating in eight games during the month of April and has piled up five goals and 15 points in 13 games since the middle of March.
Smith’s 1.68 assists per 60 minutes and 2.4 points per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action are both career highs for the veteran winger after being a mainstay on the third line for the Preds.
It’s pretty much exactly what the Boston Bruins planned on getting when they signed Smith to a three-year, $9 million contract in the offseason, so it’s been rewarding for the club to see it all play out that way when free agent contracts can often be such a crapshoot.
That’s even more the case this season with COVID protocols making it very challenging for new players joining new teams, as Smith was doing at the start of this season.
“It’s tougher in COVID times this season for a team to get together, and that’s where I feel for a guy like Smith coming in [new] this year. [You] don’t get to know the guys as well,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Maybe some of the younger players the [young] goaltenders too. Our group likes to get together as a group with the kids, the wives and dinners on the road, and it’s just been a little bit harder [this season].
“These guys [in the B’s leadership group] are high-end talents, but they’re even better people when it comes to questions about getting around the city, things to do or even how your game is going. They’re pretty receptive to that. I think they’ll make all [the new guys] feel right at home. I think we’ve all seen the benefits of that with Craig Smith in the last 2 or 3 weeks. [Smith] had been in Nashville his whole career and then he didn’t get that opportunity to [bond with his new teammates] because of COVID. So, I think it just takes a little time.”
Whatever time it took, it’s pretty clear that Smith is finding his comfort zone and settling into a pretty cool Superman-type celebration after scoring big goals recently.
me after carrying in five grocery bags AT THE SAME TIME pic.twitter.com/ecXsy6hTay
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
Now it’s a matter of seeing what the 31-year-old can do down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup playoffs as the kind of key depth player that could be a difference-maker in a playoff series.