The deal was known by its shorthand: Tyler Seguin for Loui Eriksson.
But that wasn’t the entirety of it. There were three other players that came to Boston from Dallas (and two more that went to Dallas), in the July trade, one of whom has shown himself to be a better acquisition than many thought after the initial shock of the trade.
That, of course, would be Reilly Smith, who stands third on the list of Bruins points leaders behind the more familiar (and more expected) David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
“I didn’t know much about him before he got traded,” Krejci said. “I know he’s a great player. He’s still young, but he’s playing like a 10-year vet. It’s good to see him doing well —
That Smith has had as big of an impact as he has is a testament not only to the Bruins scouting — they liked him as far back as his college days at Miami of Ohio — but also to the growing chemistry with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly on the third line.
In the season’s first month, the line wasn’t able to play together on a regular basis, both because of a preseason ankle injury that kept Soderberg out for the first two weeks of the season and because of Brad Marchand’s struggles, which bumped Smith up to the second line.
But now the three are regular partners, and it has certainly benefited Smith. He has a career high in goals, scoring his fourth on Saturday against the Hurricanes. He now has 15 points, after registering 9 (three goals, six assists) in 37 games with the Stars last season, and he’s recorded 4 points in his last four games.
It was on that goal against the Hurricanes that Smith demonstrated his growing confidence. As Krejci did on his winner in overtime, Smith showed patience in waiting the extra second to position himself and put the puck where Carolina goalie Cam Ward couldn’t get it.
“Just little things like that where probably a few weeks or a month ago I probably wouldn’t have done that, I probably would have tried to get it on net right away,” Smith said.
“With every day, you build confidence.”
And it’s showing. But as coach Claude Julien pointed out, Smith is just 22 years old, with 40 games of NHL experience coming into this season.
“We’re talking about a young player here,” Julien said. “I keep saying it all the time, we always seem to overlook his age and he’s a young player. And the way I think he’s handled himself in pressure situations and handling the puck a little bit better and holding onto it.
“And at the same time, I thought [on Saturday] he shot the puck a little bit more; he had a little bit better of a nose for the net and before, 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.”
That, again, has been aided by the players by his side. As Smith said, “Every day gets a little bit easier. When you stay with the same linemates, for a few weeks or a month, every day gets easier, chemistry builds every day so just take it day by day but I think everything is going pretty well right now, just try to keep the ball rolling.”
This is what the Bruins hoped for, what they needed. It was in training camp that Julien said the plan was to create a third line much like the team had in its Stanley Cup year, with Kelly, Michael Ryder, and Rich Peverley providing scoring help and playing responsibly defensively.
The Bruins didn’t have that last season, and it hurt them. But the Soderberg-Kelly-Smith line seems capable of filling the role.
“Those new guys have stepped in, done a great job,” Julien said. “You look at Soderberg and Smith, what they’ve done for us this year in that third-line role where last year we were struggling to find a third line, so that’s been great.”
Part of that is learning each other’s game. Part of that is communication.
“He’s becoming a little bit more vocal, so I’m starting to hear it when I’m shooting instead of passing, he’s telling me about it,” Smith said of Soderberg.
Though, when asked what Soderberg says when he’s vocal, Smith said, “You can barely hear him, he whispers.”
But whispers or not, the third line’s game has been exactly what’s been required for the Bruins, especially with a dip in play of late from the first line, which had been carrying the team through the season’s first month.
“They just feel better more and more about playing together,” Julien said. “They’re reading off of each other extremely well; I said that earlier in an interview about how they’re just reading off each other, they’re anticipating, so they’re always on top of the puck.
“We still have some lines right now that are kind of waiting to see what the puck carrier is going to do with it and you hope that, with time, we can get that same level as that third line is right now of anticipating well.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.