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The Boston Bruins signing Craig Smith to a three-year, $9.3 million contract in NHL free agency before the season was one of the best value moves of the offseason.
It did take Smith a while to get going -- four goals in his first 26 games -- but he's been on absolute fire over the last month and the increased offensive production is giving Boston what it's desperately needed all season: Scoring depth.
We all know the B's can rely on their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Someone outside of this trio needs to provide consistent offensive output. Charlie Coyle hasn't scored in his last 20 games. David Krejci has three goals in 36 games. Nick Ritchie has 10 goals but only two in his last 19 games. Jake DeBrusk has been inconsistent as well.
Smith has carried the burden and then some.
Smith has scored in three of the last four games, and his point streak stands at five matchups. He has tallied 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in the last 13 games -- one of the best scoring stretches of his career.
The Bruins, during 5-on-5 play, have earned a plus-31 advantage in shot attempts, a plus-24 lead in shots on net, a plus-7 advantage in scoring chances and a plus-9 goal differential with Smith on the ice over that 13-game span.
He has tallied 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 39 games overall. His 1.68 assists per 60 minutes and 2.4 points per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action are both career highs.
Hall joined Smith on the B's second line alongside Krejci, and this trio had an excellent first game versus the Sabres. Krejci scored, Smith scored and picked up an assist. Hall had plenty of energy despite not playing for 10 days, and he led the team with size offensive zone entries. He should've been credited with an assist on Smith's goal.
"Taylor is a great player. I think he's world class," Smith said. "His ability to create, the way he shoots the puck and the way he sees the game -- he's been a player whenever I'm playing against him I'm watching him and seeing what he's doing. It was fun to get to play with him, and I'm sure over the next couple games we'll get to know each other a little bit better."
Scoring depth has hurt the Bruins in each of their last three playoff runs. And to the team's credit, it addressed this weakness at the trade deadline by acquiring Hall and fourth-line forward Curtis Lazar (who also had a nice debut Tuesday) from the Sabres, as well as defenseman Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators.
The goal for the rest of the regular season is building chemistry on these lines -- specifically the Hall, Krejci and Smith trio -- so the team is in the best shape possible entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Luckily for the Bruins, they have a pretty soft schedule over the next month, which will aid in the effort to find chemistry and confidence up front.