Auston Matthews impressed with Frank Vatrano's game


Auston Matthews impressed with Frank Vatrano's game

BUFFALO – They spent just a couple of weeks together playing together at the IIHF World Championships in Russia last month, but that’s all the time that was needed for consensus No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews to come away impressed with Bruins sharpshooter Frank Vatrano.

The 18-year-old Matthews and the 22-year-old Vatrano played on the same forward line together intermittently for Team USA through the international tournament, and even teamed up on a couple of goals while helping lead a young, undermanned group of Americans to a fourth overall finish in the international tourney.

It was clearly a proper introduction to the NHL-level of professional hockey for Matthews after he played out this past year in Switzerland, and served as a nice showcase for Vatrano to show off his skills shooting the puck as one of the few dangerous offensive players on a largely youthful roster.  

“He’s a great player. He’s got a really good shot,” said an impressed Matthews, who is expected to hear the Maple Leafs call his name three weeks from now at the NHL Draft. “He was a great person too, and a really great teammate. I enjoyed playing with him. He sees the ice pretty well and can skate really fast too. I thought we matched up really well together.

“The World Championships were huge…going up against Canada, Russia, Finland. It was stacked up with a lot of really high quality NHL players, so [it’s good] when you can go up against those guys and really compete. I thought I held my own pretty well, so it definitely gave me a lot of confidence.”

Vatrano finished with three goals and eight points in 10 games, and Matthews led Team USA with six goals and nine points in the 10 games before dropping the Bronze Medal game to Team Russia. 

Joe Haggerty can be followed on Twitter @HacksWithHaggs.

Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

Banged-up Bruins lose two more -- Rick Nash, McQuaid

BOSTON – It’s another day and another injured player, or two, for the Boston Bruins.

Veteran right winger Rick Nash was a late scratch for the Bruins on Monday night against the Blue Jackets after getting banged up in last weekend’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid had to exit due to injury in the third period of Monday night’s 5-4 overtime loss at TD Garden.  

“[Nash] got hit in Tampa, so we thought he was fine. He had an upper-body injury,” said Bruce Cassidy. “This morning, pregame skate, we thought he’d be fine, and it turned out after pregame skate, early afternoon, he wasn’t. So, you know, we had to make a call for Anton Blidh.”

The Nash absence forced the Bruins to recall Blidh from Providence on emergency recall and plug him into the lineup not using him in the last couple of road games in Florida, and it also pushed 21-year-old rookie Ryan Donato into a top-6 role alongside David Krejci in his NHL debut. Clearly things worked out for Donato with a 1-goal, 3-point performance in his first NHL game, and that along with some quality organizational depth is helping them withstand some of the injuries.

McQuaid was held to just 10:42 of ice time that was the fewest among all Bruins D-men on Monday night, but it was unclear exactly what befell him on the ice injury-wise.  

It is getting a little ridiculous for a Bruins team that’s missing Patrice Bergeron (fractured right foot), Zdeno Chara (upper body), Jake DeBrusk (upper body), Charlie McAvoy (sprained left MCL), David Backes (right leg laceration) and now may have to go without Nash (upper body) and McQuaid (undisclosed) as well. Clearly it’s something the Bruins will have to play through for the time being while simply hoping that it all conveniently clears up ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“You know, you call a player up [from the AHL], right? We signed one out of college; that helped. So, that’s it. [The injuries] are uncontrollable to a certain extent. It’s kind of enough, now. I would agree. We’ve had our share, so let’s get these guys healthy and get ready to play,” said Cassidy. “I don’t know. You’ve got to play the game in front of you and you just hope the string of, kind of, tough luck, is over.

“That’s it. It’s a physical game. We’ve said all along, to have successful seasons, both regular and playoffs, you need a certain level of health. That’s what we’re hoping, that these guys come back, and that’s it. Until then, we plug the holes and play the game in front of you.”

Plugging those holes will continue to get more and more challenging if the Bruins keep losing players from their lineup on a nightly basis as they may have on Monday with both Nash and McQuaid now banged up as well.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Donato impresses in NHL debut

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Donato impresses in NHL debut

1:13 - Joe Haggerty joins from the TD Garden to discuss the non-call on Brad Marchand’s breakaway, Ryan Donato shining in his NHL debut, and when Patrice Bergeron could be returning.

6:16 - Gary Tanguay, Mike Giardi, and Trenni Kusnierek debate if the Patriots are starting to replace the talent they’ve lost this offseason as they have acquired Adrian Clayborn, Jeremy Hill, and Jason McCourty. 

11:01 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Boston Sports Tonight to talk about the Celtics continuing to struggle as the injuries have piled up.