Czarnik finishes AHL season with flourish, may be ready for B's


Czarnik finishes AHL season with flourish, may be ready for B's

PROVIDENCE – Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy predicted that Austin Czarnik would be the best player for the P-Bruins in last weekend’s elimination game. Cassidy proved to be exactly right when the young center scored a pair of scored one-timer goals. Unfortunately for the coach, Czarnik and the rest of the P-Bruins it wasn’t enough in a 5-4 double-overtime loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night that finished off a three game sweep in the best-of-five series.

But Cassidy was 100 percent correct on his young center, and that’s impressive in a game that had some pressure attached to it with Providence’s season on the line.

“He’s a very competitive guy and he’s got a lot of pride, and he showed it in his game [against the Penguins],” said Cassidy.

But the overall performance, and Cassidy’s expectation of what Czarnik would do in a high pressure situation, speak volumes of how close-to-ready the young pivot might be for NHL action. The 20 goals and 61 points scored during his first full AHL season would speak to that in a very big way, and he was easily Providence’s best player on the ice Saturday night.

Combine the 23-year-old’s season with the feistiness he shows as a 5-foot-9, 160-pound overachieving center, and Czarnik could wage a serious battle with incumbent Ryan Spooner for the third line center position at the NHL level. Czarnik could also make it a bit easier for Bruins GM Don Sweeney to include Spooner as part of the package in trade for much-needed defensemen help this summer.

While it’s nice to play with a healthy helping of heart and produce solid numbers at the AHL level, Czarnik knows he’ll need to prove it in Boston if he’s going to carve out any kind of NHL roster niche for himself.

“I just have to play smart on the bigger guys, wait for my time to attack,” said Czarnik. “When the time is right go in. I think I have to contain a lot and I think overall I think I developed a lot this year. It was a good year.”

The former Miami University standout has practice experience with the Bruins and was a standout at last fall’s training camp in Boston while never looking out of place. So that 2-goal beauty of a playoff performance on Saturday night could also be the last time he suits up in Providence with roster spots opening up for hungry, talented young players like Czarnik in Boston.

Bruins loss, no call in overtime spoil Donato's stellar debut

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Bruins loss, no call in overtime spoil Donato's stellar debut

GOLD STAR: Ryan Donato was great for the Bruins in his NHL debut. No two ways about it. He showed good hockey IQ, a willingness to work for pucks around the net and an absolute bazooka of a shot from the face-off dots that the Bruins can always use more of in their lineup. Donato scored his first NHL goal in the second period on of those aforementioned scorched shots from the circle after a give-and-go with Torey Krug, assisted on a pair of other scores including a game-tying, backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci for a third period score and finished with a team-high six shots on net in 19:40 of ice time. It remains to be seen if Donato can play at close to this level once the adrenaline wears off a little bit, but it looks like the Bruins might just have themselves another impact player. At worst they’ve got another young left wing with a lot of possibilities.  

BLACK EYE: It wasn’t a very good night for the Bruins fourth line after Bruce Cassidy had to bust up the usual combination, and Sean Kuraly certainly had his share of struggles through the evening. Kuraly finished with a couple of shots on net, a couple of hits and a minus-2 rating to go along with a 4-for-10 in the face-off circle as he continues to struggle on the draw this season. It’s pretty much impossible to go on points as a judgment for how well, or badly, Kuraly is playing, so it comes down to physicality, keeping the puck out of his own net and doing the little things like face-offs. For the entire new-look fourth line, it was a tough outing against a hard-nosed, blue collar Columbus team that isn’t going to give up an inch. 

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it came in overtime when Brad Marchand was freed up for a partial breakaway and swooped in with a clear shot at the net for the game-winner. Instead Pierre-Luc Dubois wrapped his arms around Marchand in a bear hug, and one of the league’s most dangerous offensive players wasn’t allowed to get a shot off in a clutch situation. Instead of being called a penalty shot or at least a minor penalty on Dubois, there was no call and a real stunning lack of consideration for one of the league’s best players. Do you think Sidney Crosby would have been handed a penalty shot in that situation? How about Alex Ovechkin? Yeah, Marchand’s numbers have been in that neighborhood for three years now, so maybe it’s about time he started getting some of those calls. That could have tipped the scales in favor of the Bruins, but instead the Blue Jackets weathered the storm and pulled it out in overtime. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Boone Jenner was pretty awesome for the Blue Jackets and deserves some credit for getting his game together after a slow start. Jenner finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-1 rating in 13:02 of ice time, and finished with four shots on net, a rugged five registered hits and a couple of blocked shots in addition to winning 6-of-10 face-offs. It was Jenner that jumped in front of the net and pushed home the first goal of the game for the Blue Jackets after Thomas Vanek turned a puck over from Brandon Carlo in the corner. That got the Columbus train rolling and it didn’t stop until they had the overtime game-winner against the Bruins. Jenner played a lead role in making all of that happen for his team. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 – the number of players that have scored their first NHL goal for the Bruins this season including Ryan Donato, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "During warm-ups, actually, I was kind of taken away. It kind of felt like a dream. I really didn’t even get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else & just the whole situation. It was an unbelievable experience and it was a blessing tonight." –Ryan Donato, talking about his first NHL game for the Bruins.


Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

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Donato has fantastic debut, but Bruins fall to Blue Jackets in OT

BOSTON – It wasn’t a winning debut for Bruins rookie Ryan Donato, but it was nonetheless extremely impressive. 

Cam Atkinson scored on a wrist shot in overtime to give the Blue Jackets a 5-4 overtime in on Monday night at TD Garden, but 21-year-old Donato finished with a goal and three points in an impressive, impact performance in his first NHL game after signing with the Black and Gold.

The Bruins looked a little shaky very early in the game as Brandon Carlo coughed up a puck in the D-zone that immediately turned into a Thomas Vanek-to-Boone Jenner strike for the Blue Jackets. But the Bruins responded in the second period with a first NHL goal from Ryan Donato, a bombed beauty from the right face-off dot after playing the give-and-go game with Torey Krug. 

It was the eighth Bruins player to score their first NHL goal for the Black and Gold this season in a youth movement that’s been as overwhelming as it’s been straight-up good. 

Brad Marchand followed less than two minutes later with a top shelf backhanded bullet off a drop pass from David Pastrnak for his 31st goal of the season, and the Bruins made it 3-1 on a Riley Nash power play strike assisted by Donato as well. 

The Blue Jackets got one right back with a Sonny Milano wide open score on the backdoor, and Thomas Vanek and Artemi Panarin both scored in the third period to give the Blue Jackets a short-lived lead. Once again the Bruins fought right back and this time it was Donato throwing a backhanded saucer pass to David Krejci all alone in front for his 17th goal of the season. 

That play capped off a three-point night for the 21-year-old Donato in his first NHL appearance, and really sets the stage for what could be an impactful late season addition to the Black and Gold’s roster. After a scoreless rest of the third period, the Bruins and Blue Jackets settled things in the extra session with Boston picking up another point in defeat.