BRIGHTON, Mass – It certainly isn’t as simple as “cause and hockey effect”, but there’s no denying that the Bruins’ much-maligned offense has taken a tick upward since 22-year-old Frank Vatrano rejoined the lineup.
Vatrano missed the first 34 games of the season while coming back from left foot surgery, but has hit the ground running after just a couple of AHL warm-up games. Vatrano has two goals and four points along with a plus-3 in his first five games in Boston this season while averaging a 14:06 of ice time in the handful of NHL games. Meanwhile the Bruins offense has scored power play goals in four of those five games, and have averaged three goals per game over that span after spending most of the first three months scoring less than that nightly.
So things are going pretty well for the kid from East Longmeadow, who scored just 1:28 into Saturday afternoon’s win over Buffalo to get the Bruins the good start they’d been looking for over the last couple of weeks. It was also Vatrano’s first goal ever scored on the TD Garden ice after logging 39 games with the Bruins last season, so it was also kind of special to him.
“Being from [Massachusetts], obviously everyone’s dream growing up is to score in the Garden. For me, it was pretty cool to be able to do that and it was even better that we got a win out of it,” said Vatrano, who scored 44 goals between Boston and Providence last season. “I knew I was going to get there eventually, I just had to be patient and I wanted to be ready when I stepped [back] in the lineup. They knew when I was ready so I stepped right in. Obviously [the foot injury] was frustrating, but I’m glad to be back now with the guys.”
Vatrano was penciled in for a top-6 wing role alongside David Krejci prior to his injury just ahead of training camp, and the Bruins had high hopes for him playing a finisher’s role on a hockey club with plenty of playmaker-type talents. Now he’s delivering for the Black and Gold a few months after first anticipated while showing off the shot and release of a natural born goal-scorer.
“He’s got a good shot, and he’s not afraid to shoot,” said B’s forward and fellow New England native Tim Schaller. “Skilled players in this league might try to make an extra pass here and there, but he’s got the mindset…he’s going to put the puck in the back of the net. He’s worked on his shot a lot and it’s showing.”
Both Vatrano and the Bruins have to hope his scoring and high-end production continues for both player and the team. If it does then the Bruins have found one of the offensive answers they were looking over the first three months of the season, and they uncovered it in a player from their own backyard.