Vatrano looking to bounce back from a subpar training camp


Vatrano looking to bounce back from a subpar training camp

BOSTON, Mass – Frank Vatrano might have been the 14th and final forward to crack the NHL roster for the Bruins coming out of training camp after a so-so performance during the preseason. The 23-year-old is coming off a season where he posted 10 goals and 18 points in 44 games after coming back from a foot injury suffered right before training camp, and the hope was that Vatrano would be ready to make a giant leap this season. 

Instead Vatrano watched his game stall during training camp while getting reps on the third line, and virtually no power play time with the Bruins killing off a slew of the new enforcement penalties during the preseason games. The former UMass standout never got his offensive game going during the preseason, and quite honestly there isn’t much that stands out as an honest-to-goodness NHL tool if Vatrano isn’t working the lightning quick shot and release.

So the reports on Vatrano were mixed at the end of the preseason, and he likely would have been a healthy scratch if the Bruins were healthy up front. 

“We continue to look for it, so it’s certainly not where we want it to be,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Vatrano has improved his ability to bring his all-around ‘B’ game when the shots aren’t falling. “Frank is really good in a straight line and his stick is getting better on the fore-check. He’s getting to some loose pucks and he’s reloading better. What we need to build off that is when you’re getting to those loose pucks and turning them over, stay on the battle and let’s make something happen from them. 

“That’s an area where [Anders] Bjork has been good as a young kid, and Jake [DeBrusk] has been able to turn over some pucks. We want to build that into his game more where he values that part of the game where he can really make a difference because he can skate, and he’s a big enough guy that he can bump people around. That’s where we want to see improvement.”

Instead both Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are question marks for Thursday night’s opener against the Nashville Predators, and Vatrano might find himself in the opening night lineup on the third line with Sean Kuraly and Matt Beleskey. Either way Vatrano is just happy to still be up in Boston after a tough competition for a roster spot, and hopes to be able to show his offensive skills before it’s all said and done. 

“I’m happy to do whatever the team needs me to do and give it my best every time I’m out there,” said Vatrano. “I know during training camp a lot of players are getting looks in a lot of different spots, and that can be tough. Maybe that means you don’t always get put in the positions where you can show everything you can do. 

“You just need to be patient until you do get in those spots where you can succeed, and then make the most of it when you’re in there. I know I can finish plays with my shot on the power play when I get those chances, so it’s just a matter of just keep working hard and waiting for your time.”

The 18 goals and 29 points in 83 career NHL games speak to a player in Vatrano that’s shown some flashes at the NHL level, but one that’s also at a bit of a crossroads after parts of two seasons with the Black and Gold. This needs to be the season where Vatrano learns to lean in a bit more with assertive, aggressive play all over the ice, but does that while also putting together the kind of season that realizes his high-end offensive potential. 

Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open


Morning Skate: 'After Hours'? Injured Jagr is open

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering if it shouldn’t be more of an issue that potential Red Sox manager Alex Cora was good buddies with Dustin Pedroia when the two played together in Boston.

*Jaromir Jagr suffers a lower-body injury and then goes on Hockey Night in Canada’s “After Hours” program to show once again how wonderful it is to be “The Jagr.”

*The Ottawa Senators get Erik Karlsson back this week, but now they’ve lost power forward Bobby Ryan for a month with a broken finger.

*The Montreal Canadiens are getting exposed for the very flawed team that they are during a brutal start to the 2017-18 season.

*Keep an eye out on the Los Angeles Kings now that they’ve suffered an injury with Jeff Carter and do appear to be in the running for the playoffs this season.

*New Jersey Devils fans help a singer belt out the national anthem after there might have been a case of forgetting the words.

*Doug Gilmour might not have always enjoyed the prying eyes while playing in Toronto, a case that gives you an idea what it’s like to be a pro hockey player in a market like Toronto where everybody knows your name.

*For something completely different: There’s no doubting that Aaron Judge has brought life and energy back to the Yankees and that’s something that’s very good for baseball.


Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries


Brutal loss shows Bruins reaching their limit for injuries

BOSTON – It feels like the Bruins might finally be hitting their critical mass with all of the injuries in the first few weeks of the season.

The B’s were down Tuukka Rask, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and David Krejci as the new injuries Saturday night and clearly missed those players, along with the others currently out with injuries in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The Bruins had a three-goal lead in the second period and a two-goal lead in the third but frittered away both while allowing the hapless Sabres to outshoot them 21-6 in the third and overtime.


Anton Khudobin battled his rebound control for most of the game while facing 42 shots on net but it was the absence of Miller and McQuaid in the D-zone that made it a little too easy for Buffalo to push Boston when it mattered late.

Torey Krug was on the ice for the last three of Buffalo’s goals and was out penalty killing late in the third period in a spot where he would never have been in if the B’s were healthy on the back end.

“That’s where the appreciation comes in for the Kevan Miller’s and the Adam McQuaid’s of the world. They’re not always flashy, but in those instances, they’re money. They get it done. And that’s why they are paid to get it done,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So yes, we miss them. But, last week we missed other players. So the guys that are out there, it’s up to them to get it done, right?

“It didn’t happen tonight, and hopefully we learned from it and can be hungrier the next time. There’s not much else to analyze that. That was it. Someone had to play in that situation. We pick guys who we figure would get the job done, and it didn’t work out for us. Next time, we’ll keep working at it.”

As part of the injury factor, there are also players that are banged-up and back in who are also clearly not back to full strength. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) and David Backes (diverticulitis) are both back from their early-season issues and Krug continues to play with a healing fractured jaw, but all three key players combined for just a single assist and three shots on net in a game that featured nine goals.

Krug was the most noticeable weak link in the loss as he was overwhelmed in the D-zone on the game-tying goal when an Evander Kane shot bounced on him on its way into the goal. Krug was down on his stomach after losing his balance while battling in front of the net. Krug then was out for an extended period in OT before bumping a Sabres player around the crease who fell into Khudobin just as Ryan O’Reilly was pushing the game-winning goal past him.

Krug spoke on Saturday morning about feeling like things were starting to come together for him but he finished a minus-3 against the Sabres with his big, bad teammates out with injuries. He's a startling minus-8 after the first two weeks of the season.

“Obviously we have to do a better job tonight. Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We’ve got to be better,” said Krug. “I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side, and we just couldn’t overcome. That’s survival mode. “Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

It was also clearly about Khudobin, who had a big chance to put the Bruins team on his back with Rask out with a concussion. The Russian netminder made 37 saves and at times looked energetic and ready to battle between the pipes but at other times couldn’t make the clean save that the Bruins needed in order to get a whistle and calm things down. In OT, Khudobin couldn’t make a clean glove save on a Rasmus Ristolainen tester from the high slot that would have allowed the Bruins to get some tired players off the ice in the 3-on-3 OT.

Instead, Krug, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were out on the ice for 2 minutes, 15 seconds and eventually got beaten on O’Reilly’s play that took the puck straight to the Boston net. Cassidy called it an “erratic” night for Khudobin when they needed calmer, more poised play from their goaltender and that was clearly a reflection of the Black and Gold missing Rask.

“[Khudobin] was erratic. He battles. We love that about him. He battled to the end. [He] certainly made his share of saves. We need to be better in front of him,” said Cassidy. “But there were times that, there were fires that needed to be put out [on plays] that shouldn’t have been necessary. But that happens sometimes.

“[There were instances] in the third period, plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down. Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. They came out with it. And that’s what I said. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

Maybe things would have gone the Bruins way if they had more of their walking wounded back and contributing. Instead, it feels as if the B’s are being tested with new, damaging injuries with each passing day. A number of those had a direct impact on a brutal loss to the Sabres on Saturday night. One has to wonder if there are more of those coming until the Bruins can start stabilizing their medical situation.