Bruins

Vatrano looking to bounce back from a subpar training camp

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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. 

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

GOLD STAR: It had to feel good for Ryan Spooner. The speedy forward played a great game, finished with the game-winning goal in Claude Julien’s return to Boston and had both four shots on net and four registered hits in 16:07 of ice time. His goal was a level of grit and buy-in that he didn’t always have when Julien was the coach, but it’s one that he’s found more and more since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the B’s bench. Spooner drove the puck straight toward the net, and attempted to throw a pass backdoor to Matt Grzelcyk. But instead the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and ended up in the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. For a player that long struggled under the watchful eye of Julien, Spooner’s night continued a stretch of very strong play since coming back from injury. 

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Drouin was supposed to be a game-changing center for the Canadiens after being moved from Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t even been close to that, or actually being a center, for the Habs this year. Drouin really didn’t bring much of anything on Wednesday night with a couple of shots on net, a giveaway and a 1-for-9 on the draw in his 17:04 of ice time. He was like so many of the other players on the Montreal roster that didn’t show up with their best in a rivalry game between the Bruins and the Habs. Even worse than that they didn’t show up in a game they desperately needed to win if they wanted to stay relevant in the playoff race. With the minus game again on Wednesday, Drouin is also now a minus-20 on the season in what’s been a truly disappointing year. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins bounced back strongly after giving up a goal on the first shift of the game, and really took things over after the fortunate bounce for Jakub Jerabek got the Habs on the board early. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens by a 25-13 margin in the first two periods, dominated play and posted a goal in each of the first two periods to get the B’s on the board. From that point on it was smooth sailing and Boston only needed to collect a couple of insurance goals in the third period to truly seal Montreal’s fate. What was surprising was that the Habs showed little fight or pride while slowly sinking into the mud during the game, and never ever provided any real challenge to the Bruins in a game that was still separated by just a single goal until later in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci had one of his better games for the Bruins with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 15:58 of ice time. It was an empty net goal that rounded out the scoring in the third period, and he finished with four shot attempts, a takeaway and 16-of-20 face-off wins in 15:58 of ice time. In general the Bruins frontline centers absolutely and thoroughly dominated Montreal’s poor excuse for players down the middle of their lineup, and Krejci was a big part of that in helping set up Spooner’s game-winner as well. Krejci was also a player that had his differences of opinion with Julien when he was coaching the Bruins, so the big game for him on Wednesday night also must have felt pretty cathartic when it was all said and done.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of games for Tuukka Rask’s current point streak where he’s put together a 13-0-2 record that dates back to his four game benching in the middle of November. He finished with a solid night’s work of 21 saves in the win over the Habs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We laid an egg.” –Claude Julien said that phrase in both French and English to discuss a truly pathetic performance for his Canadiens team in what should have been an intense Bruins/Habs rivalry game on national television. 

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Bruins spoil Julien's return to Boston with victory over Canadiens, 4-1

Bruins spoil Julien's return to Boston with victory over Canadiens, 4-1

BOSTON – It was a nice night for Claude Julien in his return to Boston with a well-done video montage and a warm ovation from the still-appreciative Bruins fans. But that’s where it ended for the Habs coach as his hockey club pretty much no-showed for the game and rolled over in a 4-1 win for the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday night. 

The Canadiens scored the game’s first goal just 31 seconds into the game when a Jakub Jerabek perimeter shot bounced off Zdeno Chara in front and skipped past Tuukka Rask. But it was all Black and Gold after that with David Pastrnak tying things up six minutes later, and the Bruins outshooting the Habs by a 13-7 margin in the second period while extending their lead. 

This time it was Ryan Spooner taking the puck to the net and watching as his centering pass attempt bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and into the net. It was three goals in his last four games for Spooner, who had to feel a pretty big sense of satisfaction at netting the game-winner against a coach he clearly didn’t see eye-to-eye with early in his B’s career. 

Brad Marchand added a necessary power play strike in the third period to give Boston the insurance marker that they needed, but it didn’t really matter against a Canadiens team that was pretty lifeless for long stretches of the game. 

Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots and went into lockdown mode after the first goal allowed, but truth be told the Canadiens didn’t have much in the way of quality chances throughout the game. David Krejci added the empty net goal late in the third for icing on the cake in a pretty one-sided affair for a Boston/Montreal rivalry game. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE