Vatrano sits and waits for next chance to break season-long slump


Vatrano sits and waits for next chance to break season-long slump

BRIGHTON -- Frank Vatrano's been a healthy scratch for the Bruins in each of the last two games, a continuation of a season that clearly hasn't gone his way.

Vatrano appeared to be coming out of his offensive lull a couple of weeks ago with his best game of the season against the San Jose Sharks. But he went right back to being a non-factor in losses to Los Angeles and Columbus, and hasn't played since.


So now Vatrano sits and waits for another turn . . .  when -- and if -- it comes, considering he has zero points and a minus-2 rating in nine games with just 11 shots on net.

When it does, t’s likely to be in the same bottom-6 spot without power-play time. So Vatrano knows he needs to keep working and grinding to create his own offense with net drives and paying the price in front.

“I need to score goals. Make plays. Be hard on the puck,” said Vatrano. “The one thing I haven’t been doing is scoring goals, and that comes with more and more opportunity. I feel like I’ve been good getting in on the puck and being the best that I can defensively out there. [Scratching me] is obviously their decision and I’ll live with it. I’m a team guy and I want the team to win when I’m in the lineup, or when I’m out of the lineup.

“Everyone goes through it. For me it’s a little bit of a different situation and there’s a lot of young guys and stuff. Those guys are getting the opportunity and they’re doing well with it, so for me it’s just being ready when my name is called. Whether I’m in a fourth-line role or a third-line role with no power-play time while playing 10 minutes a night, you need to play the game that you know how to play. Obviously when you’re in a top-6 you’re out there to score goals and create opportunities for your teammates, and when you’re third or fourth line you’re in a bit of a different role.”

The hard truth is, Vatrano doesn’t have a goal in 25 straight regular-season games dating back to last season, and has just two points over that span. It’s becoming a legitimate question as to whether the 23-year-old is going to find his way out of the personal offensive struggles, or if some kind of change is going to be required for him to tap into the scoring potential he’s shown in the past.

In the meantime the Bruins will work with Vatrano and hope he can eventually work his way into giving them very much needed scoring punch from the bottom-6, and show he can turn his high-end shot-and-release into realized potential at the NHL level.


Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bean: Bruins created a monster that could end their season

It goes without saying that you should never let a team linger. The Bruins did that with the Maple Leafs, and here we are. Game 7 will be played on Wednesday. 

The longer a series goes, the more likely it becomes that one of many variables will work against you: The other goalie will get hot, one of your guys will get hurt or, most frustrating of all, you'll get unlucky. 

The Bruins let the series go longer than necessary with questionable coaching decisions and poor goaltending in Game 5. They lost that game. Now, they've created a monster: An inferior roster with a bad defense is about to knock them out of the playoffs if they aren't careful.  

MORE BRUINS: Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

Take the second period of Game 6. It was a complete reversal of fortune from Games 1 and 4. Whereas the Bruins were dominated in the second periods of those games but still emerged with a lead, they experienced the opposite Monday. 

The period, which the teams entered scoreless, started with three quick strikes, one from Boston and two from Toronto. The second Leafs goal, which came as a result of a poor clearing attempt from Charlie McAvoy, was overturned when it was determined that Zach Hyman interfered with Tuukka Rask.

From there, it was all Bruins. Were it not for strong goaltending from the either hot or freezing Frederik Andersen, they could have potted multiple goals. Instead, the game's next goal came when Brad Marchand couldn't clear a blocked point shot and Torey Krug left Mitch Marner all alone in the high slot. Marner pounced on the puck and backhanded it past a not-quick-enough Tuukka Rask to give the Leafs the lead. 

The Bruins nearly doubled up the Leafs in possession in that period. It was all Boston. But the other goalie was good and the B's were unlucky. That's hockey. It's just frustrating when "that's hockey" happens in a game that didn't need to be played. 

So now the Bruins face elimination. I don't expect them to lose, but they could. You never know. The variables, the "that's hockey" thing, etc. 

Bruce Cassidy has made non-injury related changes in each of the last two games. In Game 5, he changed his bottom two defensive pairs and changed his top pairing's deployment to disastrous results. Game 6 saw him scratch Danton Heinen in for of Tommy Wingels and demote Rick Nash to the third line. 

The new line of David Krejci between Jake DeBrusk and Wingels generated a goal, but the third line of Riley Nash between Rick Nash and David Backes once again yielded fruitless 5-on-5 play from Rick Nash.

Backes turned in his sixth even-strength disappearing act in as many games. Cassidy's next move should be to put Ryan Donato in the lineup.

The rookie was not impressive in his lone game this series (Game 2), but the Bruins need scoring.

Then again, Cassidy, like most coaches, is generally hesitant to give a young player the keys. He trusts what he knows. He also likely knows he's not getting enough from some of his regulars. 

There's little-to-no chance Cassidy would sit Nash or Backes unless they were hurt. Wingels is the most obvious candidate to come back out of the lineup since Boston's fourth line is too good to be disrupted. 

But this is not where the Bruins thought they would be. They didn't think that they, one of the three best teams in the NHL during the regular season, would be looking for answers entering the seventh game of the first round. 

But here they are. The Leafs, armed with a hot goaltender and the best hockey coach on the planet, are ready to complete an upset on Wednesday. It shouldn't happen, but a sixth game wasn't supposed to, either.


Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Bruins fail to finish off Leafs again, lose 3-1

TORONTO – Once again the Bergeron Line was held off the scoresheet and once again that meant a playoff loss for the Boston Bruins.

The top line had 23 shot attempts and a handful of scoring chances, but the Toronto defense and Freddie Andersen held them in check while the Leafs scored a goal with them on the ice in a 3-1 win in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre.

The Bruins have lost two straight chances to close Toronto out early in the best-of-seven series and now it will come down to a Game 7 on Wednesday night at TD Garden for the right to play Tampa Bay in the next round of the playoffs.

After a scoreless first period where the teams were feeling each other out, the offensive flurries kicked up in the second period for both hockey clubs. Jake DeBrusk scored his third goal of the postseason just over a minute into the period when he snapped home a shot from the high slot off an offensive zone face-off win from David Krejci. It was just the third even-strength goal for Krejci’s line in this entire series and one that was absolutely needed in this game.

Unfortunately, they weren’t joined by any of the other three forward lines on the score sheet.

Instead, the Leafs scored 35 seconds later to tie things up and immediately take the momentum back away from the Black and Gold. Nazem Kadri fired a long-range shot that Tuukka Rask kicked out for a rebound, and the puck went right to a wide open William Nylander in front for his first goal of the postseason.

It appeared that Toronto had scored again a short time later to take the lead on a Zach Hyman goal, but a good Bruins challenge overturned the score after it was determined Hyman interfered with Rask prior to scoring.

The score stayed deadlocked for most of the second period until a misstep by Boston’s top line opened up a chance that the Leafs stepped right into. Brad Marchand couldn’t corral a loose puck in the middle of the slot after a partially blocked shot, and instead Mitch Marner snatched it away and snapped a backhanded bid past Rask for the go-ahead score.