Bruins

Early deficits are burying Bruins

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Early deficits are burying Bruins

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night at the Honda Center:

1) The Bruins can’t afford to be the comeback kids anymore
At least not until the cavalry arrives with some more reserves. The B’s have done a good job of battling to stay in games and have even engineered some pretty solid comebacks to salvage points along the way, but they are so undermanned and outgunned due to injuries that they can’t dig their way out of early deficits. They simply don’t have the offensive firepower five-on-five. They aren’t functioning normally on the power play with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner out and they are being forced to work extremely hard for any offense they’re getting. Playing from behind and chasing the game just exacerbates all of these things and creates a pattern where the B’s are constantly climbing uphill. So, the Bruins allowing the first goal in 11 of their 17 games isn’t a good sign for a team that’s having trouble finishing plays and ideally employs a style where they’re playing with a lead. Instead, there are too many games such as  Wednesday night where it feels like a Herculean effort to just to get things back to even and every little mistake turns into a death sentence. 

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2) The Bruins can’t afford mental mistakes and focus problems from veterans
They certainly can’t survive them. Zdeno Chara has been very good this season and he’s had to be, given how many bodies the Bruins are missing. Wednesday night was one of the bad nights for the 40-year-old captain. To make matters worse on a night where he was a minus-3 overall, Chara had an uncharacteristic mental error at the worst possible time when he stopped playing to protest a call after he was getting a delayed penalty call on a Corey Perry drive to the net. Chara broke it up but was going to get called for a stick infraction, but instead, he lost focus to look at the ref for an instant and exactly at that time Josh Manson fired a puck off his skate directly in front of the net. That was Anaheim’s go-ahead goal after the Bruins had worked hard to tie it and the B’s started losing control of the game at that point. So, on the first night of a back-to-back on the West Coast, the Bruins played Chara a whopping 25:33 of ice time for a minus-3 performance where he clearly wasn’t at his best. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of hope that it’s going to be any better on Thursday night in Los Angeles. That doesn’t bode well for a Bruins team struggling to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot.

3) Danton Heinen should be in Boston to stay
He’s still not exactly what he’s going to be when he’s fully developed as a player, but the crafty, skilled winger knows how to make plays in the NHL no matter who he’s playing with. Even better, he’s also showing some of the grit and battle that even skill players are going to need in order to create offense. On the goal he scored, Heinen won a couple of battles to extend the possession of the puck in the offensive zone and then took it straight to the middle of the net. Heinen waited out John Gibson, then lifted a backhanded bid after the Anaheim goalie impatiently dropped to the ice. Heinen, 22, is sixth on the Bruins in points (eight) despite starting the season in Providence and is showing the kind of talent that made him a top prospect coming out of the University of Denver. Heinen is on pace for 18 goals and 48 points and those are the kind of numbers they would gladly take from a young player in their time of need. Now, the Bruins just need Heinen to get even more dominant in terms of getting the puck on his stick and making things happen offensively.

PLUS
*Noel Acciari was a beast for the Bruins scoring a late goal, leading all players with 10 registered hits and blocking three shots despite having just returned from a broken finger.

*Heinen finished with the goal and three shot attempts in 14:26 of ice time and was one of the few Bruins players able to break through for some offense and create their own scoring chance that was a little closer to the net.

*Congrats to the Northeastern University hockey program for creating a pair of players, Kevin Roy and Josh Manson, who both scored for the Ducks. It was Roy’s first as an NHL player. For the Bruins, who covet American college hockey players, it had to burn them to watch the Ducks using that formula to beat them.

MINUS
*Zdeno Chara finished a minus-3 and had a distracted play in the second period where he was complaining about a penalty call, and allowed Manson to fire a puck off his skate when he stood right in front of the Boston net. It was not the B’s captain’s best night by a long stretch.

*Frank Vatrano finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and didn’t play with the same spirit, physicality and energy that he showed at home coming off being a healthy scratch. Vatrano needs to play every night the way he played last weekend at TD Garden against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

*Riley Nash had a fairly strong game, but he also had a pair of golden scoring chances where he was stopped by Gibson both tries including a double-stacked pad beauty in the second period and a clean breakaway in the third period. With so many players out, the Bruins need Nash to step up and finish some of those plays. 
 

Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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Bruins' Bjork out for season after undergoing shoulder surgery

TORONTO -- Anders Bjork's up-and-down rookie season has come to an end, as the Bruins' left wing underwent left shoulder surgery this week that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the next six months. 

Bjork was knocked out of a Jan. 30 loss to the Anaheim Ducks when Francois Beauchemin caught him with a cross-check to the left arm, but it’s unclear whether he was already playing through some level of shoulder injury prior to that collision. According to the B’s release, the 21-year-old winger “underwent successful left shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair on Tuesday” at Mass General Hospital. Bjork had been spotted around the Garden in recent weeks wearing his left arm in a sling, but it was difficult to guess the severity of the injury based on what looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill hit from Beauchemin. 

The injury and season-ending surgery ends a bit of a lost year for Bjork, who cracked the Opening Night roster and finished with 4r goals and 12 points in 30 games.

He showed the speed and skill required to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but also appeared to need more development time when it comes to battle level and adjusting to the physicality level in the pro game. The former Notre Dame star never seemed to fully bounce back from getting steamrolled in the neutral zone by Matt Martin in the middle of November, and ended up spending time in Providence as well prior to his season-ending injury. 

Bjork’s injury certainly doesn’t rule him out completely as a trade asset ahead of Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, but it probably makes him less attractive to NHL teams looking for young, NHL-ready talent that can step into their lineups right now. With Bjork headed for the long-term injured list and Frank Vatrano traded to the Florida Panthers for a third-round pick, that certainly opens the door for both a) a deal to bring on a veteran rental winger ahead of the trade deadline and B) a spot to be opened up in the Bruins organization for Ryan Donato when the Harvard University star, currently at the Olympics, is ready to sign.

Those are both very good things despite the downer news about Bjork, who watched fellow rookies Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen live up to the expectations many had for him.

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Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

Bruins trade Vatrano to Florida for third-round pick

TORONTO – The Bruins are making more moves well ahead of the Monday trade deadline as they shipped injured winger Frank Vatrano to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick. 

The trade somewhat eases a crowded roster, essentially gives the B’s a replacement for the third-rounder they sent to the New York Rangers for Nick Holden earlier this week and gives them a solid return on an undrafted college hockey free agent that had fallen a bit this season on the B’s organizational depth chart.

Vatrano had two goals and a minus-3 rating in 25 games with the Bruins this season, but had typically been either a healthy scratch or strictly a bottom-six winger when he had been in the lineup this season. Vatrano, the East Longmeadow, Mass., native who turns 24 next month, had fallen behind Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen on the depth chart as two of the aforementioned three had locked down top-nine roles.

In that respect, it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear Vatrano getting moved as he’d hit a wall in his development with the Bruins after scoring 20 goals in his first 108 career NHL games and lighting up the AHL as a goal-per-game player. Now, Vatrano will get a chance to rekindle that goal-scoring ability with the Panthers and prove that he’s more than the one-dimensional player he appeared to be in three seasons with the B’s.

There was some thinking Vatrano might have served as a trade asset to be utilized in one of the potential deals that the Bruins have cooking for a rental wingers Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash or Thomas Vanek. Instead, general manager Don Sweeney scoops up a solid draft pick asset for a player that was sitting on the bench for the Black and Gold. That's a solid piece of asset management in a trade deadline period that so far is going very well for the GM.

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