Bruins

Heinen sends powerful reminder that he's a top Bruins prospect

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Heinen sends powerful reminder that he's a top Bruins prospect

BOSTON – Through very little fault of his own, Danton Heinen had fallen under the radar to start this season with heralded rookie forwards Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk getting most of the starry-eyed attention.

Heinen was in much the same position as Bjork and DeBrusk a year ago, but showed he wasn’t quite ready for prime time when he went scoreless in eight games after making the NHL club shortly after the conclusion of training camp. So perhaps some of the shine was off the 22-year-old coming into this season as Bjork and DeBrusk earned top-6 winger roles in training camp, and have already flashed some of their offensive potential in the first few weeks of the season. 

Credit Heinen for sticking with it and finally busting out for a two-goal game in the Bruins 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night at TD Garden, and showing he still rates highly on an impressive Bruins prospect list. The two scores were the first two goals of Heinen’s NHL career, and give him two goals and five points in four games this season after the former University of Denver standout had a strong road trip out West before getting sent back to the AHL. 

For him it was about showing the Bruins brass that he doesn’t want to go back to the minor league, and that he can adapt to whatever role he’s needed for in Boston. Mission accomplished thus far this season in two different stints with the Black and Gold. 

“I feel like I’m an offensive guy. I want to contribute. You see everyone scoring their first and you want to get your first as well. It felt like it was never coming, but I’m glad I got it out of the way,” said Heinen, who posted 14 goals and 44 points in 64 games for the P-Bruins before becoming a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring. “Every shift you just want to do everything you can. You don’t know how long you have up here, so you have to take it day-by-day and try to put your best foot forward every day and work as hard as you can. That’s just what I’m trying to do.”

Amazingly, Heinen did all of his damage in just 8:39 of ice time as Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy rode many of his veteran horses in the middle of a very slow stretch in the NHL schedule. On his first goal Heinen got a shot on the Bruins penalty kill, and turned that into a transition play with David Backes where he crashed the net and popped home the rebound of a Backes tester from inside the blue line. 

The Sharks scored in the second period to tie things up, but it was Heinen with another response just three minutes later after he was teamed up with Tim Schaller and Frank Vatrano in a young bottom-6 combination. Brandon Carlo fired a puck off the end boards that took a wild carom, and it was Heinen again crashing the net and stuffing a shot inside the post before Martin Jones had a chance to cover the post. 

That was it for the scoring for both teams, so Heinen ended up powering the offense and providing the Bruins with a game-winning goal in the second period. Given that Heinen showed up in a big way while killing penalties and playing in a bottom-6 role, it was a big deal for the Bruins given the way other bottom-6 usual suspects like Frank Vatrano, Sean Kuraly and Matt Beleskey have struggled offensively to start this season. 

Heinen is showing the coaching staff a little something, and that is going to lead to more chances to push his way back into the Bruins top prospect echelon once again. 

“There are a lot of different guys that could move up [in the forward lineup]. To answer your question, he could, but we’re not displeased with the other wingers. It’s just nice to know that maybe he can move up and give us some quality minutes,” said Cassidy of Heinen, who now has 3 goals and 13 points in nine games between Boston and Providence this season. “It’s more in the defensive role with Danton – to be able to kill penalties and to trust him on the wall to get pucks out, to play the right way. That’s a big bonus for a young guy to be able to use him in any of those situations.

“He went down [to Providence] and worked hard at his game, got some more points, played well, and was solid. He’s kind of realizing his role and he’s accepting it and it hasn’t affected his offense, obviously. He’s not seeing the power play which – some young guys come up, that’s how they get going, they think that’s the only way to get their points, and a lot of times it is a big factor in that -- but he’s embraced the penalty kill. He’s embraced playing on a different type of line – a [Tim] Schaller, [Sean] Kuraly – those types of players that are more north-south than maybe a [David] Krejci and a Pasta [David Pastrnak], their line rush and drop. That is the biggest thing that I like about him because he’s learning how to be a good pro: Accept the role you’re given, dominate in it, see if it can grow from there. That’s where we’re at with him.”

Clearly it will be work in progress to see just how far Heinen can raise his profile given the other young guys ahead of him on the Bruins pecking order on wing right now. He could be a really intriguing third or fourth line option because of his playmaking, his hockey IQ and the skill level that can explode into viable offense wherever he’s at in the lineup. But the first order of business for Heinen is carving out a role at the NHL level for a Bruins team very open to the youth movement, and Thursday night’s impressive two-goal performance was a giant step in the right direction.

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.

Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

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Talking Points: DeBrusk provides energy in win

GOLD STAR: Jake DeBrusk gave the Bruins all kinds of energy out of the starting gate, and made a couple of plays that allowed his team to hold a lead despite getting outplayed in the opening 20 minutes. DeBrusk went hard to the net splitting a couple of San Jose defenders on the first goal, and fired a shot on net that created a rebound for Peter Cehlarik to cash in on. Then DeBrusk scored a little bit later on a rush where he beat Brent Burns in a foot race to a loose puck, then whistled a wrist shot past Aaron Dell for his fourth goal of the season. DeBrusk finished with a goal and two points along with a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net while falling just short of 16 minutes of ice time in the victory. It was a strong effort from DeBrusk shortly after being a healthy scratch, and showed what he’s capable of when he gets his skating legs going.

BLACK EYE: Brent Burns was a complete mess for the Sharks. He was burnt by Jake DeBrusk in each of the first two Bruins goals in the first period with the B’s rookie going right at him with the attack. He also didn’t make it to the net with 12 of the 16 shots that he attempted and Burns finished with seven giveaways as well. It’s been a rough follow-up season for Burns after last year’s Norris Trophy season where he’s tried to do too much for the Sharks, and his game has suffered as a result. That seemed to be the case for Burns against the Bruins as well where his mistakes played a big role in the Sharks dropping the game.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins won the game when they managed to survive an opening 20 minutes where they were outshot 17-5, and even better they had a 2-1 lead based on some offensive fireworks from Jake DeBrusk. They were also aided by a couple of video reviews where the Bruins took a San Jose goal off the board when it was ruled that a crashing Joonas Donskoi punched a puck into the net with his glove. The Peter Cehlarik goal was also upheld at the other end after a challenge from the San Jose bench. It looked like DeBrusk was tripped before he partially crashed into Aaron Dell that set up the Cehlarik goal, and that’s clearly how the referees saw it after reviewing the play.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s got to be Anton Khudobin, who stopped 36-of-37 shots and improved to 5-0-2 on the season with another strong win aided by a stalwart defensive effort in front of him. Khudobin now has 12 of the 20 points that the Bruins have amassed on the season, and he absolutely rewarded the B’s for opting to go with the Bruins backup for a second game in a row as they ride the hot goaltender. Khudobin was helped by a number of Bruins blocked shots in the third period when the game was still very tight, but it was also about Khudobin coming up with 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were getting outplayed by the Sharks.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of Bruins rookies that have scored their first NHL goals this season, including Peter Cehlarik finally getting his first NHL score Saturday night in his 14th career game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We need them. They’re in the lineup and they’re playing significant minutes. We need them to produce for us. Tonight we needed some offense early, and they provided it for us.” – Bruce Cassidy, on the role of the rookies in the win where it was all first-year players Peter Cehlarik, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen doing the scoring vs. San Jose.