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


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.

Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens


Bruins put finishing touches on reeling Canadiens

MONTREAL -- The Boston Bruins weren’t about to dance on any Montreal Canadiens’ graves after it was over and done with, but they effectively closed the door on any flickering playoff hopes for the Habs this week. It all ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre that finished off the sweep of all three meetings between the two arch-rivals over an eight day span, and with the reeling Montreal a stunning 13 points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.

It was a close game nearly all the way through in Montreal until David Pastrnak and Riley Nash scored in the final few minutes of the third period, but the Bruins outscored the Habs by an 11-5 margin while clearly establishing they were the better team in all three contests. It all makes sense given the opposite directions that the two hockey clubs are headed at this point in the season, and because of that the Bruins were playing it pretty cool after burying the Habs.

“It was kind of a crazy week because we were playing them three times, so we obviously wanted to play good hockey,” said Tuukka Rask, who won all three games vs. the Habs while improving his lifetime record vs. the Habs to 10-15-3 in the process. “[We wanted to] get as many points as possible, and won all of those games along with the one on Long Island. So it was a great week for us.”

Certainly it seemed like there was more genuine emotion from the Bruins in Claude Julien’s return to Boston midweek, and perhaps a little more adrenaline in last weekend’s first game at the Bell Centre where rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen were dipping their toes into the storied rivalry for the first time.

But on this Saturday night it was more about a complete dismantling of the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge even as the Bruins initially fell down by a goal after a bad McAvoy turnover. Instead it was Boston’s Perfection Line that went to work with an efficient, dominant performance as David Pastrnak scored the game’s first goal and insurance third goal in the third period. They also accounted for the game-winner when Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak hemmed Montreal’s fourth line in the defensive zone, and Torey Krug eventually stepped up and rifled one short side on Carey Price.

Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak combined for two goals, six assists and a plus-8 in the resounding victory over the Habs, and had a dominant 12 of Boston’s 31 shots on net when the final horn had sounded. They simply overwhelmed Montreal with their depth, the high end quality of their lineup and the fact that Boston was rested while the Habs had to play in Washington DC on Friday night in a three games in four days stretch.

All of that allowed the Bruins to drive the final nail into Montreal’s coffin when the game was over, and it furthermore allowed Boston to keep worrying about the teams they’re trying to catch (ahem . . . Tampa Bay Lightning) rather than Eastern Conference bottom-feeders like the Canadiens.

“We talked about doing the job against them and finding a ways to push teams down while gaining ground on the teams above us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “I thought it was a great effort again. We knew that they would be ready for us, but we also knew that they had played last night. So maybe if we had a good start we could jump on them. I thought we had a good game.”

Clearly there have been ebbs and flows to the Bruins/Habs rivalry over their long history together, and both Boston and Montreal have been in the catbird seat at different times even in the recent editions of their history. But right now Boston is beating the Canadiens badly at their own skill and speed game and dominating thing with pure hockey rather than bullying, and that’s got to sting for a Habs group that simply couldn’t compete with the Bruins in three different chances to do so this week. 


David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens


David Pastrnak dominates third straight win against Canadiens

GOLD STAR: David Pastrnak had been a little quiet offensively, but that all changed on Saturday night against Montreal. It was the 21-year-old that answered with a bad angle goal in the second period after Montreal had taken the first lead in the game, and it was Pastrnak again in the third period crashing the net and scoring his second goal to finally give Boston the breathing room that they needed. Pastrnak thoroughly dominated the game, scored two goals and three points along with a plus-3 rating, and led all players with a game-high eight shots on net while playing with energy and intensity in all three zones. It is nights like Saturday night in Montreal when you see just how good Pastrnak could still be a few years down the road.

BLACK EYE: Carey Price wasn’t terrible in the game, but he gave up the wrong goal at the wrong time to the Bruins in the second period. David Pastrnak surprised him with a bad angle shot by the goal line aimed at his skates, and Price couldn’t recover quickly enough to keep the puck from squirting into the net for the game-tying goal. Given how much better the Bruins are than the Canadiens this season, Price was going to be have to letter-perfect in order to beat the Black and Gold. Instead he gave up a bad goal just minutes after Montreal had finally scored, and completely sucked all of the momentum out of the Habs. A few minutes later Torey Krug beat Carey Price with a sniped shot for the go-ahead goal and that was it for the night. In all Price allowed three goals on 30 shots and had one of his weaker games against the Bruins in recent memory.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins appeared to score the insurance goal in the third period when Patrice Bergeron jumped on the rebound of a shot attempt where David Pastrnak’s stick had shattered on the initial shot. But a coach’s challenge ruled that the play was off-sides and the goal was overturned leaving it at a one-goal game in the third period. Montreal was given second life to scratch for one goal to at least push things in overtime, but instead that line was at it again and Pastrnak scored on a rebound in front directly from a Torey Krug point shot. That was the goal that officially broke Montreal’s spirit and allowed the Bruins to sweep all three games over the Habs in an eight day span.

HONORABLE MENTION: Torey Krug hasn’t exactly been a scoring machine lately, but he stepped up and had one of his best games against Montreal on Saturday. It was Krug that ended up with the game-winning goal on a sniper shot over Price’s shoulder in the second period when he jumped into the play with the Perfection Line dominating, and it was Krug that finished with a goal, three points and a plus-three rating in 17:24 of ice time. He finished with five shot attempts, a hit and a blocked shot as well, and was truly making things happen offensively as he did with a point shot in the third period that turned into a Pastrnak rebound goal for the insurance marker.

BY THE NUMBERS: 25 – the number of goals for the Perfection Line (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak) over the 16-game point streak that the Bruins have been riding on for over a month.

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I think at the end of the day if I knew that I would have to face them now, I probably would’ve kept them separate for all those years.” –A joking Claude Julien when asked postgame what it feels like to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand doing so much damage against his new team during the three games played in eight days.