Bruins

With Trent Frederic signed, Ryan Donato becomes next order of B's business

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With Trent Frederic signed, Ryan Donato becomes next order of B's business

RALEIGH, North Carolina – With the news that the Bruins have signed Wisconsin sophomore first round pick Trent Frederic to a three-year entry level, the next name on that docket will be that of Harvard University junior Ryan Donato.

The Crimson star has prolonged his NCAA career with a star performance in the ECAC quarterfinals scoring his third hat trick of the season, this one coming last weekend against Dartmouth in the clincher that punched Harvard’s ticket for the next round. Donato and Harvard will head to Lake Placid for this weekend’s ECAC semi-finals where the Crimson will take on Clarkson on Friday night, and are in territory where they need to win their own conference tournament in order to get into the NCAA’s Frozen Four tournament.

So Donato could be done with his college hockey season at any point this weekend, or another star turn by him could prolong his collegiate career by another week or two. The bottom line with Donato, however, is that it’s expected he is going to sign with the Bruins once Harvard’s season has finally concluded, and he will join Frederic in graduation from college prospect to bona fide professional hockey player.

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It’s been nothing short of an amazing season for Donato where he’s scored 26 goals in 28 games for the Crimson to go along with 41 points, and he was Team USA’s most dangerous offensive player during the Olympic tournament PyeongChang. He’s impressed everybody that’s watched him, and truth be told probably would have turned pro last spring if this season wasn’t a chance to A) play a year of college hockey with his younger brother Jack Donato and B) participate in the Olympics with the NHL skipping participation this time around.

Donato and Anders Bjork were head and shoulders better than everybody else at last summer’s Bruins Development Camp, and the 21-year-old has impressed current Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy when he’s worked with him in the past.

“He was a hungry guy around the net. He reminded me of the [Brad Marchand] types and the [John Tavares] types that want to get to the net and score, and will fight through with a dog-on-the-bone mentality to score goals,” said Bruce Cassidy of the B's second round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. “Watching him at the Olympics in the little bit that I saw, now he’s shooting the puck past the goalie. What I mean by that is that now he’s got a legit NHL release and shot.

“Now he scores around the net and from a bit of a distance, and that’s what you see with the goal-scoring part. At [development] there’s not a lot of scrimmaging, so what you don’t see is a lot of the small details where you have to go on hearsay. Then you’ll have the eye test eventually when he’s here. But he sure looks like he’s got the compete [level] to be a goal-scorer in professional hockey, and hope that plays out only time will well.”

So what happens when Donato signs with the Bruins, which is almost a foregone conclusion at this point?

It could go in one of a couple of different directions based on what Donato is open to: The 21-year-old could sign an ELC with the Bruins based on Boston burning the first year of his contract this spring, and that would mean he’d stick around with the NHL club. Any expectations from Bruins fans that Donato would make a big impact with the Bruins this spring, a la Charlie McAvoy last year, certainly looks to be a major leap of faith.  

The Bruins wouldn’t go out and sign a veteran player like Brian Gionta at the trade deadline if they had designs on Donato coming in and making a big impact this spring. Not to mention the Bruins already have strong-looking rookies in Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk in top-9 winger positions, and adding another rookie to that mix would be a bit too much young and experience in late season situations.

It could play out more like Torey Krug during the 2011-12 season when he signed and hung around with the NHL team, made a couple of cameo appearance for the Bruins at the end of the season and never really played otherwise for a team coming off a Stanley Cup-winning season. That would unfortunately mean Donato wouldn’t be eligible for the P-Bruins just as McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson weren’t at the end of last season after signing with the Bruins.

The other option for Donato would be simply going pro and reporting to Providence, enjoying the development time this spring while getting a head start on training camp next and season and serving as a possible Black Ace option for the Black and Gold should injuries really make them desperate for another body up front during this spring’s playoff run.

This would undoubtedly be the best for Donato’s development at this point in his career and the safest path for the Bruins to go with a young college hockey winger that may need some AHL development time just as Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork clearly did over the last couple of seasons. Either way it would be a tad overeager for anybody to look at a Donato signing in the next few weeks as something that’s going to have any kind of tangible impact on Boston’s future playoff run this spring.   

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Bruins rally in third period to beat Maple Leafs, advance in playoffs

Bruins rally in third period to beat Maple Leafs, advance in playoffs

BOSTON – The Bruins have shown resiliency, skill and a third period dominance all season long, and all three of those character traits came out for them in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. 

Jake DeBrusk scored two goals including the game-winner and the Bruins poured on the offense against Frederik Andersen with a 7-4 win over the Leafs at TD Garden to eliminate them from the best-of-seven series. 

It was a wild opening period with a pair of Patrick Marleau goals giving the Leafs an early lead. He scored one a tipped puck on the power play and then netted the second on a bullet from the right circle off a Torey Krug turnover that Tuukka Rask probably should have had. 

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The second Marleau goal arrived less than two minutes after Jake DeBrusk had scored on his own power play tip in front to get the Bruins on the board, and pull some of the momentum their way. The Bruins were far from done in the first period, however. 

Danton Heinen scored his first goal of the playoffs when he collected a Rick Nash dish from behind the net, spun around and fired a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Andersen for the game-tying goal. Then the Bruins really got it going when Patrice Bergeron also got into the playoff scoring act. The Bruins top center collected a wild bounce off the end boards from an errant Kevan Miller shot, and then stuffed it inside the post beating Andersen to the spot. 

Things tilted to the Leafs' favor in the second period as they scored two goals on six shots against Rask. The first was a Travis Dermott shot that beat Rask to the far corner, and the second was a Kasperi Kapanen shorthanded breakaway where he beat Brad Marchand to the puck before slowly curling a shot around the over-committing Rask. 

As they did all season, the Bruins saved some of their best stuff for the third period. Torey Krug tied things up just 1:10 into the third period with a long bomb from the high point during 4-on-4 play. Then DeBrusk was at it again on a bull rush down the right wing where he turned around Jake Gardiner, and then pushed a shot past Andersen for his second goal of the game. 

The Bruins added one for good measure later in the third as Bergeron outmuscled Nikita Zaitsev for a puck behind the Toronto net, and then fed David Pastrnak for his fifth goal of the postseason. Brad Marchand added the empty net goal in the closing minutes of the third period to give all three members of Boston’s top line goals in the big elimination game victory. 

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Charlie McAvoy admits 'it's been a battle' trying to find his game in playoffs

Charlie McAvoy admits 'it's been a battle' trying to find his game in playoffs

BRIGHTON, Mass – Clearly there are a couple of Bruins players in the first round series that aren’t quite playing like themselves. 

Patrice Bergeron is definitely one of them after returning from missing Game 4 with an upper body injury, and it would seem that the injury is still affecting him even though he’s still been a pretty decent version of himself. Another of those players is 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy, who simply isn’t the same player he was for long stretches of this regular season or last spring’s playoffs when he averaged 26 plus minutes per game for the Bruins. 

McAvoy has just a single assist along with a plus-2 rating and five shots on net in the six games against the Leafs, and it’s clear at times that he’s struggled to move the puck with the same confidence and assertiveness that he did during the regular season. The lethal first passes to kick start offense haven’t been there and the willingness to carry the puck on his own hasn’t been much of a factor either as he’s quickly getting the puck off his stick.

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That’s not like McAvoy at all, and his coach admitted as much on the day leading up to the winner-take-all Game 7.

“I can’t sit here and say physically that he’s impeded right now,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I believe that coming into a playoff series after having not played, you’re playing a little bit of catch-up and he’s still doing that. I don’t think he’s playing with as much confidence as he did last year, obviously, and we have to get him back to that place. He’s a young guy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but sometimes the best message for those young guys is to simplify it, make the easy play and don’t try to do too much.”

McAvoy has insisted, however, that there aren’t any health issues with his left knee after returning from the sprained MCL. Instead McAvoy said he couldn’t get up to speed in the handful of games he played after returning from injury, and the Stanley Cup playoffs is not one of those times when a rookie is going to be able to play catch-up. 

I feel good. That’s the thing. I feel good and I need to just continue to play simple hockey, get my feet moving and do the things that I can to help us come out on top. There are ups and downs, and I knew it was going to be like that coming back [from an injury]. There are times of frustration, and times where you want to make more of an impact. You want to make the plays you were making before you got hurt,” said McAvoy. “But there’s no sense in having that mindset. Medically I’m cleared and I’m good to go, and I want to impact this team. I want to do everything I can to help us win this [Game 7]. 

“This whole series I’ve been trying to play my best hockey and there have been ups and downs. There have been good moments and there’s been bad moments. I thought I was getting my legs going in [Game 6] and starting to move the puck well, and being more decisive. Those are the little things I do so well, but it’s been a battle trying to find my game after coming back and just getting a couple of regular season games. I know these guys have my back, they always do and they always will.”

If McAvoy is indeed healthy and simply looking to find the range with his confidence and puck-moving game, then tapping into it for a big Game 7 performance would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Black and Gold.

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