Bruins

Vatrano shows 'he wants to be in the lineup'

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Vatrano shows 'he wants to be in the lineup'

BOSTON – Frank Vatrano had been waiting and working all season for a chance at expanding his role. That finally arrived last weekend against the Maple Leafs.

The Bruins dropped a 4-1 decision to Toronto on Saturday night at TD Garden but it was arguably Vatrano’s best game of the season after replacing Jake DeBrusk in the lineup. Vatrano, 23, was given top-six minutes and power play time for the first time all season and he responded with Boston’s only goal and something much closer to the consistent 200-foot game that the Bruins want to see out of him.

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“He was good. [It was a] bounce-back game for him. He kind of showed us, and everyone, I assume, that he wants to be in the lineup every night,” said Bruce Cassidy of Vatrano, who has just the two goals in 12 games after a very sluggish start to the season. “He’s certainly a guy that’s had success in this league. We need him to play a certain way, and I thought he did [against the Leafs].

“He scores a goal we obviously needed him to, but he finished some checks, he blocked some shots. We want a 200-foot game, and if that’s what it entails from night to night, then that’s what we need out of him. He was definitely a positive.”

The goal arrived in the first period and kept the Bruins in the game. Vatrano also showed some nasty with a big early hit on Nikita Zaitsev that was one of the winger’s three hits and two blocked shots on the night. Clearly, Vatrano was fully engaged and pretty effective for the Black and Gold after being scratched on the Friday night loss in Toronto. He has two goals in his past three games played as the confidence begins to flow.

“When you’re getting shots and you’re getting points and goals, you obviously get a lot more confidence and there are some games this year where I thought I played a good solid game and I just wasn’t rewarded on the stat sheets,” said Vatrano. “So, hopefully, they start going in for me. When you score a goal you kinda get a little extra jump in your step. You try to have that extra jump all the time whether you’re scoring or not, but it’s obviously a little boost when you get a goal early.”

Now, the trick for Vatrano is to turn a couple of good games recently into a long stretch of steady production and consistent play that will keep him in the lineup. It could be a real factor for a Bruins team that needs some players up front to step up amid all the injuries. 

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.