Frank Vatrano

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. 

Vatrano, DeBrusk end goal-scoring droughts

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Vatrano, DeBrusk end goal-scoring droughts

BOSTON – On a night when the Bruins needed more from players that hadn’t been providing it lately, a couple of them came through early in a big way.

Both Jake DeBrusk (eight games) and Frank Vatrano (25 games, that dated back to last season) ended long goal-scoring droughts in the 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. 

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With DeBrusk it was a nice play where he attacked with speed, separated Jarred Spurgeon from a puck close to the Minnesota net and then banked a puck off Ryan Suter in front on its way past Devan Dubnyk in the wild net. It was part of four shots on net and a couple of hits for DeBrusk in 16:29 and a nice little carrot for the youngster after putting in a lot of hard work in between scoring his second and third goals of the season.

It certainly looked at times like the left wing was left wide open by the Wild for Boston’s wingers to motor up and down making plays and that’s exactly what they did.

“It’s nice to see Jake [DeBrusk] get rewarded, even though it was a bit of a lucky goal. We talk about his foot speed, getting his legs underneath him, he’s attacking, winning pucks and if you get towards the net you’re going to get some of those breaks so good for him,” said Bruce Cassidy of his rookie winger. “I think we’ve wanted to play that way. I think in training camp you start to see some of it when Jake [DeBrusk] was there, he can motor. Frank [Vatrano] can go in straight lines. I think it just worked out that we’re able to hunt down pucks.

“I talked about our breakouts earlier. We want to be low support in our zone, not getting out of there too soon. I think earlier in the year we talked about some of those high flips, skating on to them, so we’ve balanced that better now. Being in our zone when it’s appropriate to support it low and then get it going when our defensemen have a chance to get it out. So that worked out well for us tonight and that’s all it was. Nothing to do with I think how Minnesota played, it was more about the personnel we have and the situations that have presented themselves.”

Similarly, Vatrano played with straight-line speed all night and snapped in a bit of a knuckling puck that was on edge from long distance and dinged off the post and then off Devan Dubnyk for his first goal of the season in his 10th game. The goal was coming off being a healthy scratch for each of the previous two games and the hope is that it can set off the 23-year-old that has the talent and shot/release to go on a bit of an offensive binge with a little more confidence.

“[Vatrano] had a lot of pep in his step. I mean, obviously, he’s got a lot of pride. He didn’t like being scratched from the lineup. I think the goal really helps him. He’s a goal scorer and it’s been a while so when you get a break like that and you shoot enough times, it got him excited to play the rest of the game,” said Cassidy. “He’s been working on that part of his game in fairness to him, being a complete player, and it’s a work in progress for a lot of guys, a lot of young guys. So we liked it. We need secondary scoring and he was able to provide some of that.”

The trick for both now is to get each of those revitalized players into a stretch where they can heat up offensively and help offset the Bruins missing three of their top six wingers with David Krejci, Brad Marchand and David Backes all out. 

Short-handed Bruins go all in in victory over Wild

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Short-handed Bruins go all in in victory over Wild

BOSTON -- Somehow the Bruins are managing to survive, and even thrive at times, despite an injury list that keeps growing with each passing day.

The shorthanded B's banked two more points in their 5-3 win over the equally banged-up Minnesota Wild on Monday night at TD Garden, and have now taken points in seven of their last eight games. Some of it is about fill-ins stepping up and getting the job done, some of it is about the youth movement coming through intermittently, some of it is about Boston's core group pulling the rest of the team along, and some of it is about a team displaying a ton of heart and character.

The Bruins showed all of those things after initially falling behind Minnesota by a goal in the first period, and they displayed those enviable qualities in battling back from deficits against both Columbus and Washington over the last week, as well. Habitually falling behind isn't a recipe for success, but the Bruins will take whatever they can get with a bare-bones roster that looks more like an AHL team.

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Clearly it's a small sample size of games with the season barely a month old, but the Bruins refusing to throw in the towel is becoming a trend.

"You're starting to see that personality of our hockey club that we are not going to be an easy out," said coach Bruce Cassidy. "We are going to keep ourselves in games, and work hard to get back in games. Some nights it's going to work out, and some nights it's not. That would be a great personality to have on the team. It just shows the character of the group."

It's interesting to note the Bruins lost Saturday when David Pastrnak accounted for all of Boston's, but won Monday with five different goal-scorers. Certainly they'll count on Jake DeBrusk, who opened Boston's barrage with his third goal of the season, but it was all secondary offense after that, with Frank Vatrano, Sean Kuraly, Torey Krug and Tim Schaller doing the rest of the goal-scoring.

The Bruins were rewarded with the first two assists of Jordan Szwarz's NHL career, and they got hardnosed, physical play from guys like Matt Beleskey, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara against Minnesota after getting pushed around by Washington last weekend.

It's exactly the kind of diversified scoring and offense that Boston is going to need while missing three of its top six forwards (David Krejci, David Backes and Brad Marchand). The trick will be duplicating it through the month of November, with 8 of their 12 opponents having made the playoffs last season. That doesn't leave a lot of room for error while waiting for reinforcements over the next few weeks, but that's the Bruins' lot whether they like it or not.

"We prepare for the games," said Chara. "It's just happens that we are missing some guys. But we can't be feeling sorry for ourselves. We accepted a few days ago that everything is going to be battling, or facing some kind of challenge with injuries, missing players. But like I said earlier, I think it's a great chance for our players to step up, and they did. They played really well. We had a really good team effort. That's important that you don't always rely on the same guy. It's other guys stepping up and making big contributions."

It's a time-honored hockey platitude that injuries are simply an opportunity for somebody else to step up. Normally it's a hackneyed cliché, but stepping up is exactly what's happening as the Bruins have posted a 6-4-3 record in their first 13 games without even once boasting their full lineup. Undoubtedly there's room for improvement -- and it will be a much different story when they finally get healthy -- but for now they're hoping for a steady stream of grind-it-out games just like Monday's all-in win over the Wild.

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