NEW YORK -- It was a bit of a surprise move when Claude Julien opted to take Frank Vatrano out of the lineup against the Rangers on Monday, and instead reinsert the slumping Brett Connolly after one game sitting up in the press box.
After all, the 21-year-old Vatrano had scored a goal in the road win over the Devils and fired off six shots on net in the first two games of the five game road trip for the Bruins. But it looked like Julien’s hunch was going to pay off when Connolly had a scoring chance in the second period that could have given the Bruins some breathing room.
Connolly had snagged a long rebound of a Zach Trotman point blast, and made a nice move to load for a wrist shot that beat a scrambling Henrik Lundqvist as he tried to get back into position. Instead Connolly’s snap shot dinged off the inside of the left post and bounced away from harm much to the dismay of the Bruins right winger.
He was so stunned he put his hands up to his head in a mixture of disbelief, exasperation and frustration while knowing that he’s got one goal in his last 30 games. That’s a stunning one goal scored in his last 83 shots at the net for a player that the Bruins gave up two second-round picks for at last spring’s NHL trade deadline.
It’s a drought that Connolly is keenly aware of, but one he’s trying not to let affect him negatively on the ice.
“It’s obviously frustrating the way it’s been going the last month in terms of scoring,” said Connolly. “But I’ve got to stick with it. It was the right move. It’s just one of those things where it hits the inside of the post. It went where I wanted it to, but it just doesn’t go in.
“It’s when I’m not getting chances, I guess, that is when I need to start worrying. It was a really good look, and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t go in. You’ve just got to stick with it. A lot of this game is mental. I thought our line was pretty solid tonight, and you just need to find a way to get chances and get goals. Right now it’s not happening for me, but if I get chances like that they’re going to go in sooner rather than later, I hope.”
His coach said there’s really no other choice than for Connolly to figure it out, and get some offense going for a player that’s more talented than the 11 goals and 29 points he’s on pace for this season.
“You’ve got to overcome that stuff. It’s as simple as that,” said Julien. “I thought he made a great move, and he made a great shot. It didn’t go in, but if you keep making those kinds of decisions, those kinds of moves…it will go in for you eventually.”
The question for Connolly and the Bruins is when that eventually is going to arrive, and how much longer the scuffling right wing is going to have to wait.