Bruins

Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

It would be easy to see Bruins prospect Ryan Donato as some kind of trade deadline secret weapon for the NHL club after watching his breakout two-goal effort against Slovakia in the Winter Olympics. Donato was the sole source of offense for Team USA in their 2-1 win over Slovakia on Thursday at the PyeongChang Games, and is expected to be one of the top players for a rag tag roster comprising college players, AHL veterans and a couple of NHL guys in Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski at the end of their respective pro hockey career roads. 

The first goal was a wrist shot sniped from the high slot after a clever, skilled play by fellow collegiate player Troy Terry to set him in the shooting area, and the game-winner was just pure skill and dangle curling to the net through defenders before beating the goalie down low. It’s more of what people around Harvard have seen out of a dominant Donato this season as he scored a whopping 21 goals in 23 games for the Harvard Crimson before leaving for South Korea. 

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Certainly it would appear that no matter what happens the Bruins crushed their 2014 Draft, the first one run by current Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Keith Gretzky, with David Pastrnak, Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork as their first four picks. There’s also plenty of speculation that the 21-year-old Donato is going to sign with the Bruins after the Olympics, with the only thing in question whether or not he’s going to finish out the season at Harvard University before going pro. 

That situation probably has many old school Bruins fans thinking back to Bobby Joyce and Craig Janney jumping straight from college to the NHL to make an impact on Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988. But this isn’t 1988, and this Bruins team isn’t the veteran-laden group in need of a youth injection that iteration of the B’s hockey club was 30 years ago.

The one thing the Bruins really don’t need any more of: Inexperience and youth on the wing where the Bruins already have Jake DeBrusk and the aforementioned Heinen in key top-9 roles. They have been a giant part of Boston’s success and are enjoying great success as first year players, but the Bruins also need to vary things up a little at some point. 

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With Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Ryan Spooner and Heinen as five of their top six wingers, they are skilled and fast to be sure with plenty of offense getting generated. But they’re also very small and not particularly strong at the point of attack outside of 33-year-old David Backes, and could really use a bigger, stronger veteran forward with some scoring touch if they were to upgrade up front. 

This is why the Bruins are closely watching players like Rick Nash, Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner among others because they fit the exact need at the NHL level when considering a current group that has Boston competing for the President’s Trophy. 

This isn’t something Donato can be for the Black and Gold no matter how well he plays in the Olympics, and the simple truth is the talented 21-year-old is probably going to need the same AHL development that fellow NCAA guys in Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Bjork all required.

Expecting Donato to be able to jump from college to the NHL and make a big impact a la Charlie McAvoy last spring simply isn’t realistic, and that’s not certainly not something the Bruins are banking on headed into the Feb. 26 trade deadline. It should be good enough that the 6-foot-1, 181-pound Donato looks like another legit forward prospect for the Bruins, and could perhaps make it a little bit easier to part with a talented young forward like Bjork as a trade chip if the right deal comes along in the next couple of weeks. 

For now everybody should just enjoy the kid from Scituate, and son of longtime Bruins forward Ted Donato, as he does everybody proud wearing the Red, White and Blue in South Korea, and further cements himself as a future NHL prospect that will someday fit in well with the Youth Movement transpiring on Causeway Street.

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What we learned in Bruins' 5-1 win over Devils: Bruins' top line at its peak

What we learned in Bruins' 5-1 win over Devils: Bruins' top line at its peak

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

1) The Bruins have their chemistry back on the Perfection Line. Certainly, the two goals for Patrice Bergeron and the three-assist night for Brad Marchand would be proof positive of that, but it was the second-period goal where each of the three forwards touched the puck that really showed them back at full force. Patrice Bergeron won the offensive zone face-off and pushed the puck down low to Brad Marchand, who found David Pastrnak cutting right to the net for the tap-in goal that gave the B’s a 2-0 lead at the time. New Jersey would cut into that lead before the period was over, but three goals in the final period – including an empty netter for Bergeron – capped off a great night for Boston’s high-powered top line. It also included David Pastrnak’s first goal since returning from his thumb injury as well. In all the line totaled three goals, eight points and a plus-9 to go along with eight shots on net.

2) David Backes had himself a great night and really seems to have settled into a secondary contributing role with the playoffs around the corner. He was really good throughout the game with a team-high five shots on net and nine shot attempts overall, and was consistently putting pressure around the front of the New Jersey net. He was then rewarded with an empty net goal in the third period for his efforts and might even have an outside chance at 10 goals for the season if he goes on a hot streak at the end. As it is, Backes is at least showing that he’s going to be a factor at some points during the playoffs even if it’s not every night and that is exactly what the Black and Gold are looking for.

3) Three wins in a row and the Bruins have allowed just two goals in those three games while playing shutdown hockey against Columbus, the Islanders and New Jersey. Certainly, that’s not that much of a big deal against an Isles team that’s been dreadful offensively this season, but they still held them to just 13 shots on net for the game. That’s pretty darn impressive, and they allowed just 22 shots on net and no more than a couple of scoring chances to the Devils as well on Thursday night. Once again it was an airtight defensive effort with no Torey Krug and no Matt Grzelcyk in the lineup, and Connor Clifton once again played strong all-around hockey with a plus-3 in 18:50 of ice time to go along with three shot attempts and four registered hits for his efforts.

Plus

--Patrice Bergeron finished with a pair of goals, three points and a plus-4 and made a great play winning an offensive zone face-off that set up the game-winning goal in the second period.

--Three assists for Brad Marchand in the game, which puts him up to 90 points for the season and could make him the first 100-point player for the Bruins in a long time if he finishes with a flurry.

--David Pastrnak scored his first goal since coming back from his thumb injury, had five shot attempts and once again looks like he’s ready to return to form for the Black and Gold.

Minus

--Stefan Noesen had no shots on net and a minus-4 for the game. I’m not even mad. I’m just impressed by how bad he was.

--It looked like Sean Kuraly suffered an injury in the third period when he blocked a shot with his hand that immediately went the other way for a Danton Heinen breakaway goal. It would be a big blow to the B’s if Kuraly is gone for any period of time.

--Damon Severson was a minus-3 with four giveaways in 23:29 of ice time for the Devils, and was a mistake waiting to happen against a Bruins team that he’s had pretty tough luck against in the past.  

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Boston Sports Breakfast Pod: Bruins beat down Devils; what do Red Sox need to do to keep Mookie Betts?

Boston Sports Breakfast Pod: Bruins beat down Devils; what do Red Sox need to do to keep Mookie Betts?

Bruins roll through the swamps of Jersey; how do Sox keep Mookie? And, projecting the Pats roster. All on the Boston Sports Breakfast Podcast:

1:20 - The Bruins beat the Devils 5-1 on Thursday. Joe Haggerty breaks down the win and discusses Brad Marchand trashing him on Twitter.

5:50 - Mookie Betts says he doesn’t expect to sign an extension before becoming a free agent, what does this mean for the Red Sox? Lou Merloni gives his opinion.

11:30 - With many questions surrounding the Patriots roster next season, Phil Perry and Albert Breer look into their "crystal ball" and give their Patriots predictions

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