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.