Danton Heinen

Talking Points from the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Predators

Talking Points from the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Predators

GOLD STAR: There was a lot to choose from among the Bruin roster, but give credit to Danton Heinen for being among a number of support players that really stepped up. 

Heinen scored a second-period goal from the slot that kept the B's ahead on the scoreboard and was his first goal in nearly a month. Heinen, benched recently, finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 11:17 of ice time along with four shots on net and a couple of blocked shots. Heinen was aggressive with his offense, he was playing with urgency and it led to offensive production along with real involvement in the game. 

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Heinen combined with Charlie Coyle and Brett Ritchie to actually give the Bruins a competent, even-dangerous third line and that’s something they haven’t had much of lately.

BLACK EYE: Kyle Turris isn’t having a great season and he was absolutely invisible for the Predators on Tuesday night. 

Turris finished with no shots on net, a giveaway and lost 7-of-11 face-offs in 13:40 of ice time and was on the ice for a pair of goals against while struggling at both ends of the ice. Turris is one of the players that Nashville are surely counting on to get it going for the Predators after the coaching change, and it clearly didn’t take in the first time out of the gate for the center. 

He wasn’t alone as there was a slew of Nashville players that finished with minus-3 ratings on the night for plus/minus, but Turris gets the honors for being a no-show offensively as well.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins got a 1-0 lead early, but it was the second period when they truly won the game.

The Predators launched 15 shots at the Boston net and Tuukka Rask stopped all but one of them while the B’s pushed for a couple of goals to extend the lead. Heinen scored early to keep the Bruins in the driver’s seat and then Patrice Bergeron added the power-play goal late to extend the lead and give Boston the kind of cushion they haven’t had on the scoreboard much the past month. 

It turned out to be exactly what the B’s needed heading into the final period as they extended the lead even more with three more goals in the third.

HONORABLE MENTION: Bergeron has been excellent since coming back from his lower-body injury and No. 37 was again among Boston’s best players on Tuesday night. 

Bergeron finished with a key power-play goal at the end of the second period and had a plus-3 rating in 17:38 of ice time while he dominated with the rest of the Perfection Line. 

The goal was Bergeron camped at the doorstep and finishing off a Jake DeBrusk feed from behind the net. Bergeron finished with six shot attempts, two takeaways and a blocked shot while winning 20 of 28 face-offs against a host of Nashville centers. 

Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak could have had a handful of goals in this game, but they instead settled for two early on before the B’s other lines poured it on.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the number of fights in the past 13 games for 42-year-old Zdeno Chara, who stepped up and dropped the gloves with Yakov Trenin late in the game after the Nashville forward smoked Charlie McAvoy with a hit behind the Boston net.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When guys contribute, different guys get on the scoresheet...everyone feels like they're doing their part. I don’t think we’ve ever considered ourselves a one-line team. We’ve always felt like we’re a group of 20 guys that need to pull their weight every night. If not then we’re not going to win every night and tonight was a good example of that.” –Bruce Cassidy to reporters on the B’s with an impressive all-around win where many different players contributed.

Difficult to understand why Bruins passed on no-risk, no-cost Ilya Kovalchuk

Difficult to understand why Bruins passed on no-risk, no-cost Ilya Kovalchuk

The Bruins are getting pretty much nothing offensively out of their second and third lines. Bruce Cassidy has benched both Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen in the past couple of games for their inability to play the kind of hockey required to win games as it gets later in the regular season. 

Granted, DeBrusk answered with two goals against the Sabres once he was released from the doghouse, but clearly, the Bruins think they need more from just their forwards besides Perfection Liners Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

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It was only a couple of days ago that Cassidy was lamenting how Par Lindholm (two points in 25 games), Brett Ritchie (two goals, five points and a minus-5 in 23 games) and David Backes (one goal and three points in 15 games) didn’t step up when given a chance against the New Jersey Devils in a New Year’s Eve matinee loss when injuries and a Heinen healthy scratch created an opportunity for them.

It makes it all the more mystifying that the Bruins failed to jump on a chance to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a prorated NHL minimum contract once he was cut loose by the Los Angeles Kings last month. Instead, the Bruins opted to stick with their group of underperforming middle-line forwards and now the rival Montreal Canadiens have opted to make the no-risk signing of the former No. 1 overall pick.

Sure, Kovalchuk is 36 and was a bust for a bad L.A. team while scoring 19 goals and racking up a minus-36 in 81 games over the past two seasons. So, he’s not what he once was with the Thrashers and Devils when he twice topped 50 goals and had a career-high 98 points in 2005-06. 

Still, he would also be playing in a much different, secondary position with the Bruins where he’d get a chance to bring some goal-scoring punch to a second line that badly needs it and he’d be a shooting option on a second power-play unit that doesn’t seem to have anybody on it that wants to shoot the puck. 

Even as an older, slower player, Kovalchuk can still put the puck in the net better than most of the B's forward options they are running out there. 

At worst, he would have been a no-risk proposition that the Bruins could have cut loose or sent to the minors with zero salary-cap risk if things didn’t work out. And it Kovalchuk did get reinvigorated in Boston, then the Bruins would have answered their top-six winger problem and added the extra goal-scoring punch they would need down the stretch and into the playoffs.

A trade deadline pick-up might not have even been needed if Kovalchuk really worked out for the Black and Gold at no real financial cost to Boston at all.

Instead, the Bruins opted for the status quo, with Lindholm and Ritchie bringing virtually nothing to the table but the hope that they will contribute more consistently in the second half of the season. 

Perhaps there are bigger plans for the Bruins as they get closer to the trade deadline to address their lack of quality play on the second and third line, but it’s mystifying why they passed on Kovalchuk, who represented no risk and no cost.

Danton Heinen returns to Bruins lineup vs. Blue Jackets after benching

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File photo

Danton Heinen returns to Bruins lineup vs. Blue Jackets after benching

BRIGHTON, Mass. — After getting benched in the third period of a win over the Sabres and then scratched for Tuesday afternoon’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, Danton Heinen will find his way back into the B’s lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at TD Garden.

Hopefully for the Bruins, Heinen will respond to the scenario just as Jake DeBrusk did when he scored a pair of goals against Buffalo after being benched in the first period of that game, but that remains to be seen once the puck is dropped against Columbus.

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The 23-year-old Heinen finished the month of December with one goal and three points in 14 games, and also finished with a minus-3 plus/minus rating that was only better than Jake DeBrusk (minus-4) and Brett Ritchie (minus-5) for the month.

“It’s a little bit of the details,” said Bruce Cassidy to reporters in New Jersey a couple of days ago. “If you look at the guys that we’ve taken out of the lineup, [Par] Lindholm, [David] Backes, [Joakim] Nordstrom, [Chris] Wagner, these are all established players. He’s not out of that mix. It just happened to be his night.

“We talk about making strong plays, typically on your forehand as opposed to your backhand. He’ll have to fight his way through that and figure out when he can make plays on his backhand and when he can’t. The other guys have been working hard, so we felt it was probably a good time to make the switch.”

It’s one thing when Heinen’s offense slips as it does for portions of the year pretty much every season, but once the details and the intense two-way play begins to go away then there really isn’t much that he’s bringing to the table. Heinen seemed to realize that as he readied to return to a lineup that will also see David Krejci, Torey Krug and possibly Charlie McAvoy also jump back in on Thursday against the Blue Jackets.

“I’m harder on myself than anybody. I realize when things aren’t going right. It’s about getting back to the things that got me here, have made me successful and can help the team,” said Heinen, who is on pace for 12 goals and 30 points this season. “It’s never a good sign when you’re sitting there [on the bench]. I know the mistakes that I make. You’re obviously trying not to make them. You try to pick that up and be as reliable as you can.

“You try not to be as hard on yourself because it’s just one game, and then you’re back in [against Columbus]. All you can do is keep working and try to be better.”

The Bruins could certainly use a little more offense and defense from their middle forward lines moving forward, and the hope is that they’ll get it from Heinen after he watched from the press box a couple of days ago.

It may just turn out to be hope, though, given the underwhelming way Heinen has responded when challenged by Bruce Cassidy and his staff over the last few years during his stint as a top-9 guy for the Black and Gold.

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings vs. the Blue Jackets based on Thursday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena: 

PROJECTED LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Sean Kuraly Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom Par Lindholm Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
John Moore Matt Grzelcyk

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask