Young Guys Stepping Up for Boston
By Steve Conroy
MONTREAL -- When the Bruins were about to embark on a three-games-in-four-nights run against quality opponents last Thursday -- two on the road, including Monday’s game against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre -- it was an open question as to whether the young line of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen had the details of their individual games enough in order to hang in against some tough matchups.
So far they’ve gotten passing a passing grade. In fact, the one thing they haven’t been able to do is the thing you would think would be the least problematic -- putting away their glittering scoring opportunities. Going into the game at the Bell Centre, the line accounted for 21 shots on net, many of them excellent chances.
“Maybe I should have played them against (Jack) Eichel, in hindsight now, to be honest with you,” coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday morning. “But they’ve been good. They’ve been generating offense. Not finishing as well as we’d like, but I just think the law of averages will even that stuff out. Over time, you get that many really good looks, you’re going to score. They’ve been a good find for us...or however you want to describe that line getting thrown together. It’s helped us produce some secondary offense and generate momentum for us offensively.
“Hopefully they continue to do that. I don’t see why they can’t. They’ve all been around here a little bit now and know what’s required. They’ve been very good and I’m very pleased with their all-around effort away from the puck as well.”
Heinen was robbed Sunday by Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark after JFK set him up with a beautiful feed. He believes the line is starting to gel.
“I think it’s been better lately. We’ve been trying to get more comfortable. It’s tough when they don’t go in when you get opportunities like that, but as long you keep getting opportunities, they’ll go in,” Heinen said. “It’s frustrating because you don’t really get better chances than that, so you hate to see those not go in. You just have to stay positive and hopefully, it breaks through.”
That they are in similar stages of their careers has helped them not get overly discouraged with the lack of results on the scoresheet. Donato and JFK are rookies while Heinen is in his second season.
“Early on for me, when you’re playing with established guys, you try to get them the puck a little bit more. For us, we’re all just trying to play our game and use our strengths when we can,” Heinen said.
“Being the same age is huge,” Donato said. “You feel comfortable with one another. You don’t really feel afraid of saying anything if we have to call one of us out. But we have such a good dynamic. (Heinen) can create chances and score, JFK is always looking to create chances and I’m always looking to score, too. Having three guys who can do that together and then play reliable back in the D-zone, it’s huge.”
In the Buffalo game, Donato was stopped on a penalty shot and robbed on a glove save by Ullmark.
“The challenge now is just being positive,” Donato said. “We had our chances and we know they’ve got to start going in. From our line in particular, we knew we had a bunch of Grade-A chances, some of them we thought we were going to score for sure. It could have easily been a different game (Sunday). We’re just going to to try to build off of that and hopefully continue to create offense.”
Back on ice
With Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller all skating, the B’s may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with their injuries. They’ve been able to keep their heads barely above water, but that doesn’t mean Cassidy is not frustrated with leaving points on the table against Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
“We always want to be better,” Cassidy said. “Injuries happen. You’ve got to get through them. We’ve had some games where clearly we’ve been good without them. We’ve had games -- as recently as (Sunday) -- where we needed to be better in certain areas. That’s our expectation.”