Young B's show they're learning their lessons in blowout win


BOSTON – The young contingent of Bruins players had experienced a few bumps and a whole lot of hard knocks experience in some earlier games against top tier Metro Division opponents this season. But that same new generation of Black and Gold players utilized some of those lessons and teamed together to put a whipping on the rugged, hard-nosed Columbus Blue Jackets to the tune of a season-high seven goals in a 7-2 win over Columbus at TD Garden on Monday night.

Rookies Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy all cracked the score sheet in the blowout victory, and even better they played the kind of strong, two-way game that can’t be negotiable against the NHL’s best teams. It was perhaps best-embodied by Charlie McAvoy throwing four big hits and dropping the gloves with Pierre-Luc Dubois in a fight that ended with his first career Gordie Howe hat trick.


“In general, you want a couple [of young guys] to hopefully be better than average, the other two or three just be average and get some experience [and learn to] understand what it takes. Tonight it felt like all of them were really good,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We enjoyed it and you see the results because they’re going to get minutes, they’re going to get responsibility on the power play and a few of them are mixed into the kill, but [it’s] mostly skill guys [that] are going to get a chance to play with the puck.

“I thought they managed it well so they earned that. If you’re turning over all over the ice and not strong on it, it’s hard to reward young players when some of the older guys are doing it consistently. That’s the message that needs to be sent over and over to the guys, and they got it tonight. Tomorrow who knows? But that’s part of the responsibility of coaching those young guys and hopefully they do learn from it. I’ve seen it with [Danton] Heinen and now Jake [DeBrusk] tonight was much better than previous nights. Anders [Bjork] went up [into the press box] and I think he gained an understanding that it’s okay to not force a play and chip it and chase it when it’s not there.”

The game started with a typical Brad Marchand/Patrice Bergeron giving the Bruins a first period lead, but after that it was all rookies stepping up to become impact players in a big Eastern Conference throw-down. DeBrusk was coming off a season-low ice time last weekend against the Rangers, but he executed a pair of perfect passes in the second period to set up two power play goals for the Bruins’ second PP unit. DeBrusk skated through three Columbus defenders on a broken play before feeding David Backes in front of the net for the first PP strike, and then DeBrusk slid a cross-ice pass through the heart of Columbus penalty kill to a waiting McAvoy for the hammered one-timer.

Both goals were mandatory for a Bruins power play that’s struggled as of late, and showed exactly what the 21-year-old rookie can do with even more power play time. It wasn’t all flashy plays with DeBrusk, however, as he was also winning battles along the walls and in front of the net in a role he’ll need to adopt more among the top-6.  

“It’s fun hockey. You know, obviously sometimes it doesn’t go in for you or other guys, so, you know, it’s nice to see you know those guys finish in different ways as well, [David] Backes going across the grain there on [Sergei] Bobrovsky,” said DeBrusk. “That’s pretty hard to do, and then as I said earlier, Chuck went upstairs pretty good, so you know, it’s nice to find those seams. It’s nice to get rewarded as well. The more seams you find, the more chances you’ll get, and it was nice that we converted on them tonight.

“I think it’s fun when everyone’s having success. It was, like you said, one of those nights and it was nice that we got no passengers tonight and everyone contributed. Obviously, you know, it’s nice for the young guys, but it’s also nice for the veterans too. They deserve it. You know, it was nice to see everyone chip in, and everyone have their confidence at a high.”

Anders Bjork was a late addition to the lineup after David Krejci needed to be scratched with an upper body injury, and he showed aggressiveness causing turnovers, notching an assist and drawing penalties while using his speed effectively. It was a nice bounce-back effort after being a healthy scratch over the weekend, and again showed his game on an upward trajectory.

“I thought I played a pretty good game, I played hard. You know, try to keep it simple,” said Bjork. “I think I was just trying to do my best help out team get the win and I think everyone played a great game. It was huge for my personal confidence, and I think for our team it was very instrumental as well.”

Last but not least was McAvoy, who sniped home the game-winner on a roofed one-timer, threw four big hits in the game and dropped the gloves with fellow former first round pick Pierre-Luc Dubois after both big bodies collided on a gnarly hit in the corner. It all ended with McAvoy collecting Boston’s first Gordie Howe hat trick since Zdeno Chara way back in 2013, and responding well after he was a little off last week against another top tier Metro Division team in the Capitals.

“I think it was great to see from a couple young guys to play a little old school hockey, and both guys I think showed themselves well. Half the battle is showing up, and I think both teams were pleasantly surprised with their guys standing up for themselves. We ended up, I think, even picking up further from there, so great job by him. Gordie Howe hat trick as a 19-year- old, and couldn’t be happier for him and great team win tonight.”

That doesn’t even include the high-scorer on the night for the Bruins with Danton Heinen racking up a three-point night, scoring his eighth goal of the season that ties him with Patrice Bergeron for third on the team and gave him excellent production in just 13:15 of ice time. Heinen is on pace for 24 goals and 55 points this season for the Black and Gold while filling a role on the third line for the Bruins, and has clearly been Boston’s best rookie up-front this season. 

The points keep on coming for Heinen, the responsibility keeps on coming as he picks up more power play time, and the confidence is soaring for a player that finally believes he belongs at the NHL level.

“It’s great to see those guys getting involved in the way they have been, and that’s what makes a team so good nowadays,” said Marchand. “When you have guys like that who can step up and win games the way they have been for us, [it’s a good sign].”

Clearly every day isn’t going to be like Monday night, but the Bruins youth movement showed exactly what they’re capable of, and even more impressively they did it against a hard-to-play against, heavy Metro team that should be in the playoffs again this season.  


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