Of all the storylines surrounding the Boston Bruins through the first month of the 2017-18 season, there are two themes that have been front and center.
The first theme: the philosophy of next man up. Danton Heinen became that guy after being called up from Providence on Thursday.
The second theme: bouncing back from a bad loss. For their three setbacks against the Avalanche (twice) and Golden Knights, the Bruins rebounded with wins over the Coyotes and Canucks.
On Thursday night, in another attempt to bounce back from a bad loss to the Sabres on Saturday night in which the Black and Gold lost 5-4 after blowing a 4-1 second-period lead, Bruce Cassidy and company were successful in a solid win over Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks, 2-1.
Sparked by Heinen’s two goals and a solid 36-save effort from Anton Khuodbin – on a day where Tuukka Rask (concussion) was medically cleared to return – here is what we learned as the Bruins go to 4-3-1 on the young season.
Khudobin settles in
There might not be a goaltender controversy in Boston, but the Bruins sure are thankful that Khudobin endured a tough stretch.
Though the Bruins did a good job at allowing Khudobin to see the puck against a Sharks team that is good at tip-in attempts and getting shots from the point, the Bruins backup still needed time to settle himself. As the game went on Khudobin improved his positioning and rebound control to make some timely stops.
By the time crunch time came, Khudobin settled into his zone. A far cry from the Sabres loss where Cassidy described Khudobin’s performance as “erratic.”
The energetic Khudobin was certainly less erratic on this night.
“Dobby is always going to have a bit of energy, for lack of a better word, in there and movement than most,” Cassidy said during Thursday’s press conference, “but I thought he was very composed and under control for his game.”
“We played hard for the whole 60 minutes, I think, and we were battling through the whole game,” Khudobin said about the difference between Saturday’s loss to the Sabres and Thursday’s win over the Sharks.
Heinen picks up where he left off
As Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano continue to struggle, the opportunity to replace at least one – or both – players is there for the taking. At this rate, Danton Heinen might be one of the guys to take a spot on the Bruins’ bottom six.
In his earlier stint with Boston, Heinen tallied three assists during the Bruins’ three-game road trip. Making the trip down I-95 South, Heinen made the most of his time in his return to the P-Bruins with a team-high eight points and seven assists, which ranks him fourth in the AHL.
Recalled to Boston just hours before Thursday’s game with the Sharks, Heinen didn’t take too long to make an impact. Following a shot from David Backes on a shorthanded rush, Heinen skated to the open slot area to bank home the rebound and tallied his first career goal at 9:41 of the opening stanza.
In the process, Heinen became the fourth Bruin this year to score his first career goal, joining fellow rookies Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork.
“I feel like I’m an offensive guy. I want to contribute,” Heinen said. “You see everyone scoring their first and you want to get your first as well. It felt like it was never coming, but I’m glad I got it out of the way.”
Heinen wasn’t done contributing. The former University of Denver standout answered Joe Thornton’s second-period power play tally – and his 1,398th career point tying Jari Kurri for 20th all-time – with his second of the night just 2:47 later.
Granted, the Bruins will at least have a couple of spots on the bottom six filled once Ryan Spooner and Noel Acciari return from their long-term injuries. Heinen, however, is doing his part in making that decision a little more difficult for Cassidy, GM Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins brass.
That other Boston-San Jose trade
One member of the Boston-San Jose trade two summers ago put in a solid performance in a losing effort. The other had a night to forget.
In a solid back and forth game, Martin Jones did his part in keeping the Sharks in it. The former Bruin for all of four days during the 2015 off-season made 31 stops in his goaltending duel with Khudobin.
As for Sean Kuraly, who was one of the pieces acquired in the deal – along with prospect Trent Frederic – the Miami (Ohio) alum had arguably his roughest night as a pro tallying three penalties. Kuraly’s did not see a single shift following his second delay of game call of the night (closing his hand on the puck) that led to Thornton’s equalizer.
Speaking of Thornton…
‘Jumbo Joe’ continues to make history
Even as the NHL as trending towards younger and faster players, the league is still fortunate to have some notable elder statesmen such as Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr. On Thursday, the first of that trio continued his ascent on the league’s all-time scoring list.
With his second goal of the season, Thornton, who extended his point streak to five straight games, tied Jari Kurri for 20th on the team’s all-time scoring list with his 1,398th career point.
Even at age 38, the former Bruin and top overall pick of the 1997 Draft still has a few good years left in him.
Though the Bruins ultimately benefited in the long run in the aftermath of the trade – after all, they wouldn’t have had the space to sign Chara and Marc Savard in the month’s after the transaction – there’s no denying that Thornton deserves to have his name etched on Lord’s Stanley Cup.