Frank Vatrano and Matt Beleskey play role of catalysts
Injuries and next man up. Those are the two common themes for the Boston Bruins during the first 13 games of the 2017-18 season.
On Monday, Brad Marchand was the latest to fall victim to the injury bug; missing his first game of the year due to an upper-body injury suffered in a collision with John Carlson during the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Capitals on Saturday.
Without their leading point getter – and David Krejci, David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Noel Acciari and Adam McQuaid – the Bruins know they can afford very few passengers on a nightly basis. Two of those passengers, Frank Vatrano and Matt Beleskey, who have both been healthy scratches at various points over the first month-plus.
Neither Vatrano nor Beleskey were passengers against the Minnesota Wild on Monday night. Instead, they were the catalysts to the Black and Gold’s 5-3 win on Military Appreciation Night.
All while contributing to the next man up theme – either by being one of the five goal scorers on the evening or providing the team with the Bruins with a jump off the bench.
“We’re going to need it, right?” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about the contributions up and down the lineup against the Wild.
“We’ll win some games with our top end guys, no doubt, but if we’re going to win consistently, we’re going to need it from everybody.”
On this night, the Bruins’ got the contributions from the depth guys, especially from Vatrano and Beleskey.
With the Bruins starting to get momentum, Vatrano put the Bruins ahead for good at 12:42 of the first as his knucklepuck-like shot found its way past Devan Dubnyk for his first goal since February 26 against Dallas – a span of 25 games. Vatrano’s first goal of 2017-18 also marked his first point since March 13 – a span of 18 games.
Frank Vatrano with the Tim Wakefield special for his first of the year. pic.twitter.com/LVZujFUfQN
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 7, 2017
“Goal scoring is a funny thing,” the former UMass-Amherst standout said about his drought, “you just got to stay with it and get your chances, and hopefully they’ll go in.”
Those chances may eventually go in for Beleskey soon. The 29-year-old’s scoring skid may have reached 19 games, but he was a useful asset without getting on the score sheet.
On the ensuing faceoff following Vatrano’s goal, Beleskey and Luke Kunin got into a heated exchange. Moments after, with Matthew Dumba trying to protect Kunin from Beleskey, they dropped the gloves to settle their immediate altercation.
“There was not a lot said there,” Beleskey said about the fight. “Not really sure why [Kunin] jumped in there.”
“I think it’s something that they wanted to get their team going [as well],” Cassidy said about the Beleskey-Kunin fight. “If you respond well in those situations, it picks up our bench as well.”
Throughout his 11:16 of ice time, Beleskey was hard on puck pursuit and physically engaged. A solid effort, indeed.
“I thought Matt did a good job tonight all around the ice,” Cassidy added about Beleskey. “He was really solid defensively and he’s getting pucks behind their ‘D.’ And he’s another guy who missed some games. He wants to prove that he wants to be in there every night – and that’s a great attitude for those guys. Instead of worrying about other stuff, they just went out when their number was called and played, and played hard. So good job for Matt, and that’s something he can do for us.”
On this night, Beleskey and Vatrano proved they are capable of contributing to the injury-plagued Black and Gold. They can certainly use that consistency from the duo on a night basis, especially now that Marchand will miss his second game of the season Wednesday night in New York.