Ryan Donato determined to put benching behind him
The Bruins are fresh off their most well-rounded performance of the young season in their 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at TD Garden. Ryan Donato, one of Boston’s promising young forwards, could only sit and watch.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy scratched the former Harvard standout in favor of Joakim Nordstrom, who recorded a goal in place of Donato on the B’s second line. The gamble paid off. But the benching was also a motivational tactic for Cassidy and a learning experience for Donato.
The young Donato expressed how “pissed off” he was about sitting up in the Level 9 following Thursday’s pregame skate. But the second-generation Bruin took the news in stride and picked up a few pointers watching from the press box.
“There’s good and bad. You don’t want to ever be up there. I think there were some good things that I picked up during the game, but I’m excited to hopefully get back out there,” Donato said following Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “It wasn’t so much of a wake-up call, but something to get me more determined and hopefully it shows in the next game.”
Donato will likely his first opportunity to redeem himself on Saturday against the Red Wings, albeit with different linemates. The 22-year-old skated with David Backes and Anders Bjork on the third line and took shifts on the second power-play unit during Friday’s on-ice training session.
“He’ll probably come in. We’re trying not to keep young guys out for extended period of times. It will happen, and eventually he’ll have to come around with some level of consistency, so we’ll likely put him in tomorrow,” Cassidy said about Donato. “We worked him on the second power play group today [and the third line] so that’s kind of what we’re looking at.”
Dropping down to the third line and second power play unit — after appearing on the second line and top power play unit — means fewer opportunities for making things happen.
Nordstrom’s performance against the Oilers makes him a keeper with Krejci and DeBrusk, at least in the short-term. Donato, Danton Heinen (a likely a healthy scratch) and Bjork are better long-term options if any of them can stay consistent.
This is a good problem to have in the early part of the season, however. It gives Cassidy flexibility to tinker with his lineup while providing opportunities for young talent — like Donato, Heinen and Bjork — to take a big step in their early pro developments.
“I think that’s a good part of our team that there are other guys that can play with other guys,” Donato said. “So if one guy is off one night, you can substitute another guy easily, and that keeps you competitive and it makes the other guys have more success and it’s really up to them in how they play. So I think the fact that we have guys that are able to step in the lineup is awesome.”
Friday was a good step forward for Donato. But the true evaluation of a players character and performance comes in game action.
“The best measure always is how does he practice and then how does he play the next time that he’s in,” Cassidy said. “That’s probably a question for me tomorrow — let’s assume he goes in tomorrow — at 6 o’clock.”
Cassidy’s answer will come around 6 p.m. Donato’s response, one way or another, will come before his coach’s postgame press conference.