Frank Vatrano has been NHL player for just over two months now, and whenever he’s been healthy, he’s been in the lineup for the Boston Bruins. Until Monday night.
Vatrano was a healthy scratch for the first time in his young career as the Bruins dropped a 2-1 decision to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The rookie winger has produced some electrifying highlights since joining the Bruins in early November but has struggled from a consistency standpoint. His hat trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins accounts for half of his NHL goals to date, and he’s gone without a point in 22 of his 26 games for Boston, including eight of his last nine.
Brett Connolly, who experienced just his second healthy scratch of the season Saturday night in Ottawa, took Vatrano’s spot on the third line against the Rangers, playing on his off-wing to the left of center Joonas Kemppainen.
Connolly is mired in a brutal slump of his own — he has just one goal in his last 30 games — and his bid to end it late in the second period rang the left post after beating New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
The 23-year-old winger did enjoy an offensive resurgence following his last scratch, however, potting four goals in five games from Oct. 21 to Oct. 31. Both Connolly and Vatrano surely are hoping to replicate that good fortune this time around.
Some additional notes from Monday’s loss:
— Bruins coach Claude Julien loves to roll four lines when possible, and he was able to do so against the Rangers thanks to the effort put forth by Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot and Landon Ferraro.
The fourth-line trio combined for nine shots on goal — including a season-high five by Rinaldo — and was highly aggressive on the forecheck, prompting Julien to give each more than 12 minutes of ice time.
“I thought they played extremely well,” the coach said in a postgame interview with NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “Also, a few times there, they played against the Rangers’ top line and handled them well. I thought their forecheck, their energy there and decision-making was really good and gave us the opportunity to keep our guys as fresh as possible.”
Talbot very nearly netted his second goal of the season, but he rang one post and later was robbed blind by Lundqvist, who stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced.
“You take your best shot and achieve to get the best shot you can, and he had a better save, I guess,” the veteran forward told reporters, as aired on “Bruins Overtime LIVE.” “So, it’s frustrating.”
— Defenseman Torey Krug has played in 40 of the Bruins’ 41 games this season, and Monday’s was his 200th since he debuted for the Bruins in 2012.
Before the game, Krug reflected on how he’s seen his role change over the years, from an offensive/power-play specialist to a player who can be trusted with top-four D-man minutes.
“I’ve come a long ways,” he told reporters, as aired on “Bruins Face-Off LIVE.” “Even when I first came into the league, I seemed like I different player. Just a guy that was used for offensive purposes and power play, not getting too many chances defensively. And now, it’s a little bit different role on this team. I love the role I’ve been thrown into, and I’m just enjoying it.”
Krug, who registered two shots on goal in the loss, has three goals and 17 assists this season.
— The Bruins did not commit a penalty in the game for the first time all season. The Rangers committed just one and held the Bruins scoreless on the ensuing power play.
— New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski showed some love for the B’s during his Monday news conference.
Thumbnail photo via Perry Nelson/USA TODAY Sports Images