Kalman: How Heinen reciprocated the Bruins’ gift

Matt Kalman
December 09, 2018 - 1:01 am

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

“I mean every game is a gift, so I’m just trying to have that mindset.” -- Bruins forward Danton Heinen, telling WEEI.com about how he was staying positive during his 11-game goal drought

Charlie Brown’s had better months than Danton Heinen just endured.

The Bruins forward went 11 games without a point dating back to his last goal Nov. 11 against Vegas. Nineteen shots on net, not to mention a plethora of missed shots that have pushed his ranking to sixth on the Bruins’ roster in misses per game at 0.9, couldn’t get Heinen on the scoresheet.

Then the 23-year-old finally scored Saturday. Heinen took the puck to the net and beat Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen to the stick side for a 4-0 lead 1:47 into the third period. The goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 6-3 victory that ended Boston’s three-game losing streak.

“Honestly, I mean, before I’ve been shooting high a lot. Tuukks (goalie Tuukka Rask) was telling me, try five-hole next time. So I was honestly in my head really when I got down there I was thinking I’d shoot five-hole. But it kind of got a little head of me, so when he poke checked I had to pull it and it was kind of my only option was short side. So it was kind of the way it worked out.”

Heinen had hit the post with a tip at 5:51 of the second period, and he couldn’t help but be dejected.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that,” Heinen said. “So, I mean, as long as you’re getting looks, you’re going to the net ... I kind of knew it would eventually come, so it was nice.”

He stuck with it against the Maple Leafs just as he’d stuck with it the past 11 games he’d gone goal-less and the 26 games before Saturday that he’d scored just twice. The quote at the top of this column is a bit of a mantra that he and his teammates use to not let slumps or mistakes knock their play off track.

“I think a lot of the guys in here, it’s kind of a saying we use, every shift’s a gift, is the saying. But every game too ... you know even if you’re gripping the stick or whatever, you still have got to be grateful for every game. So that’s how you try to keep things in perspective,” Heinen said.

Coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff’s gift to Heinen has been confidence. Since making Heinen a healthy scratch for two games Oct 13 and 17, the coaching staff has put him in the lineup every night. He’s averaged 13:56 of ice time, down from 15:01 during his rookie season in 2017-18, but he’s played up and down the lineup and been a regular on the second power-play unit.

That type of confidence doesn’t come from the coaches for nothing. Heinen’s earned it, both by establishing a track record with 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 77 games last season, and doing other things to make up for his lack of scoring this season. So while Anders Bjork and Ryan Donato have spent time in Providence, and Noel Acciari, Chris Wagner and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have been rotated in and out of the lineup, Heinen has been a Boston mainstay.

“There’s probably a number of things. First of all he can always help you defensively, he’s a pretty sound player in that regard. As a coach you always feel if he’s on the ice and you have the lead you can trust him to do the right thing,” Cassidy said. “Where we lost a bit I thought with Danton this year is when we’re behind, in the past he was able to generate more, so maybe it’ll start clicking for him. That’s probably the biggest reason.”

“You want to help him get through tough spots. He was a good player for us last year, so you want to make sure you give him time.”

Sounds like Cassidy will continue to gift Heinen with ice time, so now it’s up to Heinen to keep reciprocating.

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