Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Watch: Heinen's recent assists for Bruins all from success as F2 forechecker

Matt Kalman
October 26, 2018 - 3:47 pm

Forward Danton Heinen is settling in as the Bruins’ second-line left wing alongside center Davdi Krejci and right wing Jake DeBrusk, but his success there is about more than just chemistry with his linemates.

He’s also making his name as Boston’s F2 (second forward) on the forecheck.

Heinen’s assist in the Bruins’ 3-0 win against Philadelphia was his third apple in the past four games since he was scratched for two games. He’s shown coach Bruce Cassidy the things the bench boss wanted to see when he sent the second-year forward to the press box.

“I think he’s winning more pucks. He’s more like the player that was excelling last year, so it’s on his stick more,” Cassidy said. “He’s been better. He wants to be in the lineup. Before that it’s not like the effort wasn’t there it’s just wasn’t happening for him, so sometimes that works as ... a notice that says ‘hey we’re going to go to the next guy,’ but we’ve always had faith in him that he was going to get back in there. And he has.”

Each Heinen assist in this four-game stretch has come as a result of his anticipation and instincts on the forecheck.

He set up Zdeno Chara’s first goal Thursday with a steal after Jake DeBrusk was the F1 and forced Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald to skate from behind his own net.

Then he backed up the F1, Krejci, and set up David Pastrnak’s goal in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Heinen earned the second assist with steal on the forecheck in the high slot and then a dish off to Matt Grzelcyk, who set up Krejci in Edmonton on Oct. 18, this first game back after being scratched twice.

Cassidy calls Heinen a “cerebral” player, but often it’s up to the 23-year-old to not get stuck inside of his head and just play.

“I think without the puck I have to think less and skate and get on top of guys,” Heinen told “And ... when that happens, we’re usually playing with the puck more. I think it’s just without the puck. And when you have the puck you want your hockey sense to take over and make plays when they’re there. So that’s kind of my mindset.”

Often we’re expecting players to respond to a benching or poor performance by flying around full speed, sometimes obliterating opponents. But that’s not Heinen’s game, and so his response has been to be more responsible and focus more on reading plays. With a speedster like DeBrusk to be the F1 more often, it’s up to Heinen to not get overaggressive and lie in wait for a puck he can steal.

The Bruins don’t coordinate a situation where Heinen is always the F2, but it still seems to happen more often than not, benefiting the Bruins in their attempt to spend more time on the attack and get offense from more than just their first line.

“That’s where Jake, we want him to be first because he’s the fastest, right?” Cassidy told in response to a question about Heinen being better off as the F2. “So yes, [Heinen’s> better because he’s more cerebral. F1 is usually time and space, fast, physical. And in a perfect world, and Krech can play high. And so it has worked for him, because it’s a domino effect.”