BOSTON (CBS) — If you were a Bruins fan hoping a local kid may get the chance to provide some offensive pop in Wednesday’s night Game 7, prepare to be disappointed.
Ryan Donato will not be in the lineup for Boston’s must-win tilt against Toronto, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy announced Wednesday morning.
Instead, barring a last-minute change of heart from Cassidy, it will be forward Danton Heinen skating on Boston’s third line. In 64 minutes of ice time this series, Heinen has no points and only four shots on goal.
It’s a decision that will be met with much scrutiny should the Bruins fall to the Leafs. After taking a 3-1 series lead, the B’s have had a severe deficiency on offense over their last two losses, scoring just four goals on an astounding 162 shot attempts.
Asking a 21-year-old to turn around the team’s fortunes is a lot, but Donato certainly showed his scoring polish in his brief time with the Bruins during the regular season. He had five goals and nine points in a 12-game run with the Bruins at the end of the regular season, which included four power play goals. Boston has struggled with the man advantage recently, going 1-for-8 on the power play in their last two games.
Putting the puck in the net is in Donato’s DNA, as he recorded 26 goals in 29 games for Harvard this last season, adding another five goals in a six-game run with Team USA in the Winter Olympics. But in Cassidy’s defense, Game 7s are a different breed. The smallest margin separates a season continuing and a season ending, and Donato has only played once this series, putting three shots on net in Boston’s Game 2 win. Maybe it would have been better for Cassidy to see what Donato had to offer in Game 6 on Monday night, but it’s a little too late for that now.
If the Bruins win on Wednesday and advance to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, Cassidy probably won’t hear much about relegating Donato to the ninth floor. But if Boston’s offense continues to struggle and the Leafs complete their series comeback, it’s a decision that will be second-guessed all summer.