Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

Ryan Donato will not be on the ice and putting the Game 7 hopes of the Bruins on his back tonight at TD Garden.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed just that Wednesday morning, as Donato will remain seated as a healthy scratch for the fifth-straight game when B’s take on the Maple Leafs in a winner-take-all Game 7. And to some, this means that all hope is lost, that the Bruins have already lost the game, and that Cassidy’s magic is officially no more.

This is hyperbolic nonsense.

Listen, it’s easy to see why people want to see Donato in action.

In a series that’s becoming defined by the Bruins’ shots and their refusal to get in through Frederik Andersen, the Bruins need something. Their current run, which includes just nine goals on their last 141 shots on goal, isn’t going to work. Same for the power play that’s connected on just one of its last nine opportunities. Donato, who connected for goals on four of his 27 shots and saw four of his nine points come on the man advantage in 13 games between the regular season and postseason this year, fits the bill of somebody you’d want to see in action, I’d agree.

But this is where Cassidy should absolutely lean on the guys that got him here.

And Donato is not in that group.

Cassidy essentially said as much when he gave Danton Heinen, a scratch in Game 6 and without a point in five postseason contests, an extremely strong vote of confidence and regular rushes during Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena.

“There is a certain level of trust you have in your players that have gotten you this far, and Danton Heinen is one of those who’s played really well for us,” Cassidy said. “The playoffs… you look at his numbers, that line hasn’t produced a lot five-on-five so what can we could do better? He’s still a good defensive player, he’s always going to give us that. He can play up the lineup; he had success going down [the lineup] with [Sean] Kuraly.”

With Heinen, Cassidy also has comfort in knowing he can move him to any of his four forward lines (Heinen has played both the left and right side this season), while he currently views Donato as a ‘left wing or bust’ option. This is going to be especially important given the way Cassidy opts to deploy Rick Nash tonight; Nash is going to move back up to the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci to begin tonight’s game, but could get flipped back to his off-wing with Riley Nash and David Backes — where Heinen will start tonight — should that line struggle out of the gate.

‘….But wait a minute, Rick Nash isn’t one of those players that got you here!’

True. But you also moved Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, one of your better defensive prospects (Ryan Lindgren), and a first-round pick to bring Nash into the mix. With 15 goals and 41 points in 77 playoff games before the start of the 2018 postseason, he’s here for this exact moment. His status as a pending free agent — and with the Bruins unlikely to spend the money required to keep him around beyond this season — also speaks to that idea.

Donato, meanwhile, was brought in here (asset-free) to play, but also learn what day-to-day life is like for those in the NHL. His success, which had to be a surprise no matter how highly you thought of him, was just a bonus. That’s how his game is being viewed this postseason, too, as the Bruins feel no rush to put any additional pressure on him.

That pressure, especially in a Game 7 on TD Garden ice, should be on the B’s top talents.

David Pastrnak, who tallied nine points through the first two games of this series and since has two assists and zero goals on 16 shots, comes into play with a playoff-high 16 missed shots this spring. He called a question asking him how he could get his scoring game going again “stupid.” David Krejci, while riding has sexy line featuring two goals and five points in six games, has looked slow in this series and has left you waiting for that vintage ‘Playoff Krejci’ game.

Rick Nash has created chances and drawn penalties, yeah, but the Bruins expect more than one goal in six games. And Brad Marchand, the true heartbeat of this Bruins team in so many ways, is way better than two goals on 19 shots, and is most definitely better than zero goals and zero points in back-to-back elimination games.

Game 7 was always going to be about these players more than Donato, especially when it would come to who Cassidy would trust to throw out there in search of production early and late in the pressure moments of this game.

Win or lose, it will be on their shoulders more than it ever would be Donato. Or Cassidy for not playing him.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.