By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
While most of the Boston Bruins paraded around China, the ‘domestic’ group got their 2018 stateside preseason schedule underway with a 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday at TD Garden.
Holding a 1-0 edge through the first period, the Bruins and Capitals were forced into overtime behind a strike from the Capitals’ Brett Connolly, in the second period. And though this was a game that saw the Bruins seemingly create whatever they wanted against a Capital squad with almost no NHL talent, the Bruins were on their last legs when back-to-back penalties put them in a 3-on-5 penalty killing situation for 55 seconds, but they survived to a shootout, where Heinen scored the lone goal for the win.
And with a roster that lacked much experience — Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Heinen were the B’s lone NHL regulars from a year ago that found themselves in Sunday’s lineup — the focus of all this one was going to be on Boston’s kids.
One of those kids, 2018 third-round pick Jakub Lauko, did not disappoint.
Lauko’s game, which featured one goal, three hits, and two blocked shots in 14:21 of time on ice, even saw him straight-up toss his body in front of an incoming slapshot, as if this was anything besides a sleepy Sept. 16 preseason game at the Garden.
“[Lauko] played hard; 18-year-old kid, didn’t seem phased by anything out there really,” Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco, leading the team while Bruce Cassidy is in China, said after the victory. “Competed, obviously scoring the goal is a bonus, but just the way he played the game, the way he approached the game tonight. It was a good start for him. I mean you don’t want to get ahead of yourself here, but certainly it was a good first game for him. I thought he showed a lot of composure for his first game. He seemed to be calm, played hard, didn’t seem like he was nervous at all out there, so it was a good start for him.”
Now, where Lauko fits into the Bruins’ plans right now is, well, quite simply — not at all. A victim of being a left winger in a franchise dominated by bodies on the left, there’s little chance that the teen can find a home in Boston. Not if he’s to be used in the right role, at least, with Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk logging top-six minutes, and with Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, and Peter Cehlarik among those you’d consider having a legitimate chance on Boston’s third line.
If signed to an entry-level deal, Lauko could of course play in the American Hockey League. But even there he could be forced to skate below the role that he’d excel in, given the P-Bruins’ plethora of bodies from Cehlarik to Ryan Fitzgerald to Jesse Gabrielle and beyond. (The Bruins are already experimenting with a few of these players — and players not mentioned or seen in games just yet — playing their off wing because of this surplus.) Oh, and the P-Bruins already have an absurd numbers of new players coming into the pro ranks, so it may be easy for Lauko to get lost in the shuffle if and when their focus shifts to winning games.
Still, the excitable winger is going to give it a go.
“I’m trying. I’m trying a lot. I’m trying to learn on the ice and off the ice,” Lauko, who added that he’s ‘never nervous,’ said. “And I hope I can stay for next season – here or Providence. I want to stay in America.”
In net, Zane McIntyre stopped 21-of-22 shots against for his first win of the preseason.