Not a lot has gone right for the Boston Bruins this year. A team high on tradition, with a rich history of competing for the postseason and beyond, has limped out of the gate to begin the 2015-16 season.
A lot of the struggles can be pointed to injury. Captain Zdeno Chara, and fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg are two keys to the Bruins blue line that have been hampered with injuries in the early going. Forwards David Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey, both expected to produce big numbers offensively this year, have also been dealing with injuries.
According to Man Games Lost, the Bruins rank in the top half of the league in both total man games lost to injury, as well as man games lost to injury relative to the quality of player. The bottom line is, all teams have to deal with injuries, and teams with worse injury situations this year are in playoff position.
Many casual Boston fans have been looking for a reason to watch this team. There is an answer, and his name is Frank Vatrano.
Vatrano was recently called up from the Providence Bruins, where he had 10 goals and two assists in just nine games for 12 points. Vatrano was the first AHL player since 2006 to score 10 goals in the month of October.
For his efforts, Vatrano was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month. Perhaps his most impressive feat during his stint with Providence, was a four-goal night on October 11th against the Portland Pirates.
When a team is struggling, a young kid from the farm system can always generate excitement for the team and the fan base. However, there is an additional reason to tune into NESN and root for Vatrano, the East Longmeadow native.
Vatrano is living out a childhood dream that so many hockey fans have. Not only is he playing on the highest stage of the sport, but he is playing for his hometown team. Vatrano is playing with guys he cheered for when they hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011. All of those times turning to NESN to watch the Bruins , now he is one of them, and people are finding the remote to watch him play.
Better yet, in Vatrano’s NHL debut, against Boston’s ultimate rival, Montreal, he scored his first NHL goal on the road in 14:02 of ice time.
In four games since, Vatrano is without a point, but has still looked good on the ice for a struggling team. The season is certainly not a lost cause for the Bruins. Last year, when Boston finally gave Spooner and Pastrnak extended offensive roles, the team was playing their best hockey.
Perhaps Vatrano can have a similar affect for the team this, perhaps not. The defense is still a work in progress, and Tuukka Rask has not been his normal self.
Despite all this, Vatrano has given fans a reason to continue watching. Even I, someone who is not a Bruins fan, have been really excited to see Vatrano play.
If the Bruins do turn it around, and the young, undrafted East Longmeadow native is at the center of it all, that would really be a story.