Monday night saw the NHL debut of Ryan Donato, who played on the left wing for the Boston Bruins. The 21-year-old Harvard junior elected to forgo his fourth year of NCAA eligibility, signing with the team just after Harvard was eliminated from the NCAA playoffs. Much has been said about his composure on big stages, and that was on display at points in the game.
It certainly wasn’t the perfect night for the newly minted Bruin, as the team did lose in overtime, but for Donato, there were many good things that happened: his first NHL career goal, his first NHL career assist, a three-point night. He also spent time on the power play and was in the second shift of the three-on-three overtime.
“I mean it was fun. Obviously, it ended tough but at the end of the day I was excited, and I think it all went well personally but I’d say it’s still bitter because of the loss,” Donato shared after the game.
Donato’s goal was the tying goal in the second period, after the Columbus Blue Jackets had scored in the first. His goal changed a bit of the momentum as the Bruins went on to score a second even strength goal by Brad Marchand and then Riley Nash got a power play goal as the clock ticked under four minutes remaining in the middle frame. Donato got his first assist of the night on that power play goal.
The scoring for both teams continued to mount and with 8:30 remaining in the third period it looked like the Columbus Blue Jackets might have the go-ahead goal when Nick Foligno got the puck to Artemi Panarin. The Bruins, however, would respond 20 seconds later as David Krejci tied things up at four a piece. Once again, the assist came from Donato.
Neither team felt they did their best. For the Bruins, who lost on Thursday night in Sunrise, Florida against the Florida Panthers and then went on to shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning on their home ice, there is a bit of struggle to find consistency. No doubt part of that is the result of the number of injured players they currently have. The most recent addition to that list was Rick Nash on Monday afternoon. Anton Blidh having been recalled from the Providence Bruins to slot in for Nash. That saw Krejci with two rookies on his wings.
“Yeah, it’s a day-by-day thing, or game-by-game. I measure on how we play. Did we compete? Were we sloppy? We weren’t as clean as we can be, but it wasn’t like a barrage of opportunities, and we always look at that,” head coach Bruce Cassidy described after the game.
Fortunately for Boston, they have been able to recall strong players to slot in when a player goes down. Many suspected a complete breakdown of the team when Patrice Bergeron was injured. He’s certainly missed, as are also Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk. But the quality of players they have in the wings has allowed the Bruins to continue on until these players are truly healthy enough to rejoin the team.
“The scouting staff clearly did a great job with the players, the young players, we’ve drafted. We’ve been able to develop them on the fly here.,” Coach Cassidy said. “You need to be able to do it. You probably could look at teams throughout the National Hockey League that haven’t been able to use that depth with injuries. They probably haven’t been able to sustain a level of success, and that’s been the difference for us. We have been.”
The Bruins are 7-2-1 in their last ten games, and all of those games saw at least one if not more of the injured players out. They have 11 games remaining in the regular season and sit strongly in second place in the Atlantic Division, trailing Tampa Bay by three points with a game in hand. They are six points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the moment, also with one game in hand. In the league, they sit in third place.
Donato was certainly a great addition to the team on Monday night, but he understands that to remain in this league requires much more than one good game.
“Obviously just the great NHL guys have consistency and so hopefully that’s something I can provide to this team,” he said.
The team heads on a road trip on Tuesday, stopping first in St. Louis to take on the Blues Wednesday night. They will play three additional road games in Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg, playing every other night.