Bruce Cassidy had seen this develop before.
During the 2017-18 season, a campaign that saw five different skaters log their first regular-season game in the NHL, Boston’s latest youth movement started out with a bang.
During Boston’s season-opening win over the Predators, both Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk scored in their debuts, with the latter and fellow rookie winger Anders Bjork combining for three points in the 4-3 victory.
The next game?
A 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Avalanche, with both DeBrusk and Bjork finishing the contest with minus-3 ratings and a 28.57 shots for percentage at five-on-five play when both rookies were out on the ice together.
As expected, young players such as DeBrusk are expected to go through the usual stretch of bumps and bruises as they navigate their place in the NHL.
For some, those initial hardships pave the way for future success — with DeBrusk currently on pace for 30 goals in his sophomore campaign. For others, the process can take a bit longer.
Much like Bjork and DeBrusk’s inconsistent showing at the onset of the 2017-18 campaign, Ryan Donato is trying to find a groove in his first full NHL season — with the young winger trying to find the balance between the talented sniper with a elite release and a well-rounded contributor who isn’t a liability in his own zone.
A game after scoring his second goal of the season against the Red Wings on Saturday — his first tally since Oct. 4 — Donato took two steps back against the Panthers in Tuesday’s blowout loss, failing to close on a streaking Michael Matheson along the boards en route to the Florida defenseman’s unassisted strike against Jaroslav Halak.
Bruins get torched end-to-end by…Mike Matheson? pic.twitter.com/zeN8b86JiN
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 5, 2018
Those growing pains had to be an expected obstacle for a Bruins club hedging most of its bets this year on the development of players like Donato, Bjork, Danton Heinen and the next crop of prospects like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
But when compounded with the other issues plaguing the Bruins, the anticipated struggles of Boston’s younger players couldn’t come at a worse time for a team in desperate need of some stability.