Last Friday, Danton Heinen skated back to the Bruins bench, his head hanging low.
Just seconds earlier, a careless turnover from the Bruins winger was snatched up in the neutral zone by Rangers’ forward Artemi Panarin, jump-starting a New York rush into the Bruins’ side of the ice that was capped with a 5v5 tally from Filip Chytil. It was just the sixth 5v5 goal scored by the opposition during Heinen’s 300+ minutes of 5v5 time on ice (TOI) this season, but leaning on those stats weren’t going to do much to take the sting out of an ugly turnover.
As such, Heinen returned to the bench following Chytil’s tally at 6:21 in the second period. He did not touch the ice again until 2:19 in the final stanza. Heinen, who logged just 9:50 of ice time in Boston’s eventual 3-2 overtime win over the Blueshirts, was one of a few choice players that Bruce Cassidy opted to let sit on the pine for an extended stretch.
“There were a few guys; he was one of them,” Cassidy said postgame of Heinen’s benching. "I just didn’t think they weren’t hard enough on pucks. We shortened the bench; we’ve done that in the past to get people’s attention.”
Given the track record that Heinen has built for himself as a dependable, two-way option up front, one glaring defensive gaffe simply stood as one too many on Friday night. The 24-year-old forward can still be a polarizing figure to some, given the lack of flash in his game when compared to other younger wingers on the roster such as David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, and Anders Bjork.
Fair or not, such is the hand that has been dealt to Heinen, who, much like an NFL offensive lineman, perhaps might be at his most effective when he’s making the plays that don’t exactly make the highlight reel.
Tuesday was more of the Heinen that Cassidy and his staff have become accustomed to seeing on a regular basis. Sure, he finished with just a secondary helper in Boston's 2-0 victory over the Hurricanes. But that assist, and more importantly, the battle he won just seconds prior, proved to be the difference-maker in what stood as the Bruins' eighth consecutive victory.