Danton Heinen has struggled in his sophomore season. Anyone who has watched the Bruins this season has noticed that Heinen hasn’t played quite the same way this season as he did in his very impressive rookie campaign just a season ago.
While Heinen was winning puck battles along the boards and doing a good job at retrieving pucks and playing a blue-collar brand of hockey in 2017-18, he started the 2018-19 season without that same style. He wasn’t winning those battles and he wasn’t coming up with loose pucks. At the same time, he’s also failed to score at the same rate he did last season when he scored 16 goals and 47 points in 77 games as a rookie.
In 22 games this season, Heinen has only two goals and five points. He’s also been held pointless in each of his last seven contests which isn’t ideal given the fact that the Bruins have been using him in a top-six role the last few games.
Heinen Performing Better as of Late
What’s been interesting about Heinen, however, is he’s slowly been finding his groove and getting results in those same areas that he was a season ago when he would work hard and make positive plays for his team.
While it hasn’t necessarily been reflected on the scoresheet, Heinen has been much better with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk than his point totals may indicate.
In 117 minutes of five-on-five play this season, the Bruins second line with Heinen, DeBrusk and Krejci have had a Corsi-For percentage (CF%) of 54.9% and a Relative CF% of 5.06. It’s the best the second line has looked all season and it happened as soon as the trio was reunited.
There is obvious chemistry between the three aforementioned players and while it may not be the end-game solution for the Bruins, Heinen is as good a fit as any for the line right now. If the team wants to make a trade to address the situation (something they likely will do), then that’s fine. Until then, though, Heinen has earned the opportunity he’s been given and he should get a chance to prove he can produce.
Heinen’s Scoring Will Come With Time
Naturally, the expectation for a top-six player is that they’ll produce points. This is a normal demand of a top-six skater and Heinen’s lack of production has been concerning for many. Still, it’s important to remember that outside of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, few players on the Bruins have been pulling their weight in any way, shape or form. Add in injuries to the mix and there has to be a time when the players are cut a little slack.
This doesn’t excuse a lack of secondary scoring nor does it mean that Heinen should only have five points 22 games into the season. It does potentially indicate that the Bruins could be a better team than many are giving them credit for, however, and with consistent time in the top-six, the points could start spilling in for Heinen alongside Krejci and DeBrusk.
For reference, DeBrusk has scored seven goals and nine points in his last 11 games. Prior to that, he had only scored three points, all goals. in 13 games. On the season, DeBrusk now has 10 goals and 12 points and is on pace for 34 goals and 41 points.
Sometimes, it takes the right circumstances and a little time to get things going.
If Heinen can consistently help the Bruins on their second line off the scoresheet, he should be given the chance to keep his spot there until the points come in. If he falters, there’s no reason he can’t be lowered off the line. For now, though, he appears to be their best bet with the team seemingly dead-set on not using Anders Bjork in a top-six capacity.
The Bruins may not ever get fully healthy this season, but it’s very hard to judge them based on the current construction of the team given the severity of the injuries they’ve had to deal with thus far. The same could have been said at the start of the 2017-18 season. There were concerns early on but the team finished with 50 wins and 112 points, only one point back of first place in the Atlantic Division.