By: Cameron McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks
If you were to poll the entirety of those who share a passion for Bruins fandom about which current Bruin they would choose as their favorite, some names would almost certainly stand out above the rest. As the Bruins are a notably deep team who owe much of their success to their admirable implementation and execution of the “next man up” (I just made that up, definitely not an overused cliché) mentality and system, there would likely be a few mentions of depth forwards and defensemen.
But it is likely that names like Bergeron, Rask, Chara, and Marchand would be offered as an answer to this childish hypothetical more so than the rest. Make no mistake, this should absolutely be the case.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 12, 2018
However, when it comes to impactful players on the Boston roster who have embraced their role and outperformed their expectations, it would be tough to argue that many (or any) have surpassed Danton Heinen when it comes to consistency and efficiency.
Heinen, throughout the course of the regular season, demonstrated his value (shoutout to Dennis Reynolds) in a variety of ways. His 34 regular season points made him the sixth-highest scoring Bruins forward, and solidified even further his role as a forward with middle-six capabilities. However, as a stalwart on an injury-ridden Bruins’ roster throughout the season, the absence of David Pastrnak saw not only Heinen’s status on the lineup elevated to the first line but saw his performance elevated as well. In his time playing with Bergeron and Marchand during the regular season, Danton Heinen scored at nearly a point-per-game pace and allowed the Bruins to maintain their offensive effectiveness despite the absence of one of their most prolific scorers.
Mistake by Nylander leads to a Danton Heinen goal. 3-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/jir2GVXhLP
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) April 14, 2019
While most might offer that just about anyone would be successful offensively while playing with Bergeron and Marchand, the following will bring to light just how valuable Heinen has been in other ways.
Throughout the regular season, Heinen saw time playing with each of Boston’s top three lines. In fact, he was rumored to have singlehandedly kept Boston-area LIDS stores in business because of the many hats he wore throughout the season (you’re welcome for that one).
As a younger player, it would have been reasonable to think that the consistent movement throughout the lineup might impact Heinen’s effectiveness on the ice and hinder his abilities to string together consistent performances. However, in the face of the instability of the Bruins’ forward units (for the better part of the season), Heinen managed to, on top of his respectable offensive production, amass the third-highest +/- rating among Boston forwards, behind just Bergeron and Marchand.
— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) May 12, 2019
While some might predictably point to +/- like an outdated statistic, being included in the same category as Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is nothing to write off. Even more so, the fact that Heinen put together such an impressive performance over the course of the entire season proves that the result was no fluke. Even amidst a variety of lineup moves that hindered his ability to get comfortable with certain linemates for extended periods of time, Heinen proved his commitment to a balanced style of production and defensive commitment.
The NHL Playoffs are a grueling time. While the regular season is longer, the intensity of postseason competition is unmatched, not just in hockey, but in the entire realm of professional sports. Simply put, the playoffs create a unique demand for staying healthy, while also producing and playing consistent hockey during situations of the highest intensity. Younger players with relatively less experience with such big moments might often fall victim to the effects of “the moment.” Danton Heinen appears to have received his “the moment” vaccination, and as such, is immune to its harmful effects that other younger players find themselves struggling with. Heinen has not only maintained his effectiveness but has improved in important areas of the game.
The last time Danton Heinen was on the ice for a 5v5 goal against was Game 5 of the Toronto series.
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) May 12, 2019
Heinen’s 34 regular season points saw him produce at a .44 points/game clip. In the playoffs, Heinen’s 7 points through 17 games have him producing at .41 points/game. When considering the magnitude of some of his points, and the skill/determination required to create them, this stat becomes all the more impressive. Most notably among Heinen’s playoff production is his overtime assist in Game 1 of the second round against Columbus. Did someone order a master class in body control, awareness, vision, and touch?
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) April 26, 2019
Heinen has not been able to maintain his status as the Bruins forward with the third-highest +/- rating in the playoffs. Instead, he now sits 1st (Pronounced “FIRST”) among Bruins forwards with a +10 rating in just 17 games. This comes despite Heinen averaging just 13:33 in ice-time throughout the playoffs, which sits among the lowest of Bruins forwards. Heinen’s utility in his shortened allotment of ice-time speaks to how effective he has been when he has graced the ice.
Don’t look now, but among all forwards, NHL postseason plus-minus leader is … Danton Heinen (+10). Charlie Coyle is at +9.
— Tony Massarotti (@TonyMassarotti) May 13, 2019
Heinen has shown that his game is much more mature than he will get credit for. While he is a far cry from being compared to the likes of Patrice Bergeron, his defensive commitment coupled with his respectable offensive capabilities make him incredibly valuable to a Bruins team that has benefitted from enhanced depth throughout the playoffs.
Heinen has gelled with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in his time on their unit, and I would expect to see that chemistry continue to grow and positively affect the outcomes of Boston’s upcoming games.
And thus ends my ode to Danton “Grindin’ and Shinin,’ Third Linin’” Heinen.