Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins rout Sabres, 5-1, in Buffalo

Five different scorers led the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres in a, 5-1, victory at KeyBank Center on Thursday night as the B’s extended their winning streak to six games.

Jeremy Swayman (5-1-0, 1.65 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 29 saves on 30 shots against in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Dustin Tokarski (2-7-2, 3.23 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 11 games played) turned aside 33 out of 38 shots faced in the loss.

Boston improved to 27-12-6 (60 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 12-28-7 (31 points) overall and stagnant in last place in the same division.

The B’s are now 5-0-0 against the Sabres this season.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness) and Kevan Miller (undisclosed) on Thursday, while Jaroslav Halak returned from the league’s COVID protocol and served as Swayman’s backup goaltender for the night.

Tuukka Rask, as a result, was made a healthy scratch for the evening, joining the likes of Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Jarred Tinordi and Miller on the long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Meanwhile, Steven Kampfer was reinserted in the lineup in place of Zboril on the third defensive pairing. Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other changes to his lineup on Thursday.

Rasmus Ristolainen kicked off the game’s action on the event sheet with a boarding minor at 8:13 of the first period, presenting the Bruins with the game’s first power play as a result.

Boston was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Brad Marchand (25) flipped the puck into the open net on a catch and release pass from Patrice Bergeron through the slot while Tokarski lunged across the crease in desperation but couldn’t come up with the save.

Bergeron (23) and Mike Reilly (23) had the assists as the Bruins took a, 1-0, lead at 12:36 of the first period.

About a couple minutes later, Charlie McAvoy hooked Dylan Cozens and cut a rut to the penalty box, yielding a power play to Buffalo for the first time on Thursday at 14:25.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the resulting power play, however.

The two teams finished the first period at 4-on-4 as Marchand and Casey Mittelstadt received matching roughing minors at 18:18, extending the 4-on-4 action into the second period as a result.

Through 20 minutes of action in Buffalo, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-7, in shots on goal.

Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Buffalo led in takeaways (3-0) and hits (11-4) heading into the first intermission.

Entering the middle frame, both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

Ristolainen kicked off the second period’s action with a holding infraction at 1:49, but the B’s couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Moments later, Arttu Ruotsalainen (3) tied the game, 1-1, on a one-timer from Anders Bjork at 5:27 of the second period.

Bjork (6) and Cozens (8) tallied the assists as the Sabres had a small shift in momentum in the grand scheme of things.

Less than a minute later, David Pastrnak was penalized for boarding at 5:48, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the ensuing power play, nor could the Sabres take advantage of Kampfer’s interference minor at 8:56.

Midway through the middle frame, the Bruins won an attacking zone faceoff and worked the puck around the blue line to Matt Grzelcyk (4) for a wrist shot off of Tokarski’s glove and into the net for the eventual game-winning goal.

McAvoy (20) and Pastrnak (23) were credited with the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as Boston went ahead, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 12:50 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, Bergeron was sent to the sin bin after hooking Sabres forward, Tobias Rieder, at 13:11.

Buffalo couldn’t convert on Bergeron’s minor, nor McAvoy’s slashing infraction at 16:26, as Boston entered the second intermission ahead on the scoreboard, 2-1.

The Bruins held the advantage in shots on goal, 26-20, despite trailing the Sabres in shots on net in the second period alone, 13-12.

Boston led in blocked shots (9-5) and giveaways (5-4), while Buffalo dominated in takeaways (5-1), hits (14-9) and faceoff win% (59-42) after two periods.

As there were no penalties called in the final frame, the Sabres finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.

Pastrnak (18) extended Boston’s lead after working his way around Rasmus Dahlin prior to sniping a shot past Tokarski’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead.

Marchand (32) and Grzelcyk (11) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston led, 3-1, at 4:54 of the third period.

About a minute later, Nick Ritchie (11) notched his first goal in 13 games on a short side shot to make it, 4-1, and give the B’s a three-goal lead.

Jake DeBrusk (6) and Charlie Coyle (10) had the assists– marking 300 career points for Coyle with the secondary assist in the process– on Ritchie’s goal at 6:01.

Late in the game, David Krejci (6) buried a rebound to assure Boston of a, 5-1, victory at 18:02 of the third period, while Jeremy Lauzon (6) and Taylor Hall (19) picked up the assists.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-1, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-30, including a, 12-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up Thursday night’s action leading in blocked shots (12-9) and giveaways (7-6), while the Sabres finished the action leading in hits (18-17) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Boston improved to 19-4-3 (10-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 16-0-2 (8-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 18-0-2 (7-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo fell to 5-23-2 (2-15-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-18-0 (1-12-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-24-2 (1-15-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins face the Sabres again on Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Rask earns 51st career shutout in, 2-0, win in Buffalo

Brad Marchand and Connor Clifton scored the only goals while Tuukka Rask (11-4-2, 2.22 goals-against average, .916 save percentage in 18 games played) made 32 saves in a, 2-0, shutout win for the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night at KeyBank Center.

Rask picked up his first shutout of the season and 51st of his career, while Dustin Tokarski (2-6-2, 3.05 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 10 games played) stopped 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 save percentage in the loss for Buffalo.

The Bruins improved to 26-12-6 (58 points) on the season and in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 12-27-7 (31 points) overall and in last place in the same division.

The B’s also improved to 4-0-0 against Buffalo this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Kevan Miller (undisclosed) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Kase and Carlo did not travel with the team for their five-game road trip, while Miller traveled with the club and is “better” according to head coach, Bruce Cassidy.

After missing 18 games this season, most recently due to an upper body injury sustained on April 10th in Philadelphia, Matt Grzelcyk returned to the lineup on defense.

Jakub Zboril was back too after missing a game due to a non-COVID protocol related illness.

Cassidy made no changes among his forwards, while slotting Grzelcyk in on the left side of the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and moving Jeremy Lauzon to the third pairing with Zboril.

Mike Reilly and Clifton remained paired on the second defensive pairing while Jarred Tinordi and Steven Kampfer joined Frederic, Greg McKegg, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Halak, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Tinordi and Miller on Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players.

Ahcan and Vaakanainen were recalled to the taxi squad depending on your source for American Hockey League transactions (CapFriendly, the AHL transactions page itself, TSN or CBS Sports), meanwhile Zach Senyshyn was sent to the Providence Bruins (AHL) over the weekend with Dan Vladar.

Editor’s note: Also apparently McKegg’s been erroneously forgotten from the taxi squad in these lineup notes/recaps since early April. My bad. Please forgive me, Greg.

Midway through the opening frame, Marchand (24) backhanded a rebound over Tokarski while the Sabres goaltender reached to trap the loose puck.

David Pastrnak (22) and Reilly (22) had the assists on Marchand’s goal as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 8:06 of the first period.

Moments later, Jake DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking former teammate turned newest skater in Buffalo, Anders Bjork at 11:17.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

There were no more goals or penalties as the first period came to a close with Boston ahead, 1-0, on the scoreboard and both teams tied, 9-9, in shots on goal.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (3-2), while the B’s had the advantage in hits (7-3) and faceoff win percentage (69-31) after one period.

Both teams had five blocked shots each, while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see time on the skater advantage.

Early in the middle frame, Clifton (1) threw a shot on goal from the point that trickled through Tokarski and was kicked in by the Buffalo netminder, giving Boston a two-goal lead.

Sean Kuraly (3) and Curtis Lazar (5) had the assists on Clifton’s first goal since Nov. 19, 2019, and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 3:03 of the second period.

Midway through the middle period, Marchand elbowed Henri Jokiharju and received a minor infraction at 11:04 as a result.

Buffalo’s power play was short lived, however, as Rasmus Ristolainen laid out Lauzon in front of the net for no apparent reason at 12:10, resulting in 4-on-4 action for about 56 seconds before the B’s had an abbreviated power play.

Through 40 minutes of action on Tuesday, Boston led Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard, as well as in shots on goal, 27-15, including an, 18-6, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in hits (13-6) and faceoff win% (65-35), while the Sabres led in blocked shots (11-9), takeaways (7-4) and giveaways (6-4).

Buffalo was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

There were no goals scored in the third period, though there were plenty of chances to score on the skater advantage as multiple penalties were called on both clubs in the final frame.

Drake Caggiula interfered with Pastrnak and presented Boston with the first power play of the third period at 1:05, but the Bruins were unsuccessful in assuring themselves of complete dominance over the Sabres.

Instead, McAvoy roughed Jeff Skinner at 8:03, but Buffalo’s power play was cut short when Sam Reinhart tripped Clifton and sent the Bruins defender face first into the boards as a result.

The two squads skated at 4-on-4 for a little under 90 seconds as Reinhart cut a rut to the sin bin at 8:30 of the third period.

Moments later, Craig Smith caught Mattias Samuelsson with a high stick at 12:41, but Buffalo couldn’t muster anything on the power play.

Nor could the Sabres score when Nick Ritchie slashed Jacob Bryson at 16:59 and Lauzon followed his teammate in the box at 17:26 for roughing Victor Olofsson along the wall.

No, Buffalo, despite having a 6-on-3 advantage– having pulled Tokarski for an extra attacker– could not establish much of an attacking zone presence while on the power play late in the game.

The team looked all but defeated before they were, in fact, actually defeated.

At the final horn, not only had the Bruins killed off their minors, but they actually were on the power play as time expired since the Sabres had seven skaters on the ice while in possession of the puck at 19:06– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty for too many skaters.

At the final horn, Boston shutout Buffalo, 2-0, on the scoreboard and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-32, as well, despite the Sabres leading in shots in the third period alone, 17-14.

Buffalo finished the action leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the B’s wrapped up Tuesday night leading in hits (15-9) and faceoff win% (61-39).

Both teams had seven giveaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/6 and the Bruins were 0/4 on the power play.

Boston improved to 18-4-3 (9-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 15-0-2 (7-0-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 17-0-2 (6-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

Buffalo dropped to 5-22-2 (2-14-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-17-0 (1-11-0 at home) when trailing after one period and 1-23-2 (1-14-1 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2020-21.

The Bruins take on the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday and Friday before venturing to Pittsburgh next week and hosting Buffalo to close out the month of April. Boston is 1-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Preview: Game No. 29– Islanders @ Bruins

For the first time in a week, the Boston Bruins are set to play another game. This time, the B’s will be kicking off the second-half of their 2020-21 56-game regular season schedule against the New York Islanders at TD Garden on Thursday night.

Boston defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 4-1, at KeyBank Center last Thursday (March 18th) without forward, Sean Kuraly, in the lineup as he had been placed in the league’s COVID protocol earlier that afternoon– jeopardizing that night’s action, when combined with the fact that the Sabres also had a positive test among their coaching staff– but nevertheless, the game went on as scheduled.

Until after the game.

Four more Bruins skaters were placed in COVID protocol, including Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, David Pastrnak and Craig Smith, which forced the postponement of last Saturday’s scheduled matchup with the Sabres in Buffalo and Tuesday’s scheduled home game against the Islanders.

Boston’s facilities were shutdown until Wednesday, when the team held practice for the first time since March 18th’s game action at 7 o’clock in the evening at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton.

Everyone except for DeBrusk and Kuraly came off of the National Hockey League’s COVID protocol list prior to practice on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo last Thursday, Greg McKegg scored his first goal as a Bruin, DeBrusk added his third goal of the season, Smith notched his fifth and Pastrnak tallied his 14th goal of the year.

Krejci had three assists, surpassing 700 career points (all with Boston) in the process– becoming just the eighth player to do so in a Bruins uniform.

In 935 career NHL games, Krejci has 208-494–702 totals and trails Wayne Cashman (793 points) for the seventh-most points in a B’s jersey.

Jaroslav Halak made 23 saves on 24 shots against for a .958 save percentage in the win for Boston last Thursday, while Carter Hutton stopped 33 out of 37 shots faced for an .892 save percentage in Buffalo’s loss.

Now back to the present.

Entering Thursday night, the Bruins are 0-3-1 against the Islanders this season, with the most recent loss coming in a shootout, 2-1, on March 9th at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

New York is riding back-to-back wins against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 20th at home and March 22nd in Philadelphia as they enter Boston for the first time this season.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, provided a pregame update to reporters via Zoom and informed them that he expects Tuukka Rask to return to the lineup and get the start against the Isles on Thursday, while Jarred Tinordi and Trent Frederic will be game-time decisions.

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller, Jeremy Lauzon, Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn, though Carlo, Lauzon, Miller and Senyshyn are skating.

Moore underwent surgery on an undisclosed injury and is out longer-term, while Kase has no set timetable for when he’ll be back since sustaining an upper body injury in the second game of the season back on Jan. 16th in New Jersey.

Cassidy, meanwhile, is coaching in his 400th NHL game on Thursday night (177-74-38 overall in 289 games with Boston).

The Bruins (16-8-4, 36 points) are 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division as they embark on the second-half of their season, while New York leads the division with a 21-8-4 record (46 points).

The B’s are 7-3-1 on home ice this season and 5-3-2 in their last ten games, while the Isles enter TD Garden 8-7-2 on the road in 2020-21, as well as 8-2-0 in their last ten games.

Boston is 92-57-21-6 in 176 regular season meetings against the Islanders all time with 590 goals for and 501 goals against in that span.

New York is 18-20-2-4 in 44 games at TD Garden since the building was opened in 1995, outscoring the Bruins in that span, 134-113.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-22–34 totals in 28 games played, while Pastrnak leads the team in goals scored (14), but trails Marchand for the second-most points with 14-12–26 totals in 21 games played this season.

Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, rounds out the top-three scorers with 25 points in 28 games and is four points away from tying Rick Middleton for the fourth most points with Boston in franchise history.

Bergeron has 362-532–894 totals in 1,117 career games with the Bruins, while Middleton had 898 points in 881 games with Boston from 1976-88.

Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders in scoring with 9-16–25 totals in 33 games this season, while Anders Lee and Brock Nelson are tied for the team lead in goals with 12.

Lee’s recent injury has limited him to 27 games and ruled him out for the rest of the season, while Nelson has attained 12-6-18 totals in 33 games.

Isles defender, Nick Leddy, is second on the team in scoring with 1-20–21 totals in 33 games, while Jordan Eberle and Jean-Gabriel Pageau each have 20 points for the third-most points on New York’s roster.

Eberle’s recorded 20 points in 33 games, while Pageau has 20 points in 32 games, including 4-1–5 totals in four games against Boston this season.

Rask (8-4-2, 2.46 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in 14 games played) is expected to get his first start since missing the last six games for Boston due to an undisclosed injury.

He is one win away from reaching the 300-win plateau and would be the first Bruins goaltender in franchise history to reach that mark.

Semyon Varlamov (13-6-3, 2.17 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 22 games played) is likely to get the start in net for the Islanders on Thursday.

The Bruins kick off a seven-game homestand on Thursday, which is tied for the longest home stretch in team history (Jan. 2-16, 2006).

For the first time since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began last year, fans will be in attendance at TD Garden as the building is limited to 12% seating capacity.

Roughly 2,100 fans will be at a Bruins home game for the first time since March 7, 2020, instead of the usual sellout crowd of 17,850 since the building’s most recent renovations and development of The Hub on Causeway.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 37 Patrice Bergeron (C) 88 David Pastrnak

21 Nick Ritchie 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

10 Anders Bjork 13 Charlie Coyle 83 Karson Kuhlman

11 Trent Frederic 18 Greg McKegg 14 Chris Wagner

48 Matt Grzlecyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

67 Jakub Zboril 75 Connor Clifton

84 Jarred Tinordi 44 Steven Kampfer

40 Tuukka Rask

41 Jaroslav Halak

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Jack Studnicka, Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (undisclosed), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jack Ahcan, Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Callum Booth, Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol), Dan Vladar, Kevan Miller (right knee)

New York Islanders

7 Jordan Eberle 47 Leo Komarov 13 Mathew Barzal

28 Michael Dal Colle 29 Brock Nelson (A) 12 Josh Bailey (A)

18 Anthony Beauvillier 44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau 26 Oliver Wahlstrom

17 Matt Martin 53 Casey Cizikas 15 Cal Clutterbuck (A)

3 Adam Pelech 6 Ryan Pulock

2 Nick Leddy 4 Andy Greene

34 Thomas Hickey 24 Scott Mayfield

40 Semyon Varlamov

30 Ilya Sorokin

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Anders Lee (knee), TBA

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 7-4-2 in 13 GP, 2.06 GAA, .921 SV%, 2 SO

70 Callum Booth 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO

New York Islanders

30 Ilya Sorokin 8-2-1 in 11 GP, 1.97 GAA, .922 SV%, 2 SO

35 Cory Schneider 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

40 Semyon Varlamov 13-6-3 in 22 GP, 2.17 GAA, .923 SV%, 3 SO

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Preview: Game No. 28– Bruins @ Sabres

For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins pay a visit to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo.

Last season, Boston went 3-0-0 against Buffalo in the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season, winning all three of their matchups, 3-2, on Nov. 21st in Boston, 3-0, on Dec. 27th in Buffalo and, 3-2, on Dec. 29th in Boston.

After Thursday night’s matchup, the two clubs will meet seven more times in 2020-21, including their next meeting on Saturday.

A couple of previous matchups against the Sabres were postponed to later dates in the season due to a plethora of Buffalo players in COVID protocol last month.

A coaching staff member for Buffalo and a Boston skater (Sean Kuraly) were placed in COVID protocol Thursday morning, resulting in both pregame skates being cancelled, but the game remains on schedule through contact tracing, etc.

The Sabres return home after a, 3-2, loss to the Devils in New Jersey and without their now former head coach, Ralph Krueger, who was fired on Wednesday.

Interim head coach Dom Granato was promoted from his position as an assistant coach in Buffalo, where he was hired in that role in 2019. He will be making his National Hockey League head coaching debut on Thursday.

Granato previously served as the head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL, 1997-99), head coach of the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL, 1999-2000), head coach of the Worcester IceCats (AHL, 2000-05), an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues (2005-06), head coach of the Chicago Wolves (AHL, parts of two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10), head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-16), assistant coach with the Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA, 2016), assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks (2016-19).

Buffalo, of course, is without their captain, Jack Eichel, due to injury.

Boston, meanwhile, is suffering from a plethora of injuries, rendering Tuukka Rask unavailable for the last five games, which meant that Dan Vladar got his first career NHL start on Tuesday after Jaroslav Halak was handed a, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots to backstop the Bruins to a, 2-1, victory against the Penguins in his regular season debut in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is likely to tweak his lineup depending on player availability, as well as whether or not Rask will be good to go after missing six games this season due to an undisclosed injury.

Rask did travel with the team as part of their four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon, at least, as Kase has no timetable for a return, Miller is skating back in Boston and Lauzon is approaching one month since sustaining a fractured left hand, which takes four-to-six weeks recovery time.

Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn will also be out of the lineup for Boston, while Jarred Tinordi is likely to miss Thursday night’s game in Buffalo as well after sustaining an upper body injury on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev that resulted in a boarding major, as well as a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for Boston.

Thursday marks the halfway point for the Bruins, who are 15-8-4 overall (34 points) and currently 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres begin the second half of their season with a 6-18-4 record (16 points, last in the division).

Boston is 3-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (5-4 past regulation) this season, while Buffalo is 0-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (2-4 past regulation) thus far in 2020-21.

Boston is also 8-5-3 in 16 games on the road this season, including a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games, while Buffalo is 2-10-2 on home ice and 0-9-1 in their last ten games.

The B’s are 142-113-29-12 in 296 all-time regular season matchups against Buffalo with 949 goals for and 926 goals against in that span.

The Bruins are also 29-25-1-7 in 62 regular season games at KeyBank Center, though the Sabres have outscored Boston, 175-157, in that span.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-21–33 totals in 27 games, while Patrice Bergeron is second with 25 points in 27 games and David Pastrnak is third with 24 points in 20 games, while leading his teammates in goals scored (13).

Marchand has a team-leading plus-nine rating in 27 games, while Chris Wagner is a minus-eight in 23 games this season.

Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson lead the Sabres in scoring with 19 points in 26 and 28 games, repsectively. Eichel (18 in 21 games) ranks third in scoring, while Reinhart leads the roster in goals scored with 11.

Jake McCabe is a plus-two in 13 games, while Rasmus Dahlin is a minus-27 in 28 games thus far.

If Rask gets the start for Boston, he is one win away from his 300th career NHL win, which would also make him the first goaltender in a Bruins uniform to reach the 300-win plateau.

David Krejci is one point away from his 700th career point and currently eighth all-time in scoring in a Bruins uniform with 699 career points.

Wayne Cashman (793 points) is seventh in all-time scoring with Boston.

Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron (894 points) is four points away from tying Rick Middleton (898) for the fourth most points in a Boston uniform in franchise history.

The Bruins wrap up their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee (1 p.m. ET puck drop) in Buffalo before returning home on March 23rd against the New York Islanders in what will be Boston’s first game at TD Garden to feature fans since the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 37 Patrice Bergeron (C) 88 David Pastrnak

74 Jake DeBrusk 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

21 Nick Ritchie 13 Charlie Coyle 62 Oskar Steen

11 Trent Frederic 18 Greg McKegg 83 Karson Kuhlman

48 Matt Grzelcyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

67 Jakub Zboril 75 Connor Clifton

54 Jack Ahcan 44 Steven Kampfer

41 Jaroslav Halak

80 Dan Vladar

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jeremy Swayman, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (lower body), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Urho Vaakanainen, Jarred Tinordi (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee)

Buffalo Sabres

13 Tobias Rieder 12 Eric Staal 23 Sam Reinhart

4 Taylor Hall 15 Riley Sheahan 72 Tage Thompson

53 Jeff Skinner 27 Curtis Lazar 37 Casey Mittelstadt

68 Victor Olofsson 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo

78 Jacob Bryson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

44 Matt Irwin 62 Brandon Montour

26 Rasmus Dahlin 33 Colin Miller

40 Carter Hutton

34 Jonas Johansson

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jack Eichel, Henri Jokiharju, Dylan Cozens

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

1 Jeremy Swayman 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 6-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.15 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO

80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO

Buffalo Sabres

31 Dustin Tokarski 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

34 Jonas Johansson 0-5-1 in 7 GP, 3.79 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

35 Linus Ullmark 5-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO

40 Carter Hutton 1-9-1 in 11 GP, 3.43 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Buffalo Sabres (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Buffalo Sabres might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of KeyBank Center someday.

Buffalo Sabres Current Retired Numbers

2 Tim Horton

7 Rick Martin

11 Gilbert Perreault

14 Rene Robert

16 Pat Lafontaine

18 Danny Gare

39 Dominik Hasek

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! Not a thing and that’s a crime according to this post. Luckily for the Sabres, we have a few suggestions to get them out of retired jersey number jail.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

9 Jack Eichel

Eichel had yet to lace up his skates and take to the ice in a Sabres sweater when the first “Look to the Rafters” for Buffalo was written in Aug. 2015. Since then, he wore No. 15 when he made his NHL debut, then changed his number to the more familiar No. 9 ahead of last season (2018-19).

In 354 career games (all with the Sabres), Eichel has 337 points (137 goals, 200 assists). He had back-to-back seasons of at least 55 points in his rookie and sophomore campaigns, then improved to 60 or more points in the last three seasons (64 points in 67 games in 2017-18, 82 points in 77 games in 2018-19 and 78 points in 68 games this season).

He’s the face of the franchise with the most talent since (dare I say it?) Alexander Mogilny. Not goaltending talent related, of course.

Anyway, Eichel is the real deal and just needs, well, a lot more support to get the Sabres back to the top of the regular season standings, let alone tip-top playoff performance– something Eichel has yet to see, by the way, in his NHL career.

He’s five seasons into playing hockey in the best league in the world and he has not even had a shift on the ice in the postseason because his team has missed the playoffs since before he was drafted 2nd overall in 2015.

That said, he’s a certified star and he’s signed long-term because he’s loyal to the fan base in the place where winter never stops. No. 9 is sure to be hanging in the rafters in Buffalo some number of years from now and it just might reverse the Modano Curse (well, technically, the “Brett Hull’s Foot Was In The Crease” Curse).

26 Thomas Vanek

Are we sure Vanek didn’t actually play somewhere this season? Buffalo’s first round selection (5th overall) in 2003, the Vienna, Austria native formally announced his retirement from professional hockey on Feb. 25th this year.

Vanek amassed 373-416–789 totals in 1,029 career NHL games for the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Red Wings in one final stint from 2005-19 across 14 NHL seasons.

He spent parts of nine seasons with Buffalo and had 254 goals and 243 assists (497 points) in 598 games as a Sabre in that span.

After being dealt to the Islanders early in the 2013-14 season, Vanek became a Swiss Army knife of sorts and an NHL journeyman that went on to collect a lot of different jerseys in his career.

Anyway, whereas Danny Briere and Chris Drury didn’t last long in Buffalo and Ryan Miller had the crease, as well as the love and affection of being a goaltender for many years as a Sabre, Vanek was the one constant in a time of bliss and turmoil for the franchise.

The success of the 2000s that brought them oh so close, but not close enough as the Sabres couldn’t get past the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 or 2007, ultimately led to their last playoff appearance in 2011.

Since then, the team has gone through coaches, general managers and even a change in ownership. As the Vanek Era came to a close in Buffalo, the precursor to the Eichel Era was ushered in.

For now, Vanek’s legacy remains large and in focus until Eichel and whoever else can lead the Sabres to rise above and land the franchise its first Stanley Cup championship. As such, perhaps it’s time to consider setting aside number– oops, just kidding, you let Rasmus Dahlin wear it now.

No, Dahlin wasn’t included in this list as he only just got done with his sophomore season and was hampered by injuries that limited him to 59 games out of the team’s 69-game shortened regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dahlin had 9-35–44 totals in 82 games in his rookie year (2018-19), which is respectable for a durable NHL defender in this day and age. He had 4-36–40 totals in 59 games this season and was on pace for about 56 points had the regular season seen its conclusion.

Though, admittedly, 16 points in 13 games for a defender seems unlikely– especially considering the number of losses that piled up for Buffalo from February to the end of the season in March.

We’ll see how Dahlin bounces back (and the rest of the Sabres for that matter), then consider changing No. 26’s honor from Vanek to Dahlin if/when it seems appropriate.

30 Ryan Miller

Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in the 2009-10 season while with the Sabres– that same year he and the rest of Team USA came a goal shy of upsetting the hockey world and winning gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be because Sidney Crosby exists and all that, but hey, if that one moment of defeat is the only thing that defines Miller’s greatest upset while associated with Buffalo, then I think that’s something he can…

Well, as a goalie, one never really “gets over” the “one that got away” goal.

Nevertheless, Miller spent parts of 11 seasons with the Sabres and amassed a 284-186-57 record in 540 games played wearing a Buffalo sweater from the 2002-03 season through part of the 2013-14 season. He had a 2.58 goals against average and a .916 save percentage, as well as 28 shutouts in that span in 31,659 minutes as a Sabre.

He went on to have a short tenure with the St. Louis Blues after the Sabres packaged him to St. Louis, before signing with the Vancouver Canucks and later Anaheim Ducks in free agency. After six seasons in Vancouver and Anaheim (split evenly in half between the two cities), Miller appears at ease and ready to retire from the NHL this offseason.

He’s the winningest American goaltender in NHL history with 387 wins in 780 career NHL games from the 2002-03 season through 2019-20, so that, on top of his longevity as a Sabre should be enough reason to hang his number alongside Dominik Hasek’s in the rafters of KeyBank Center.

81 Miroslav Satan

Satan spent parts eight seasons with the Sabres despite what most fans might think is an eternal hell in Buffalo these days.

From part of the 1996-97 season through the 2003-04 season, Satan scored 224 goals and had 232 assists for 456 points in 578 games as a Sabre. That’s pretty, pretty good.

There’s something to say for consistency over a long period of time, say, almost a decade with one organization before the former Edmonton Oiler in his days before Buffalo departed for the New York Islanders from 2005-06 through 2007-08 before making his way around with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09 and Boston Bruins for part of the 2009-10 season and 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs run that intertwined with the Sabres in Boston and Buffalo’s 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

Anyway, Satan was a consistent player in his tenure with the Sabres and an icon– not just because of the 1990s rebrand, but later on because of his leadership as the General Manager of Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

It’s a shame Satan and Mogilny never overlapped in Buffalo, because, boy, what magic that could’ve been.

89 Alexander Mogilny

If the Hockey Hall of Fame is going to keep snubbing Mogilny, then the least the Pegulas can do to help his case for Hall of Fame recognition would be to formally retire his No. 89.

Though he only spent six seasons in Buffalo from 1989-95, Mogilny scored 444 points (211 goals, 233 assists) in 381 games. He had more points per game with the Sabres (1.17 points per game) than with any other team he played for in their respective tenure (.987 points per game with the Vancouver Canucks, .942 points per game with the New Jersey Devils and .943 points per game with the Toronto Maple Leafs).

He’s a legend in his own right and it’s only right that the Sabres do him right.

Don’t just put the number aside and never use it– retire it. Give the 2002-03 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner and 2000 Stanley Cup champion that scored 1,032 points in 990 career NHL games in 16 seasons with Buffalo, Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto the respect he deserves.

Sabres fans still– and always will– love him.

Final Thoughts

Despite not having many players emerge from the last time we did this five years ago as potential “jersey retirement ceremony worthy” quality, the Sabres have quite a few candidates from their recent or later past to consider honoring before more time is wasted.

There’s no shame in admitting that it might be time to play a little catchup as now is the perfect time to mix in a little nostalgia with the 50th anniversary season having passed, Miller riding off into the sunset with an insurmountable love for Buffalo still and everything else that could be written as a storybook ending despite the team on the ice needing some work to get back into the playoff hunt.

Plus it’d be great PR in the face of whatever’s up with the power struggle that may or may not be in the front office.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bergeron nets pair as Halak and Bruins shutout Sabres, 3-0

Patrice Bergeron had a pair of goals, Brad Marchand had three assists and Jaroslav Halak had his 50th career shutout in the Boston Bruins’, 3-0, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday.

Bergeron, in the meantime, is the fifth player in Bruins history to score multiple goals in at least three straight games and the first since Cam Neely did so in the 1988-89 season (three games).

Halak (9-3-4 record, 2.22 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 16 games played) made 26 saves on 26 shots against for his 3rd shutout of the season in the win.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-9-3, 2.79 GAA, .914 SV% in 23 games played) stopped 22 out of 24 shots faced (.917 SV%) in the loss.

Boston improved to 23-7-9 (55 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division standings, while Buffalo fell to 17-15-7 (41 points) on the season, but remained in 5th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins also improved to 10-6-1 on the road this season and have won back-to-back games.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Friday.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informed reporters ahead of the game on Friday that McAvoy is considered “day-to-day” and would likely practice on Saturday, then possibly return to the lineup on Sunday.

Krug, on the other hand, was placed on injured reserve in a move made by the organization prior to Cassidy’s updates on his injured defenders.

No. 47 in black and gold is out of the lineup through New Year’s Eve at a minimum (when Boston will be in New Jersey to face the Devils).

As a result, Steven Kampfer was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an emergency basis. Kampfer had no points in four games with Boston prior to being assigned to Providence, where the 31-year-old veteran has four assists in six games this season.

With Zdeno Chara (infection) back in the lineup after missing Monday night’s, 7-3, win over the Washington Capitals, Kampfer slid in on the third defensive pairing with John Moore at the left side, while Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton moved up to the second pairing.

Brandon Carlo was bumped up to the right side of the first defensive pairing with Chara at his left.

Chara returned to action after having minor surgery to take out the plates originally put in his jaw after sustaining a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in June.

Cassidy made one change to the lineup among his forwards– replacing Brett Ritchie on the fourth line with Chris Wagner.

As a result, Ritchie joined David Backes as the only healthy scratches for Boston against the Sabres in Buffalo.

David Pastrnak trailed behind Jack Eichel and hooked the Sabres captain at 6:38 of the first period, presenting Buffalo with the game’s first power play in the process.

The Sabres were not successful on their first skater advantage opportunity of the night and took a penalty of their own 59 seconds after their power play ended.

Buffalo forward, Evan Rodrigues, was charged with holding against Kampfer at 9:37 and the Bruins went on their first power play of the game as a result.

Boston did not capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the period, former Bruin, Marcus Johansson, was guilty of holding Charlie Coyle and assessed a minor penalty at 19:31.

This time around, the Bruins managed to convert on the skater advantage with a power play goal just seven seconds into the special teams play.

Bergeron (16) drew the puck back to the point off the faceoff, which then sent the rubber biscuit over to Marchand, then Pastrnak and finally back to Bergeron for the one-timer goal with Ullmark out of position and a mostly empty net behind the Buffalo netminder.

Pastrnak (27) and Marchand (36) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 19:38 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston carried the, 1-0, lead into the dressing rooms despite trailing in shots on goal, 11-8.

Buffalo also held the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and giveaways (3-1), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-0) and hits (5-4) after one period of play.

Both teams were even in faceoff win percentage (50-50), while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Brandon Montour was charged with holding against Marchand at 14:41 of the second period, resulting in another power play for Boston.

Though the B’s did not score on their third skater advantage of the night, the Bruins did generate further momentum on their side in what was a dominant period for Boston.

Moments later, Boston’s “Perfection Line” went to work on a tic-toc-goal style play that led to Pastrnak stripping the puck from Sabres forward, Jimmy Vesey, and working it to Marchand, then over to Bergeron (17) for his second goal of the night and the, 2-0, lead at 18:26 of the second period.

Marchand (37) and Pastrnak (28) each picked up their second assists of the night as Bergeron tallied his 44th career two-goal game while crashing the net on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Through 40 minutes of action in Buffalo, the B’s led the Sabres, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-16, in shots on goal– including a, 12-5, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), hits (9-6) and faceoff win% (57-43) after two periods, while Buffalo led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (8-4).

The Sabres were 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.

Early in the final frame, Clifton leveled Sam Reinhart with an open-ice hit near the boards that was perhaps a second late after Reinhart had released control of the puck.

As a result, Reinhart invited Clifton to square dance after the whistle and the two players dropped the gloves, exchanged punches and pleasantries, but only received matching roughing minors at 5:12 of the third period.

About a couple of minutes later, Ullmark tripped Clifton as the Bruins defender drove to the net with speed and tried to wrap the puck around the Buffalo goaltender in the slot.

Kyle Okposo served Ullmark’s tripping minor at 7:59 and Boston went on the power play.

Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Danton Heinen was bumped into the Sabres goaltender, who promptly fell to the ice and yielded a goaltender interference infraction as a result.

Heinen cut a rut to the box at 8:49, leaving a short span of 4-on-4 action before Buffalo had an abbreviated power play.

The Sabres were unsuccessful on the advantage and the Bruins remained in control of the game.

With about three minutes remaining in the game, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but his intentions did not bode well.

Marchand worked the puck from the boards in Boston’s own zone over to Coyle, who skated the puck into the neutral zone and setup Carlo (4) for a breakaway that led to his second goal in four games as Carlo buried the puck into the open twine.

Coyle (13) and Marchand (38) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s empty net goal as the Bruins sealed the deal on a, 3-0, win at 18:06 of the third period.

At the final horn, Halak and his teammates had shutout the Sabres, 3-0, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 26-25.

Buffalo managed to have a, 10-5, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone and finished Friday’s effort leading in giveaways, 11-7, but Boston’s effort was too much for the Sabres.

The Bruins left KeyBank Center with the victory and the advantage in blocked shots (15-4), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (57-43).

The Sabres went 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/4.

Boston improved to 16-5-5 when scoring first, 14-3-1 when leading after the first period and 13-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.

The Bruins return home for the second part of their home-and-home with the Sabres on Sunday (Dec. 29th) before wrapping up the month of December (and 2019 as a whole) in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve for a matinee matchup with the Devils.

Categories
Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #176- A Day Late

The new format of the DTFR Podcast is introduced as Dustin Byfuglien is out for an extended period of time, Louis Domingue was traded, Scott Sabourin suffered a scary injury and the New York Islanders are on a nine-game winning streak.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Categories
Nick's Net

Bruins at Blue Jackets Preview: 4/2/2019

As the Boston Bruins (47-23-9, 103 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division) continue their three-game road trip (0-1-0) with a visit to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-4, 94 points, 4th in the Metropolitan Division), they will do so without the services of Danton Heinen in the lineup.

Heinen is out Tuesday with an illness and will be replaced by Chris Wagner on the third line with Marcus Johnansson at left wing and Charlie Coyle at center.

Boston enters Columbus 18-15-6 on the road this season– coming off a, 6-3, loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday– tied in the season series, 1-1-0, with the Blue Jackets after suffering a, 7-4, loss on March 12th last time in Columbus and winning, 2-1, in overtime at TD Garden on March 16th.

The Bruins finished the month of March, 9-6-0, while the Blue Jackets– winners of their last five games– went 9-6-1 last month.

Columbus returns home Tuesday night after a, 4-0, shutout victory– Sergei Bobrovsky‘s league-leading 9th shutout of the season– over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Sunday.

The B’s have lost nine games in regulation since Jan. 1st and are looking to clinch home ice in their First Round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a win against Columbus and a loss for Toronto in any fashion against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday or an overtime/shootout loss to the Blue Jackets and the Maple Leafs lose in regulation on Tuesday.

If Boston doesn’t clinch home ice on Tuesday, their next chance to do so would be Thursday night. More on that as it develops.

With the exception of Wagner in for Heinen, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, isn’t expected to make any other lineup changes despite the current two-game losing streak Boston is on.

Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer remain healthy scratches, while John Moore (upper body) and Sean Kuraly (right hand fracture) are still out due to injury.

Tuukka Rask (26-12-5 record, 2.43 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 44 games played) will get the start in the crease for Boston against Columbus.

The Blue Jackets can clinch a playoff berth with a win Tuesday night in their final home game of the regular season and a Montreal Canadiens loss in regulation against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Columbus has the tiebreaker in regulation-plus-overtime wins over the Canadiens and Hurricanes with 44 ROWs to Carolina’s 41 and Montreal’s 40 this season.

Former Bruin, Adam McQuaid (day-to-day), remains out of the lineup for the Blue Jackets since being injured on an interference penalty by Canadiens forward, Andrew Shaw, on March 28th.

Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak, Eric Robinson, Adam Clendening, Andrew Peeke, Keith Kinkaid and Elvis Merzlikins are all expected to be scratches as well for Columbus against Boston.

Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella, will go with Bobrovsky (36-23-1, 2.55 GAA, .914 SV% in 60 GP) in net as the two clubs close out their regular season series.

Categories
Nick's Net

Rask makes 31 saves as Wagner and Backes lead B’s, 2-1, over Sabres

For the first time since Oct. 4-14th (2018), the Boston Bruins are on a four-game winning streak thanks to their, 2-1, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Chris Wagner opened the game’s scoring for Boston in the first period before David Backes‘ eventual defactogame winning goal in the second frame, while Tuukka Rask (11-8-2 record, 2.55 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 21 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the win.

Rasmus Ristolainen had Buffalo’s only goal with 2:38 remaining in regulation.

Linus Ullmark (9-2-3, 2.69 GAA, .924 SV% in 15 GP) turned aside 39 out of 41 shots faced for a .951 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.

Boston improved to 24-14-4 (52 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 22-14-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s take on the Wild next Tuesday at home, while the Sabres head back to KeyBank Center to face the New Jersey Devils.

Minnesota comes to Boston on the second night of back-to-back road games with a stop in Montreal to face the Canadiens on Monday.

Saturday night was the final game of the regular season between the Bruins and the Sabres with Boston winning the season series, 2-1-1, and outscoring Buffalo, 11-7.

Backes returned to the lineup having served his three-game suspension, leaving Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy with the choice to make Colby Cave a healthy scratch on Saturday.

Steven Kampfer was the only other healthy scratch as Charlie McAvoy (lower body) and Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibula fracture) remain out of the lineup for Boston.

Jack Eichel (5-6–11 totals in 13 career games against the Bruins) was out of Buffalo’s lineup for the second straight game due to his ongoing injury (upper body).

Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, did not provide an update on when his captain would return, though he was scheduled to miss at least two games (Thursday against the Florida Panthers and Saturday in Boston).

Cassidy inserted Backes on the second line to the right side of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while keeping his first and fourth lines the same.

Danton Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Ryan Donato were reunited on the third line with their stellar, youth-infused, chemistry that yielded a couple quality scoring chances, but nothing on the scoresheet Saturday night.

Boston’s defensive pairings were left untouched with Rask getting the start in net over Jaroslav Halak.

About 20 seconds into the first period, Wagner thought he had scored the game’s first goal after following up on a rebound and burying the puck in the back of the largely open net as Ullmark was pulled out of position.

Wagner’s goal was immediately waved off by the officials and deemed “no goal” on account of Sean Kuraly falling and barreling into Ullmark as Ullmark was pushing away from the center of the crease to deny Kuraly’s initial shot that generated the rebound for Wagner to cash in on in the first place.

Cassidy used his coach’s challenge for further review, but the call on the ice was confirmed and the score remained, 0-0, with the Bruins losing their timeout less than half-a-minute into the game.

Moments later, Remi Elie was penalized for interference at 6:32, sending Boston on their first power play of the night.

The B’s were not able to generate a successful offense on the skater advantage and the Sabres killed off Elie’s minor.

Past the halfway mark of the first period, Wagner (5) scored a goal that actually counted this time after Rasmus Dahlin turned the puck over to Noel Acciari and Acciari slid the puck to Wagner for the twine seeking missile.

Acciari (2) had the only assist on Wagner’s goal at 10:10 of the first period and the Bruins led, 1-0.

The goal was Wagner’s first in his first game since his grandfather’s passing, leaving some comfort for the Boston forward in the face of such a tremendous loss outside of the game.

Through one period of play, the B’s led, 1-0, and held an advantage in shots on goal, 13-10. The Sabres entered the first intermission with the lead in takeaways (7-3) and hits (16-10), while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (68-32).

Both teams had three blocked shots aside and seven giveaways each after 20 minutes of play and Boston was 0/1 on the power play.

A couple minutes into the second period, Backes (4) tallied a goal to make it, 2-0, Bruins on a rush the other way after Rask stopped a quality chance by Buffalo.

Backes sniped his shot past Ullmark’s glove side and rang the rear crossbar of the net at 2:00 of the second frame. Rask (1) had the only assist on the goal, giving the Bruins goaltending tandem four assists on the season.

After 40 minutes of play, Boston led by two goals and in shots on goal, 28-20, while the Sabres led in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (18-8) and hits (22-21).

The B’s also led in face-off win% (63-37) heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, while both teams had eight giveaways each.

Almost midway in the third period, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Kyle Okposo and presented the Sabres with their first chance on the power play at 7:42.

Buffalo did not convert on the skater advantage.

Moments later, Jake McCabe tripped Donato and Boston went back on the power play for the second time of the night at 12:39 of the third period. The B’s did not capitalize on the 5-on-4 advantage.

Late in the final frame, Rasmus Ristolainen (5) put a shot past Rask, high on the short-side, that was unassisted at 17:22 to make it a one-goal game and put the Sabres on the scoreboard, 2-1.

With about 1:44 remaining in regulation, Housley pulled Ullmark for an extra attacker, but it was too little too late– even after Buffalo used their only timeout after a stoppage with 1:17 left in the game.

The Sabres failed to register a shot on goal after Ristolainen’s goal as time expired and the Bruins won, 2-1.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (41-31) and face-off win% (56-44), while Buffalo ended the night leading in giveaways (16-8) and hits (32-26). Both teams had 11 blocked shots.

Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston finished 0/2 on the power play Saturday night.

The B’s improved to 14-3-2 when scoring first this season and take on the Wild on Tuesday at TD Garden before hosting the Washington Capitals next Thursday, then traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a one-game road trip to visit the Toronto Maple Leafs next Saturday.

Categories
Nick's Net

Bruins mount OT comeback win in Buffalo, 3-2

The Boston Bruins didn’t lead Saturday night at KeyBank Center until the game was over at 3:44 of the overtime period– after Sean Kuraly pocketed the game-winning goal, 3-2, over the Buffalo Sabres.

Tuukka Rask (9-8-2 record, 2.67 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 19 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win for Boston, while Carter Hutton (13-11-3, 2.65 GAA, .916 SV% in 27 GP) turned aside 38 out of 42 shots faced for a .929 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.

Rask improved his career record in the month of December to 44-20-9 and tied Tiny Thompson for the most games played by a goaltender in Bruins franchise history, having appeared in his 468th career game.

Hutton entered Saturday night 7-1-1 in his last nine home games and 9-3-1 on home ice this season. As a result of the loss, Hutton has fallen to 9-3-2 at KeyBank Center this season– his first season in Buffalo.

He also went into Saturday night 0-3-1 in his last four games with a 3.22 GAA and .899 SV%. He’s now 0-3-2 in his last five games.

The B’s improved to 21-14-4 (46 points) on the season and jumped ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings.

Buffalo, in the meantime, fell to 21-12-6 (48 points) and remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic.

Prior to Saturday night’s matchup with the Sabres, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, indicated that Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy would be out of the lineup on Saturday and may be possibilities to play in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Tuesday at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks.

McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve Friday (retroactive to about a week ago) and will be eligible to return in time for Tuesday, while Marchand remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.

David Backes was suspended three-games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday after violating Rule 48.1 in Thursday night’s matchup with the New Jersey Devils.

Backes caught New Jersey forward, Blake Coleman, with an illegal check to the head in the final two minutes of regulation and received a two-minute minor penalty on the play.

He sat out of Saturday night’s action and will miss the Winter Classic, as well as next Thursday night’s game at TD Garden against the Calgary Flames as a result of his suspension.

With no Marchand and no McAvoy, Cassidy juggled the lines a bit by placing Danton Heinen alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, moving Joakim Nordstrom to the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk and shuffling the bottom six forwards with each other.

Kuraly skated to the left of Colby Cave with Chris Wagner at right wing on the third line and Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Noel Acciari made up the fourth line unit for Boston.

On defense, Zdeno Chara was paired with Brandon Carlo, with Torey Krug and John Moore rounding out the top-four blue liners.

Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller were limited to the bottom pair on defense, but played a vital role in the build up to the overtime, game-winning goal, in the long-run.

DeBrusk and Grzelcyk both played in their 100th career NHL game on Saturday, with Steven Kampfer as the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Early in the first period, after making the initial diving save on Jeff Skinner, Rask let up a rebound that Marco Scandella (2) quickly scooped up and fired into the open twine with Rask in desperation.

Skinner (13) and Sam Reinhart (30) had the assist’s on Scandella’s goal at 4:40 of the first period and the Sabres jumped out to a quick, 1-0, lead.

About five minutes later, the Bruins responded.

Boston capitalized on a misstep by one of the Sabres skaters behind Buffalo’s own net, whereby the puck trickled freely into the low slot for Acciari (1) to bat it off a defender and past Hutton to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted goal at 9:30.

The goal was Acciari’s first in 33 games, dating back to the last weekend of the regular season, last season.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Zach Bogosian hooked DeBrusk and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage of the evening.

Late in the first period, Cave hooked Skinner and sent the Sabres on the power play for their first time in the game at 16:48. The Bruins made the kill.

Both teams entered the dressing room tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission. Boston led in shots on goal (14-7), blocked shots (7-4) and face-off win percentage (71-29) after 20 minutes of play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-1) and hits (9-7).

Each club was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Krug tripped Johan Larsson at 2:53 of the middle frame, but the resulting Sabres power play wouldn’t last long as Jack Eichel caught Chara with a high-stick and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double-minor infraction at 3:11 of the second period.

As a result of Eichel’s penalty, both sides skated 4-on-4 for the next 1:52, then Boston had an abbreviated double-minor power play for the remainder.

The Bruins couldn’t generate a zone advantage on the ensuing power play and allowed Larsson (4) to gain entry on a 2-on-1 shorthanded bid for the Sabres and score.

Evan Rodrigues (9) and Scandella (5) notched the assists on Larsson’s goal at 5:43 of the middle frame and Boston allowed their eighth shorthanded goal against of the season as a result (tied for the most allowed this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Larsson’s goal made it, 2-1, Buffalo and was the first shorthanded goal of the season for the team in blue-and-gold.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Sabres led the Bruins, 2-1, and shots on goal were even at, 21-21, with Buffalo having outshot Boston, 14-7, in the second period alone.

Late in the third period, Rasmus Ristolainen was penalized for kneeing Pastrnak at 16:17.

On the ensuing power play, the Bruins brass dominated possession in the attacking zone and worked the puck back to Krug. The Boston defender unloaded a shot from the point that was promptly tipped well by DeBrusk (11) and into the net behind Hutton to tie the game, 2-2, on the power play.

DeBrusk’s power play goal was his first goal since Nov. 24th and was assisted by Krug (19) and Pastrnak (25) at 17:31.

As time expired on regulation action, the B’s and Sabres were still tied, 2-2, and heading for overtime.

Boston led in shots on goal through 60 minutes of play, 39-26, with the Bruins holding a distinct, 18-5, advantage in the third period.

Blocked shots were even (12-12), but the Sabres led in takeaways (11-3), giveaways (13-5) and hits (20-19). The Bruins remained strong on the face-off dot, amassing a, 55-45, advantage in face-off win% through three periods.

Buffalo was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 1/4 on the skater advantage entering overtime.

Just 46 seconds into the 3-on-3 OT action, Krejci interfered with Skinner and was sent to the penalty box. Buffalo went on the 4-on-3 power play with plenty of time to make something happen in the five-minute overtime period.

In fact, to try to craft the perfect plan for eviscerating Boston’s penalty kill and taking home the bonus point, Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, used his timeout to rally his players.

But the Bruins penalty kill stood tall and Rask made save after crucial save as the Sabres power play battered the B’s.

Late in the overtime, having killed off Krejci’s penalty and resumed 3-on-3 action thanks to the first whistle after Buffalo’s power play expired in overtime, Kuraly, Miller and Grzelcyk were on the ice to take the draw in their own zone.

Kuraly won the face-off back to Miller, who sent the puck along to Grzelcyk.

As Kuraly rushed up the neutral zone, Grzelcyk hit him with a lead pass and brought forward Boston’s attacking zone entry.

Kuraly (3) fired a quick shot on Hutton and generated a rebound, which he chased down and collected to muster an odd, elevated, backhanded tap-in while crashing the slot to beat Hutton and steal the victory on the road.

Grzelcyk (9) and Miller (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s game-winning overtime goal at 3:44 and the Bruins defeated the Sabres, 3-2, in sudden death.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-28), hits (21-20) and face-off win% (53-47), while Buffalo ended the night ahead in giveaways (13-5). Both teams had 12 blocked shots aside.

The Sabres went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 1/4.

The Bruins have now won their last four games that went into overtime this season and finished the month of December with a 7-7-0 record.

Boston improved to 4-4 in overtime this year, while the Sabres dropped to 5-5 in the extra frame.

Buffalo has now lost back-to-back games after the mandatory three-day league-wide Christmas break.

Having reached the end of the 2018 calendar, the Bruins will now gear up for New Year’s Day and the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

After all of the festivities die down, Boston travels back home to host the Flames next Thursday, the Sabres next Saturday, the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 8th and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.