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NHL Nick's Net

Smith tops Bruins comeback, 3-2, against Sabres

The Boston Bruins extended the Buffalo Sabres’ current losing streak to 17 games after Craig Smith capped a, 3-2, comeback with his game-winning goal in the third period Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

Dan Vladar (2-0-0, 1.51 goals-against average, .952 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots against for a .926 save percentage in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (5-5-2, 2.49 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 13 games played), returned from injury and made 33 saves on 36 shots faced for a .917 save percentage in the loss.

Boston improved to 17-8-5 (39 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 6-23-4 (16 points) and stuck in last place in the division.

The B’s improved to 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season and 8-3-2 at home in 2020-21.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (hip), Tuukka Rask (upper body), Karson Kuhlman (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Brad Marchand (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

Kase missed his 28th game this season due to an injury that he sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey. Though he is skating before practice, there is no timetable for his return.

Miller and Carlo have been skating as well.

Moore underwent a hip arthroscopy and labral repair on March 22nd in New York City and will miss the rest of the season as recovery time is expected to be five to six months.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, ruled Rask out for the weekend due to a lingering injury that was re-aggravated in Thursday night’s, 4-3, overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

With Kuhlman awaiting results of an MRI after blocking a shot in the third period against the Islanders on Thursday night and Marchand entering COVID protocol, Zach Senyshyn returned to action for Boston for the first time since missing the last five games with an upper body injury.

Trent Frederic suited up on the first line with Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, at center and David Pastrnak on right wing.

Cassidy left his second line intact while Senyshyn was inserted on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle sporting an “A” at center in light of Marchand’s absence.

Greg McKegg slid over to the left side of the fourth line while Jack Studnicka centered the line and Chris Wagner remained at right wing.

On defense, Cassidy made one change, replacing Jarred Tinordi with Jeremy Lauzon on the third pairing alongside Steven Kampfer.

Lauzon made his return to the lineup for the first time since being injured in the 2021 NHL Outdoors matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21st. He missed 13 games between his 34-second shift outdoors and Saturday afternoon.

Jaroslav Halak served as Vladar’s backup on Saturday and is expected to get the start on Sunday against New Jersey.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, injured players, COVID protocol and taxi squad members on Saturday afternoon included Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Kuraly, Marchand, DeBrusk, Tinordi, Miller, Jack Ahcan and Kuhlman.

Callum Booth was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) from Boston’s taxi squad on Saturday.

Connor Clifton opened the game’s action with an elbowing infraction against Sabres forward, Jeff Skinner, at 1:16 of the first period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Buffalo capitalized on a giveaway when Vladar misplayed the puck and sent a pass right to Sam Reinhart’s tape from the trapezoid.

Reinhart (12) cut to the front of the empty net while Vladar chased the play and scored a power-play goal to give the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 2:01 of the first period.

Reinhart’s goal was unassisted.

About a couple minutes later, Brandon Montour tripped Senyshyn and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the afternoon.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Casey Mittelstadt hooked Pastrnak at 14:59 and Pastrnak tripped Dylan Cozens at 18:54, but neither team was successful on the resulting special teams action.

Entering the first intermission, the Sabres led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 13-10.

The B’s led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-2), hits (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (63-38).

Buffalo was 1/2 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Coyle caught Skinner with a high stick midway through the second period and presented the Sabres with a power play at 7:15, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the resulting advantage.

Moments later, Matt Grzelcyk (2) skated along the blue line in the attacking zone and fired a wrist shot from the high slot– beating Ullmark on the glove side, while Coyle screened the Sabres netminder in front of the crease.

Pastrnak (13) and Bergeron (16) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 11:41 of the second period.

With the secondary assist on the goal, Bergeron pulled to within three points of tying Rick Middleton for the fourth most in a B’s uniform in franchise history. Bergeron currently has 895 career points with Boston, while Middleton had 898.

The game wasn’t tied for long before Kyle Okposo (2) pocketed a rebound into the twine for his second goal of the season in as many games against the Bruins this season.

Henri Jokiharju (2) and Rasmus Dahlin (11) had the assists on Okposo’s goal as the Sabres pulled ahead, 2-1, at 14:12.

Less than a minute later, Jean-Sebastien Dea caught Coyle with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 15:00 of the second period.

Boston failed to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the Sabres led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-21, in shots on goal, including a, 14-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (8-3), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had seven blocked shots aside.

Buffalo was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Nick Ritchie (9) pocketed a loose puck from the doorstep behind Ullmark after Charlie McAvoy impressed the fans in attendance with an incredible display of skill– skating around the attacking zone prior to setting up Ritchie for the goal.

McAvoy (17) and Grzelcyk (9) notched the assists on Ritchie’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 2-2, at 5:22 of the final frame.

Moments later, Montour hooked Smith and was sent to the sin bin at 9:38, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Late in the period, Smith (6) buried a short pass from David Krejci in the low slot over Ullmark’s glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.

Krejci (17) and Ritchie (8) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal at 16:10 of the third period as the Bruins completed the comeback and held onto the victory at the final horn after Rasmus Ristolainen picked up a goaltender interference minor at 19:35.

Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with 1:43 remaining, used his timeout after a stoppage with 40 seconds left and pulled his netminder again to even things up 5-on-5 while Ristolainen was in the box in the dying seconds, but Buffalo was no match for Boston in the end.

The Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-27, incluidng a, 15-3, advantage in the third period alone.

Buffalo finished the game leading in blocked shots (11-9), while Boston wrapped up the afternoon leading in hits (23-15) and faceoff win% (57-44).

Both teams finished with eight giveaways each, while the Sabres went 1/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s finished 0/5 on the power play.

Vladar became the eighth goaltender in franchise history to win each of his first two career appearances with the Bruins, joining Rask (2007-08), Tim Thomas (2002-03), Blaine Lacher (1994-95), Mike Moffat (1981-82), John Adams (1972-73), Andre Gill (1967-68) and Frank Brimsek (1938-39) in doing so.

Buffalo, meanwhile, suffered their 17th consecutive loss, which tied the second-most consecutive losses in National Hockey League history, joining the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks in trailing the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins for the most consecutive losses in a row (18) in NHL history.

The Sabres face the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Monday, March 29th and look to avoid tying the 2003-04 Penguins for the most consecutive losses.

Cassidy told reporters after the game that Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean was not behind the bench on Saturday due to coming in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.

Dean will not be joining his colleagues behind the bench on Sunday, as well.

Boston improved to 5-5-2 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while Buffalo fell to 4-4-2 (3-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season in the process.

The B’s also improved to 3-5-2 (1-1-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-4-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Sabres dropped to 2-3-2 (2-3-1 on the road) when leading after one period and 4-1-2 (3-1-1 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2020-21.

The Bruins welcome the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET puck drop) before closing out the month of March against the Devils on Tuesday. Boston begins April with a pair of home games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Boston is 1-0-1 in their current seven-game homestand.

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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

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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.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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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
Daily Matchup

Game of the week: October 15-21

It’s time for another DtFR Game of the Week!

First and foremost, let’s take a look at all the games I neglected earlier this week:

NHL SCHEDULE: OCTOBER 15-21
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, October 15
7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Toronto 1-4
7:30 p.m. Detroit Montréal 3-7
7:30 p.m. Dallas Ottawa 1-4
8 p.m. Minnesota Nashville 2-4
Tuesday, October 16
7 p.m. Dallas New Jersey 0-3
7 p.m. Colorado New York Rangers 2-3 (SO)
7 p.m. Florida Philadelphia 5-6 (SO)
7 p.m. Vancouver Pittsburgh 3-2 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Carolina Tampa Bay 2-4
8 p.m. Arizona Minnesota 1-2
8 p.m. Edmonton Winnipeg 5-4 (OT)
10 p.m. Buffalo Vegas 1-4
Wednesday, October 17
7 p.m. St. Louis Montréal 2-3
7 p.m. New York Rangers Washington 3-4 (OT)
9:30 p.m. Boston Calgary 2-5
10 p.m. New York Islanders Anaheim 1-4
Thursday, October 18
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Toronto 3-0
7 p.m. Colorado New Jersey 5-3
7 p.m. Philadelphia Columbus 3-6
7:30 p.m. Detroit Tampa Bay 1-3
8 p.m. Vancouver Winnipeg 1-4
8:30 p.m. Arizona Chicago 4-1
9 p.m. Boston Edmonton 2-3 (OT)
10:30 p.m. New York Islanders Los Angeles 7-2
10:30 p.m. Buffalo San Jose 1-5
Friday, October 19
7 p.m. Florida Washington 6-5 (SO)
8 p.m. Minnesota Dallas 3-1
9 p.m. Nashville Calgary 5-3
saturday, October 20
1 p.m. New Jersey Philadelphia 2-5
1 p.m. Colorado Carolina 3-1
3:30 p.m. Buffalo Los Angeles 5-1
4 p.m. Arizona Winnipeg 3-5
7 p.m. St. Louis Toronto 4-1
7 p.m. Montréal Ottawa 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Detroit Florida 4-3 (OT)
7 p.m. Chicago Columbus 4-1
8 p.m. Tampa Bay Minnesota 4-5 (OT)
10 p.m. Boston Vancouver 1-2 (OT)
10 p.m. Anaheim Vegas 1-3
10 p.m. Nashville Edmonton 3-0
10:30 p.m. New York Islanders San Jose 1-4
SunDay, October 21
7 p.m. Tampa Bay Chicago NHLN, TVAS
7 p.m. Calgary New York Rangers SN1
8 p.m. Buffalo Anaheim

This schedule was a little bit fuller than last week’s offerings, as there’s a solid 44 games I had to choose from as compared to last week’s 42.

While there were certainly some worthy candidates in terms of rivalries (Detroit at Montréal, Edmonton at Winnipeg, New York at Washington, New Jersey at Philadelphia and Montréal at Ottawa all took place this week) and player returns (D Marc Methot made his first trip back to Ottawa since being selected during the Vegas expansion draft and later traded to the Stars, four former Blackhawks – five if you include RW Marian Hossa – returned to the Madhouse on Madison as members of the Coyotes and C Tyler Bozak wore white in Toronto for the first time in his career playing for St. Louis), one game sticks out above all the rest even though I’m more concerned about what will be hanging above the ice than what will be taking place on it.

 

Without a doubt, the Ducks are having one of the better and more unexpected starts to the season. Meanwhile, the Sabres are trying their hardest to keep pace with the rest of the white-hot Atlantic Division that enters the day with five teams in playoff position (an extremely important accolade in October, to be sure).

But what really drew me to tonight’s tilt is the pregame festivities involving LW Paul Kariya, as his No. 9 is going to be retired and sent where it belongs – hanging above the Honda Center ice opposite RW Teemu Selanne‘s No. 8.

The fourth-overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Kariya joined the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim just in time for the 1994-95 season (well, if it had started on time, that is), signing a three-year deal on August 31, 1994.

Though the Mighty Ducks struggled before Selanne was brought on board via trade during the 1995-96 season, that’s not to say Kariya – who just celebrated his 44th birthday on Tuesday – was playing poorly. He posted 18-21-39 totals his 47-game debut season, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team and finishing third in Calder voting behind Quebec’s C Peter Forsberg and Washington’s G Jim Carey.

Oh yeah, speaking of that 1995-96 campaign, Kariya’s second season ended with him boasting career-best numbers in goals (50, three of which were overtime game-winners – an Anaheim single-season record) and points (108) after a full 82-game schedule. That dominant performance earned him his first of three First All-Star Team accolades, his first of back-to-back Lady Byng Trophies and his first of seven appearances at the All-Star Game.

I guess he never heard of the sophomore slump.

Named the Mighty Ducks’ third captain in franchise history during the offseason (a title he held for a franchise-record eight years), Kariya barely missed a second-straight season hitting the 100-point plateau in 1996-97 as a result of missing 13 games with an upper-body injury and unrelated concussion, but a 44-55-99 performance in 69 games played qualifies as the best season of his career on a points-per-game standpoint. The 1.43 points per game he managed narrowly beats out his 1.41 in 1997-98 – another season hampered by concussion, as well as a contract dispute that lasted into December, limiting him to only 22 games played. Additionally, his +36 for the 1996-97 campaign is still an Anaheim single-season record.

Of course, the most important mark about the 1996-97 season for Kariya is not only his dazzling performance, but also the fact that Anaheim qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The Mighty Ducks fought past the Phoenix Coyotes in seven games before getting swept by the eventual champion Red Wings in the second round of their postseason debut. Kariya posted 7-6-13 marks in those 11 games, including the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 against Phoenix that forced Game 7.

To be certain, the most productive years of Kariya’s career were his first seven campaigns. In all, he played 442 regular season games for the Mighty Ducks from 1995-2001, managing 243-288-531 totals to average 1.2 points per game – not to mention his 8-9-17 marks in 14 career playoff games to that point.

However, that’s not to say the captain still wasn’t a guiding hand on his team. Kariya managed 57-81-138 totals in his final two seasons with the Mighty Ducks, and he led Anaheim all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002-03 where his squad lost a hard-fought, seven-game series to the New Jersey Devils.

That Game 7 proved to be Kariya’s last with Anaheim, as he and Selanne both headed for the supposedly greener pastures of Denver (the Avs, of course, fell in the second round in Kariya and Selanne’s only season with the club) for the 2003-04 season. Kariya played five more seasons after that – two with Nashville and three with St. Louis – before retiring during the 2011 offseason as a result of the six concussions he sustained over the course of his 16-year, 15-season professional career.

Having been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last summer, there are few awards left to be bestowed upon Karyia (provided he doesn’t get involved in coaching or management). However, this one will surely elicit quite the response from one of the greatest to have ever worn the eggplant and jade.

Of course, once the ceremony is complete, there’s still a hockey game to be played. Both of tonight’s squads were in action last night, with Buffalo besting Los Angeles 5-1 at Staples Center and Anaheim falling in Vegas 3-1.

The 4-4-0 Sabres entered today’s action in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, but only one point behind Ottawa for fifth place in the Atlantic Division and the second wild card.

Gotta love early season standings.

Perhaps the brightest spot for Buffalo so far this season has been the outstanding play of 2-0-0 G Linus Ullmark, who has allowed only one goal in his two starts and boasts a .982 save percentage and .5 GAA that is best in the league among netminders with at least 33 minutes played.

While his emergence as a potential star is an encouraging sign for a franchise that has missed the playoffs for seven-straight seasons, the fact that he was the goalie in net for Buffalo yesterday up the road in Tinseltown has all signs pointing towards 2-4-0 G Carter Hutton manning the posts this evening.

Whether he’s being compared to Ullmark or his performance last season, Hutton is already drawing the ire of Upstate New Yorkers. Having signed a three-year, $2.75 million AAV contract this summer after posting a dominating .931 save percentage and 2.09 GAA with the St. Louis Blues last season, Hutton has managed only a .906 save percentage and 3.27 GAA so far this year.

Considering his offense has averaged only 2.25 goals per game thus far into the season (the fifth-worst mark in the NHL despite F Jeff Skinner‘s hat trick yesterday), Hutton is going to need to improve in a hurry if the Sabres want to stay in playoff contention much longer.

That being said, it should be acknowledged that Buffalo hasn’t exactly played incredible defense in front of Hutton. The Sabres’ 32.63 shots against-per-game is 12th-worst in the league, and that number climbs to 33.67 when Hutton is in net.

Considering former defenseman Phil Housley is the team’s head coach and the fact that the organization took D Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick, surely that number has to improve sooner or later? Right?

Consider me a doubter of Housley’s until it does.

One final note I have about the Sabres is in regard to their special teams. It was only a few seasons ago that Buffalo’s power play – led by C Jack Eichel – was among the most dangerous in the league. However, that has not been the case this season, as the Sabres’ 13.3 percent success rate with the man-advantage has been eighth-worst in the league through the first few weeks of the season. The penalty kill has also struggled, as Buffalo’s 69.2 kill percentage is third-worst in the NHL.

The Sabres have a lot of problems to figure out, but the best way to fix the special teams while they’re still on the road just might be to avoid the penalty box all together.

Did you hear that, RW Kyle Okposo? Stay out of trouble!

As for tonight’s hosts, the 5-2-1 Ducks have yet to see too many troubles so far this season, as they’re leading the division despite many fans and pundits pegging San Jose and Vegas as the Pacific’s powerhouses.

But how are they doing it?

Just like Buffalo, Anaheim’s best player to start the season has been none other than its goaltender, 4-2-1 G John Gibson. The 2016 Jennings Trophy winner (o.k., he shared it with G Frederik Andersen, now of the Toronto Maple Leafs) has been dynamite right out of the gates this season, as he has a solid .949 save percentage and 1.91 GAA to show for his first seven starts of the season.

However, to continue the comparisons to Buffalo, Gibson was also in net last night against the Golden Knights, so it looks like it could be none other than 1-0-0 G Ryan Miller, the winner of the 2010 Vezina Trophy, manning the crease this evening against his former club.

Though he is clearly the backup in Anaheim, Miller is in no way any easier to score upon than Gibson. With two appearances so far this year, Miller has a .946 save percentage and 1.51 GAA – all this despite a Ducks defense that allows an average of 37 shots against per game, the worst in the NHL.

Despite the backups being the logical starters tonight, this game has all the makings of a goaltending duel considering the struggles of both offenses and defenses. If that is the case, I’ll certainly take the Ducks to successfully honor Kariya and earn two points tonight. Miller is undoubtedly better than Hutton this year, and he has the benefit of special teams that will easily dominate the Sabres.

Categories
NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #118- Bad Puns

The Original Trio analyze the Jeff Skinner trade, recent one year extensions, upcoming jersey retirement nights, 2018-19 Calder Memorial Trophy predictions and more.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify.

Categories
Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #112- Draft, Tavares and Museums

The Original Trio splices together some thoughts on the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees, Dan Bylsma, the 2018 Draft, recent trades and John Tavares. Go check out your local museums while you’re at it. It’s the offseason, surely you have nothing going on.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Categories
NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #87- 87s Galore (Crosby’s Favorite Episode)

The Original Trio discuss the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship and more in separately recorded sessions of the podcast. Also, we’re available for hire. In memoriam: Part of Joe Thornton’s beard that Nazem Kadri ripped off (2015-2018).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Categories
NHL Podcasts

Down the Frozen River Podcast #81- Turkey Day 2K17: As Gudas It Gets

Nick checks in with Colby Kephart and Frank Fanelli (of Student Union Sports) on Radko Gudas’s suspension, the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Chance The Rapper’s SNL skit for the ages. Also discussed, the overabundance of outdoor games featuring teams that are obviously stuck in a revolving door of outdoor games.


Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

And be sure to check out our newest extension of the product, DTFR Overtime, this week where Nick retroactively wrote about a topic from last week’s episode.