Let’s Go (Play) Buffalo (Again, Please?)

The Bruins played their first game of the year against the woeful Buffalo Sabres resulting in an uneventful 4-1 win. As I see it, the objectives tonight were to secure the 2 points, don’t develop any bad habits and try not to burn themselves playing the NHL’s dumpster fire team. They managed to (mostly) accomplish their goals, but if they weren’t playing an AHL team tonight the results may have been different. When the hometown paper ranks a team that doesn’t even exist yet higher than your squad; that’s not good.

That’s gotta sting

The day was off to an auspicious start as a Buffalo employee and Bruins center Sean Kuraly both entered the NHL COVID protocol. The pregame skates were cancelled but luckily the game was still deemed ok to be played. Jack Ahcan made his NHL debut on the 3rd pairing with Stevie Kampfer as the other pairs remained the same. Up front The Erection Line was firmly intact with Jake DeBrusk and Oskar Steen on David Krecji’s wings. The 4th line was Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman with Greg McKegg at the pivot, but the intriguing line to me was the Big Boy line of Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith. That’s a lot of beef rolling around out there. 

The B’s opened up the scoring just 3 minutes into the game when McKegg redirected a Matt Grzelcyk shot from the point. Grz put one on net from the left point and McKegg was coming hard from the left faceoff circle, stick on ice, ready for the redirect. Grz hit the target and the B’s were up early. Carter Hutton kept the Sabres in it with some outright robbery in net, especially on Smith’s shot and DeBrusk’s rebound attempt. Good to see that at least one of the Sabres was actually you know….. playing tonight. 

Early in the 2nd Kyle Okposo scored his first of the year and Buffalo’s first shortie of the year when he broke in over the Bruins blue line and put one past Jaro Halak off Grzelcyk’s stick. It was from above the circle and as Brick said on the NESN feed “it was redirected for sure, but Halak had plenty of time to adjust and make that save”. Let me translate for you: that was a soft goal and Halak should have had it. The only upside to the goal is that the Sabres have the absolute best goal song in the NHL (Look it up: I will argue that with anyone). The goal seemed to wake up the Bruins and they got it going on the PP. With sustained zone time, the Bruins looked fluid and mobile on the man up, working the puck around the perimeter and feeding David Pastrnak in his spot. His third clapper proved the one as DeBrusk bunted the rebound in from the doorstep to put the Bruins back up. See what happens when you screen the goalie properly Jake? With time winding down Smith got in on the action when he went 5-hole off a nice feed from (who else) Krecji to open up the lead. Hard work finally pays off for Smith, the guy just competes night after night. Crucial play by Conor Clifton to work down the wall and keep the play alive in the sequence. Cliffy hockey is alive and well. 

With 5 minutes gone in the 3rd, the Bruins had the game well in hand and on the power play again thanks to Kuhlman keeping his feet moving and drawing a holding penalty on Victor Olofsson. While killing the penalty Brandon Montour inexplicably pokes Pastrnak’s leg out from under him away from the play drawing an interference call to put the Bruins on the 2-man advantage. Talk about dumb hockey. Krecji finds Pasta at the LW circle and the puck was in and out of the net before Hutton reacted. 4-1 Bruins and please let’s secure the 2 and get out of here. Late in the 3rd the Bruins tried to let the Sabres back in as Grz and Pasta combined to send Tobias Reider in alone on Halak, luckily he was dialed in after that early goal and turned the chance away. 

It wasn’t the definitive blowout of a lesser team, but the Bruins got their 2 points and escaped relatively unscathed and will see the Sabres again on Saturday for a matinee. 

Plus/Minus:

Plus:

  • I thought Ahcan looked good. Besides losing an edge on the PP, he didn’t look out of place or overwhelmed at all. Would be nice to hit on a 6th round draft pick.
  • Power play went 2 for 5 tonight. Yes it was against the Sabres, but it still counts.
  • With the game in hand, the B’s were able to put guys in different situations than in a closer game. With the lack of practice time, that can only benefit the boys down the line.

Minus:

  • The forwards were credited with 5 hits tonight. That’s 5 hits across 4 lines and Bergeron had 2 of them. That means the other 10 forwards (giving Freddie a pass : see below) combined for 3 body checks. That’s soft as puppy-poo.
  • Trent Frederic only played 5:28 tonight and was kept out due to “concern” over an upper body injury. Not good.
  • Hated to see the Bruins start playing too cute with the game in hand. Save the showtime crap for your pickup skate. Playing down to the level of your opponent the quickest way to form bad habits.

Game Notes:

  • Feel bad for Colin Miller being stuck on Buffalo. Always like his game and hated that he was left unprotected in the Vegas expansion draft. He’s under contract for another year at $3.875. If the Sabres really are cleaning house, maybe they’d eat some of that dough and would love to see him back in Boston, and he’s still only 28.
  • Quick appreciation note for David Krecji. Yes he signed a big ticket, but blame Chiarelli, not him. This guy has quietly put in the work and is sitting at 935GP with a line of 208g-494a-702pts. Tonight he reached the 700 point milestone (with another 115pts in 145gp in playoffs) and is only 2 apples away from tying Rick Middleton for 7th on the Bruins all time leader board. As my buddy Brendan always says, “come playoff time, you can’t find a guy with a higher compete level than David Krecji” Have to agree, stick tap for #46.

Author: Brownie

Hockey fan/player from the greater Boston area.

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