The Bruins are Undefeated in 2022!

Your Boston Bruins got back on the TD Garden ice this afternoon to host Buffalo in their first game of the New Year. While the Sabres were playing their 3rd game in 3½ days, the Bruins were skating in an actual game for the first time in 16 days. That’s right, the B’s haven’t played since December 15th of last year. This time off has been what HC Bruce Cassidy has referred to as the Bruins “mini training camp” as he’s been tinkering with the lines and trying to get everything just right. There’s been a lot of talk about this being the “reset portion” of the Bruins schedule (Brad Marchand used that terminology in a pregame interview as did Andy Brickley during game coverage). Call it what you will, but it was imperative for the B’s to get off on the right foot after this long of a layoff. Luckily the hapless Sabres were in town to roll over and show their bellies to the B’s. Right? The Sabres got the memo right?

The new look lineup affected all 4 lines. On the top line it was Patrice Bergeron between Marchand and Craig Smith with Erik Haula on the 2nd line between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. Charlie Coyle was back at the pivot on the 3rd line (Coyle being the last B to be cleared from COVID Protocol) between Jake DeBrusk and Nick Foligno while Tomas Nosek centered the 4th line with Trent Frederic and Curtis Lazar as his wingers. Matt Grzelcyk was paired with Charlie McAvoy while Brandon Carlo was matched with Mike Reilly. This left Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton as the 3rd pairing in front of Linus Ullmark in the Bruins’ net. At the other end of the ice it was Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the Sabres cage making his 7th start of the season (2-3-1 .932Save% 2.30GAA).

Vinnie Hinostraza got the Sabres on the board first when his backup wrister found the twine behind Ullmark early in the period. The Bruins were hemmed in their own zone and Hinostraza’s shot deflected off Foligno before going over Ullmark’s blocker to put the Sabres on the scoresheet. The Bruins definitely looked like a team that hasn’t played at game speed in a few weeks but they battled back throughout the period and you could see their game getting up to speed as the period progressed. That rust doesn’t come off without work, that’s for sure.

The B’s tied it up less than 4 minutes into the 2nd period when Smith showed what hard work gets you. Bergeron won the faceoff (duh, of course he did) down low in the Sabres zone and got the puck back to McAvoy at the blue line. Chuckie Bright Lights slid it over for Marchand at the RW circle for a one-timer that rebounded off Luukkonen and dropped to the blue paint. Where was Smitty? Driving the net of course! After a few whacks to tenderize Luukkonen’s pads, the puck popped loose for Smith to tuck the backhand home to get the B’s on the board for the first time in the New Year. During the first intermission on the NESN feed, Smith was asked about playing with Bergy and Marchand and he commented that the puck is on your stick a lot as Bergeron is “so good on face-offs”. Guess Smitty was a bit prophetic there eh?

Originally tweeted by Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) on January 1, 2022.

The lead was short lived as Jeff Skinner put the Sabres back ahead when he got lost in coverage in the B’s zone and he put a wrister up and over Ullmark’s glove to put BUF back ahead. With a late power play, The Jack Eichel Haul got on the scoresheet when Peyton Krebs fed Alex Tuch in the slot to put the Sabres up by a pair heading into the 2nd intermission. This was Tuch’s first goal as a Sabre as the Syracuse, NY native had been a breath of fresh air in the Sabres organization. Imagine a player that WANTS to play in BUF? The Bruins had a tough go of it on special teams today (0-4 on the PP) as Butchie finally had seen enough of Foligno (2 PP posts) on PP1 and swapped him with Coyle on the first unit. He also could clearly see what I could see from my couch (or couldn’t see to be accurate) in DeBrusk’s lackluster effort (tell me if you’ve heard that before) and replaced him on PP2 with Mike Reilly. Demoted for a defenseman on a power play unit has got to be motivating right?

The Bruins came out in the 3rd with a noticeable jump in their step as they were hunting the puck and generating speed through the neutral zone. I don’t know what was said to the boys during intermission, but it sure seemed to be motivating. The Bruins scored twice in the opening 5 minutes of the period to tie the game back up with the goals coming less than 90 seconds apart. First up was Foligno when he converted a DeBrusk bid to get his first of the season and ended the longest goal drought of his career (26GP). Credit where credit is due, this goal was all DeBrusk and his effort. Maybe being taken off PP2 stung a bit? Winding out of his own zone, DeBrusk wheeled into the BUF zone and drove the net down the RW on his backhand shoveling the puck at the BUF net. Another rebound into the greasy area of the ice and Foligno corralled the puck with his skate and went backhand high to put the B’s back within a goal.

Originally tweeted by Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) on January 1, 2022.

Then it was Hall’s turn as he finished off a 3 on 2 rush with a dot just inside the far post. Coming down the LW Hall carried the puck just off his hip as Haula drove the net, with a quick toe drag then shoot he put the puck up high far side: vintage Taylor Hall. With that goal, Hall ended his own goal drought of 10GP without a cookie. Good to see both of those guys on the scoresheet.

Originally tweeted by Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) on January 1, 2022.

In the 3 on 3 OT, the Bruins had the first bid but Luukkonen turned away the attempt and then BUF worked the puck back up ice. Ullmark denied Skinner in the Bruins end and as they came up ice, Bergeron subbed off for Coyle. McAvoy sent the puck up to Marchand who carried the puck (as he saw the change happening) and dumped the puck into the RW corner where he was in the best position to get to the loose puck. Coyle put himself available in the high slot where Marchand found him (notice on the replay as Marchand peeks over his shoulder before he gets to the puck). Coyle gathered in the puck and shot right as he was skating left to beat Luukkonen over the glove. Game over. Play the music.

Originally tweeted by Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) on January 1, 2022.

Plus/Minus

Plus:

  • Mike Reilly and Taylor Hall both stood out as they were shooting the puck with authority. It was mentioned on the NESN feed as this was a point of emphasis for both of them coming out of the Christmas break and they both were noticeably looking to shoot first.
  • I like putting Craig Smith with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It provides an element to that line that’s been missing. I mean, I have some suggestions for the other lines too if Butchie wants to reach out.
  • You could see the boys fighting through all the rust from the delays, the protocols, the eggnog, whatever… good to see them fight back and get the W. Like I’ve said multiple times, nothing like a get right game against Buffalo.

Minus:

  • Still a bit of a pass first mentality to start the game. The Bruins got away from it, but still was present to start the game.
  • The Bruins had some stretches where they couldn’t work the puck out of their own end. Chalk that up to rust, but that will kill them against stiffer competition.

Game Notes:

  • Charlie McAvoy with the 2nd game of his career with 3 apples
  • On January 18th the Bruins will be sending Willie O’Ree’s #22 to the rafters in a ceremony to honor him being the NHL’s first black player. Mr. O’Ree broke the color barrier on the same date of the jersey ceremony in 1958 when he suited up for the Black and Gold vs. the Montreal Canadiens. The Hockey Hall of Famer went on to devote his life to growing the game and support the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiatives. Stick tap to Mr. O’Ree for all he’s done and continues to do.

The Bruins fly out tonight for a matinee vs. Detroit tomorrow.

Gotta love an Original Six matchup on a Sunday afternoon.

Author: Brownie

Hockey fan/player from the greater Boston area.

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