The Boston Bruins were back at it on home ice Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres. After a disappointing outing against the New York Rangers on Saturday, it was beginning to look like the Bruins home-ice struggles would continue. Going into Monday night’s game they were 1-3-0 at home and 5-2-0 on the road.
Despite being dominated in the faceoff dot throughout the first period, having only won 25% of their faceoffs, and taking a couple of penalties, the Bruins managed to keep from being dramatically outshot and went into the first intermission scoreless. This was in large part due to some crafty saves by Tuukka Rask, who looked sharp from the first puck drop.
While the Bruins looked better, the first period really didn’t have anything special and looked eerily like many of their other home games; that is until they came out for the second. The middle frame has been a struggle for the team to date, but not Monday night.
Sabres Ryan O’Reilly found himself in the box for the second time of the night, this time for a high stick. The Bruins power play, that had looked coordinated on their first opportunity on the night during the first period, appeared to be a little less organized. However, the dogged determination of Brad Marchand resulted in the Bruins getting on the board first. And it appeared that that first goal set the tone for the Black and Gold for the remainder of the game.
“I’m looking at my two penalties and I’m looking at where they were in the game and where they were on the ice—it’s pointless,” said O’Reilly after the game. “I have to be more aware of my stick and staying out of the box is huge. You can’t give their best players more time with the puck and as you see, they put it in.”
The Bruins would actually put it in two additional times during the second period, adding another power play goal, the first goal of the season for David Krejci after the Sabres were called for two double minors in the space of a minute and a half. Riley Nash would get an unassisted even-strength goal, that actually deflected off a Sabre stick and then the skate of the Sabres defenseman who was trying to move Matt Beleskey out of the crease area.
While they were scoring goals, they continued to be outmaneuvered in the faceoff circle, though unlike other games, they were not chasing after the puck, instead managing to get it back quickly.
“They’re a good faceoff team,” explained Sabres Brian Gionta. “They’re a team that battles hard around that dot and they have guys that can take big draws, so we have to do a little more of a group effort around that circle.”
The Bruins may also want to apply that same battle around the circle as they go into Montreal, where they will play on Tuesday night. Of course, the Canadiens have been dealing with their own puck luck struggles and trials getting shots on goal. However, for the Sabres, Monday night was a parade to the penalty box coupled with an inability to solve Rask.
“Yeah, it’s definitely not the game we wanted. I guess scoring goals has been an issue for us as of late, and again tonight,” O’Reilly shared. “You know, we need to get on the board early. It changes the momentum. It gives us some energy and you know what, it’s on myself. It’s got to start with me. I’ve been struggling the last few games and I got to find a way to put the puck in the net. Even the power play struggled and it’s something we have to step up on.”
Meanwhile, though the Bruins got the win, and Rask the shutout, with the final score 4-0, their play has been anything but consistent this season. Head Coach Claude Julien put responsibility on the guys on the power play to step up, which they did, but the team as a whole needs to step up, especially on Tuesday night. Though usually better on the road, their streaky play is still a concern.
“Yeah, we’ve definitely been streaky. Right now, we need to be consistent. It starts again tomorrow night,” Bruins Tim Schaller said. “Two points there would be big. But right now, it’s the biggest game of the season coming up tomorrow. So hopefully we can come out with two points.”