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Bruins Tuukka A Win Away From Sabres: Analysis vs Buffalo

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Brad Marchand probably put it best following his team’s 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday at TD Garden when asked about his teammate Tuukka Rask’s 36-save performance that included arguably the NHL’s best save of the year (below):

“Highlight save of the year. …that’s why he’s making the big bucks and we’ve got him back there to save our butts so we’re lucky to have him,” Marchand said with a big smile.

To his credit, Marchand did a good job of saving his teammates’ butts as well getting his team out of a forgetful first period in which they were outshot 17-4 but somehow escaped tied at one thanks to his goal at 13:52 of the opening frame. Marchand would give his team a 2-1 lead with a powerplay goal at 14:45 of the second period and David Pastrnak would score what proved to be the game-winner at 1:56 of the final frame.

Make no mistake though, Rask was the reason the Bruins escaped and earned at least a point for a sixth straight game despite being outshot 38-27.

Rask Or Fleury For Save Of The Year?

Two days after Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a save of the year candidate against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Rask cast his own highlight reel save. With the Sabres on their fourth powerplay, he robbed Sabres forward and former Boston University star Evan Rodrigues point blank with the palm side of his blocker at 4:48 of the third period to preserve a 3-1 Bruins lead at the time.

The Sabres would get the best of later in the period to make it 3-2 on a Brandon Montour goal at 12:58, but the arena and social media for that matter were still abuzz over his unreal save. So were his teammates and coach after the game. When asked after the game which save was better, Rask’s or Fleury’s, Marchand of course sided with his teammate.

“I mean that was a backhand and I think it was going wide,” Marchand said of the Fleury save. “I gotta give it to ‘Tuukks’, forehand, he ripped it and he came across. …and ‘Tuukks’ my boy! Gotta go with ‘Tuukks’!

Pastrnak acknowledged it could be a tough call on whose save was better:

“It’s going to be tight with Marc-Andre Fleury,” said the NHL’s leading goal scorer.

As for Rask’s take on the save?

“I was tracking it…it’s one of those instinct saves. Fun to make a save like that.”

 

Is Marchand Hart Trophy Candidate?

Just past the quarter mark of the season and it’s fair to say that Marchand is an early Hart Trophy candidate as the league’s MVP. Marchand’s two goals gave him 15 lamplighters on the season and he now leads the Bruins with 37 points. He leads another early Hart Trophy candidate, linemate David Pastrnak by one point and is third in the NHL. Marchand has five goals in his last six games and nine points during that span.

While his stats have been superior, it’s when he gets the goals and assists that’s even more impressive. As he proved again Thursday, Marchand is not only an elite scorer but a clutch scorer. The Bruins were beyond flat in the first period and Marchand once again bailed them out with that first goal and then later gave them the lead as they found their legs. His teammates follow his lead and that’s what makes him so valuable.

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“I think ‘March’ [Brad Marchand], when he created loose-puck situations, the forecheck and sort of
got the emotion going for a little bit for us,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Then all of a sudden you win a few pucks and we’re fortunate enough to get a goal out of it.”

Powerplay Delivers

In a game where the Bruins were struggling to get scoring chances and took a while to find their stride offensively, they took full advantage of their two powerplays going 2-for-2. Marchand’s second goal came on the man advantage and Pastrnak scored his 20th of the season on the powerplay as well. The Bruins are now 21-for-68 (30.9%) on the powerplay this season, second to only the Edmonton Oilers who were scoring at a 32.4 percent clip heading into their game against the Kings late Thursday night.

With 20 years of experience (SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, ESPNBoston, NESN, NHL.com, etc.) covering the Bruins, the NHL, NCAA and junior hockey and more, Jimmy Murphy’s hockey black book is full of Hall of Famers, current players, coaches, management, scouts and a wide array of hockey media personalities that have lived in and around this great game. For 17 of his 20 years as a hockey and sports reporter, Murph covered the Bruins on essentially a daily basis covering their victorious 2011 Stanley Cup run and their 2013 run to the Final as well. Murphy has hosted national and local radio shows and podcasts and also has experience in TV as well.

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