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Five Takeaways: Bruins Edge Sabres 3-2

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Jake DeBrusk scored two goals in 18 seconds, both on the powerplay, to propel the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. David Pastrnak scored his 29th goal of the season, while Tuukka Rask made 24 saves to complete a home-and-home sweep. Steven Kampfer also registered his first assist of the season on DeBrusk’s first goal of the hockey game.

It wasn’t all smiles for the Bruins on this night, however. Connor Clifton left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. He played under six minutes before getting injured. The Bruins are already without Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy, who are both out with upper-body injuries.

The Bruins have now won three straight games and done it in impressive fashion. Without two key defensemen and down to five tonight, the Bruins did what they had to do in order to collect two more points. They have a true stranglehold on the Atlantic Division crown as we barrel towards the New Year.

Outhouse To Penthouse

Jake DeBrusk was benched early in the night by head coach Bruce Cassidy. He made good on it later with two goals in 18 seconds to give the Bruins a lead they would not lose. DeBrusk was impressive tonight in the sense that he didn’t let his benching get to him. Far too often young players sulk and don’t react right to ‘tough love’ coaching.

“You hope they respond in the right way, and he scored two goals. So he did,” Bruce Cassidy said postgame. According to the Bruins coach, DeBrusk was benched for failing to block a shot early in the contest.

DeBrusk got to a dirty area for his first goal, and started putting pucks on net resulting in his second goal. It was a dream sequence for a player that has had a disappointing season by his standards.

The Bruins will absolutely need DeBrusk, David Krejci, Danton Heinen and the rest of the top nine to step up. DeBrusk reacting like he did tonight and providing the difference in a key divisional win is a great sign. Cassidy and the Bruins are certainly hoping this is the start of a nice stretch for DeBrusk.

Slow Start For Bruins

Yes, the Bruins led the game 1-0 after one period. No, it wasn’t a great start for the club. In fact, you could argue that the Sabres had the better of the play for the first 40 minutes on Sunday night. The Sabres outshot the Bruins 7-2 in the first period. The Bruins were held to a Corsi For % of 42.11%. It didn’t get much better in the second period. The Bruins held just 42.31% of the Corsi battle in the middle frame.

All stats via Natural Stat Trick.

The Bruins did dominate the third period, however. They finished the final frame with a Corsi For % of 57.14% and held a 62.5% shots for advantage at five-on-five.

In the end, however, the Sabres held a possession advantage on this night and slight edge in high-danger scoring chances. Although the Bruins got the win, they didn’t play their best game. They’ll need to be better as the competition continues to improve later in this month.

What Now On Defense?

The Bruins had to finish this game with just five defensemen after Clifton went down with an upper-body injury. The club is spread quite thin defensively right now. Krug is out through at least Tuesday’s game against the Devils, while McAvoy is currently day-to-day. Both are out with upper-body injuries.

Cassidy did not have an update on Clifton postgame, but it stands to reason that there will be one tomorrow before the Bruins travel to New Jersey. No Clifton would present a real issue for the club moving froward.

If Clifton cannot go, a recall will be needed. Urho Vaakanainen is likely to be next in line for a recall with Steven Kampfer already in Boston. If there is a recall, expect it to come on Monday morning. The Bruins play an afternoon game on Tuesday in Newark.

The club responded nicely against the Sabres with just five defensemen. Guys kept it simple and didn’t try to get too cute. With so many key pieces out on defense, that is how this team will have to play for the next little while.

Eventually, however, these injuries do come around and bite you. The Bruins have great depth, as displayed tonight, but every team has a limit to the injuries they can handle.

Carlo Continues Great Play

Brandon Carlo played 25:35 in the victory, including 3:42 on the penalty kill. He’s emerged as a terrific piece for the Bruins as of late, stepping up with the injuries suffered in the last week. Carlo has always been solid for the Bruins, but I thought he took his game to another level tonight.

To me, he was the best defenseman on the ice on either side. He’s also become a lot more competent offensively too. Carlo had four shots on goal and now has to be respected from the point. That is an element of his game that, quite frankly, wasn’t there prior to this season.

25 minutes a night is not sustainable. That said, if Carlo can provide this level of play for roughly 21 minutes a night when Krug and McAvoy return? The Bruins will be a much better team for it.

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Carlo is playing like a real top pairing defenseman right now.

Diminishing Role

John Moore played the least among defensemen that finished the game for the Bruins. Moore played just 17:22 on the night, including 2:30 shorthanded. With multiple injuries on defense and with Clifton out, it was telling that Moore was the least trusted defenseman for the club.

Moore is a respected veteran, but he hasn’t given the Bruins much since returning from injury. His contract makes him unlikely to be traded. With multiple players returning from injury soon, Don Sweeney will need to figure something out with Moore.

It was evident in this game that Cassidy did not trust him as much as the other players on his roster.

Alex is a 2016 graduate of Springfield College who is currently a writer with Boston Hockey Now and The Oilers Rig. Outside of writing, you can find Alex in rinks around New England as the Play-by-Play voice of the USPHL’s Boston Junior Bruins. In addition, he does broadcasting work for Northeastern University, Holy Cross And UMass-Lowell. Reach him on Twitter: @Alex_Thomas14

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