The Boston Bruins (16-8-5, 37 pts, .638 points percentage) are in dire straits these days, going 2-2-1 in their last five games but their game today against the Buffalo Sabres (6-22-4,16 pts, .250 points percentage) could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Bruins are coming off another disappointing loss as they blew a third-period lead and lost to the New York Islanders for a fifth straight time, 4-3 in overtime in their first game in front of fans at TD Garden this season. Following the game, head coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t pull any punches when telling the media why his team couldn’t hold on for an extra point in the tight East Division standings.
“They played winning hockey in the third period better than we did,” Cassidy said bluntly. “Power play. It’s a bad change and we got frustrated late in it. Guys we rely on and leaders that I’ve praised for years here. Disappointed in not just being able to grind it out and changing when you’re supposed to. You make the plays you’re supposed to. It might not go in, but you keep the momentum,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Obviously they’re going to get some juice from killing the penalty, but now they’ve killed the penalty and cut the deficit in half all in a quick strike.
They need to be better in that situation. I expect better. That to me gave the Islanders some life that wasn’t necessary. We didn’t defend well enough in front of our net. We had to switch goalies, so that was difficult on Jaro to go into a situation like that. They finished around the net. We could have been harder, and we could have used an extra stop.”
To make matters worse, the Boston Bruins lost goalie Tuukka Rask after just one period of play Thursday and now Rask will miss the next two games. That’s why they must absolutely come away with two points today and if they play their game, that shouldn’t be difficult against one of the worst teams in NHL history.
When the Boston Bruins played the Sabres nine days ago, the Sabres were playing in their first game since firing now-former head coach Ralph Krueger and replacing him with Don Granato. Like the Bruins, things haven’t gotten much better for the Sabres since then as they had that game with the Bruins last Saturday postponed and then lost three more times while getting outscored 14-5. They now hold the longest winless streak in the salary cap era as no team since 2005-06 has gone this long without a win. The Sabres also remain without captain Jack Eichel who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and is mired in NHL Trade rumors.
With Rask out, Jaro Halak (7-4-3, 2.25 GAA, .915 save percentage), is expected to get the start at least today and tomorrow.
Dustin Tokarski (0-3-0, 4.11 GAA, .890 save percentage) will get the nod for the Sabres.
-This is the second of eight games against the Sabres for the Boston Bruins. They play again on April 13 in Boston; April 22-23 in Buffalo, and April 29 and May 1 in Boston. Last season, the Bruins went 3-0-0 against their normal Atlantic Division rivals, winning two games at TD Garden and one at KeyBank Arena.
-As mentioned above, Rask is out for at least the weekend. As for the rest of the Bruins’ MASH Unit, forward Karson Kuhlman had an MRI Friday after blocking a shot in the loss to the Islanders on Thursday. Kuhlman was not able to hold a stick on Friday morning.
“[Kuhlman] is going to get an MRI,” Cassidy said after practice Friday. “He obviously blocked a shot last night. I think everybody saw that and he couldn’t hold his stick today. So, he’s gone to get it looked at to make sure there’s nothing [structural]. I think with those smaller bones you’ve got to take a closer look,” said Bruce Cassidy. “So, he won’t play [on Saturday]. If the MRI is negative or there’s no damage, then it becomes a comfort thing with holding a stick and I’d only be speculating when that could be.”
If all goes well Saturday morning, then Zach Senyshyn (upper-body) will draw into the lineup for Kuhlman.
Defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) remains on injured reserve and won’t play Saturday but Cassidy said he’s ‘very close’ to returning. Fellow rearguards Brandon Carlo (concussion), and Kevan Miller (knee) continue to skate and are ‘getting closer’, as is forward Ondrej Kase (concussion). Defenseman John Moore (undisclosed) is recovering from surgery and is out indefinitely.
Forwards Sean Kuraly and jake DeBrusk remain on the NHL COVID List.
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 1-for-4 on Thursday night. They are now 22-for-88 on the man advantage this season. They’re 7th in the NHL with a 25-percent success rate.
-The PK killed off the only Islanders powerplay Thursday and remains the best in the NHL with an 89.5 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 85 of 95 powerplay attempts against them this season.
-Things are so bad for the Sabres this season, they’ve been shutout more times than they’ve won!
The Buffalo Sabres have been shutout more times than they have won 😳 pic.twitter.com/Jt6q9NfyWH
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 26, 2021
-Since the offseason, Eichel has been a constant in NHL Trade rumors, and the more the Sabres lose, the more the rumors start to seem real. Back in February I asked Sabres and Florida Panthers fans what they would think of an Eichel for Sasha Barkov trade and was basically scoffed and laughed at by fans of both teams, well now it seems that could be a potential trade and by all accounts, Eichel can be had for the right deal.
-Along with Eichel, Sabres left winger Zemgus Girgensons is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury. Forwards Tobias Reider is day-to-day. On the blue line, defensemen Will Borgen is out until mid-April with an arm injury, and Jake McCabe is gone for the season with a knee injury. Between the pipes, Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark are both day-to-day with lower-body injuries.
-The Sabres powerplay is ranked 14th in the NHL with a 22.9 percent success rate.
-The Sabres penalty kill has a 76.5 percent success rate and is ranked 20th in the NHL.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Zach Senyshyn/Jack Studnicka
Trent Frederic – Greg McKegg/Jack Studnicka – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Steven Kampfer
Buffalo Sabres Lines
Taylor Hall-Dylan Cozens-San Reinhart
Jeff Skinner-Curtis Lazar-Casey Mittelstadt
Victor Olofsson-Riley Sheehan-Tage Thompson
Rasmus Asplund/Matt Irwin-Cody Eakin-Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin-Colin Miller
Henri Jokiharju-Brandon Montour