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Talking Points: Craig Smith Hat Trick Leads Way For Boston Bruins

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Here are the Talking Points for the Boston Bruins 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon.

GOLD STAR: Craig Smith has been riding a hot streak for a long while and now he’s become a really dangerous offensive threat with the Bruins riding on the right wing with David Krejci and Taylor Hall on the second line. Smith exploded for a pair of goals in the third period of Saturday’s matinee win to cap off a hat trick against the Sabres and continue a made stretch of winning that has the B’s victorious in nine of 11 games since the NHL trade deadline. Smith had a team-high nine shot attempts in his 12:15 of ice time, five shots on net, a plus-2 rating, two hits and a ton of free-flowing energy while enjoying his best game as a member of the Boston Bruins. Smith has now been a point-per-game player for the Bruins for over a month and has scored seven goals over that time span as well while becoming a secondary offensive threat for the Black and Gold.

BLACK EYE: Anders Bjork was a minus-2 in his 20 plus minutes of ice time in the game against his ex-Bruins teammates and really didn’t fare too well when he tried to go after rugged Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton. Instead, Bjork was clobbered against the boards with one big hit and then got knocked off his skates with the second collision later in the shift when the speedy Sabres winger looked to hunt down his former teammate. Bjork may end up finding more of his offensive game and developing a little better than he did with the B’s, but he’s in the wrong business if he starts trying to dabble in the physical side at the NHL level. That’s not his bag, baby. Also, he’s got one point in his last nine games after a short burst with three points in his first couple of games after being traded away from the Black and Gold. Oh, he also got smoked by Jeremy Lauzon as well later in the game. Let’s be honest: Anders took a beating out there.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins really drove the stake through the hearts of the Sabres with their second period goal that made it a 3-1 lead. The Sabres were hanging around after the first 20 minutes while trailing 2-1 despite being outshot by a 17-4 margin by the Bruins. Riley Sheahan’s shorthanded goal left them within a goal and in striking distance to play a pesky road game if they could keep it right there for most of the game. But the Bruins struck again in the second period with the Perfection Line doing the damage. Jeremy Lauzon handcuffed Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with a point shot and then Patrice Bergeron managed to backhand shovel the rebound effort for his 20th goal of the season. Once the Bruins were up by a pair of goals, things already felt pretty hopeless for the Sabres prior to the fireworks offensive display in the third period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Sean Kuraly has been noticeably upping his effort in recent games, and he was finally rewarded for it on Saturday afternoon. Kuraly scored the second goal of the first period that ended up being a big score that took back the momentum after Buffalo scored a shorthanded goal midway through the opening 20 minutes. It was a nice effort attacking the net and pouncing on a loose puck and continued a strong run as the third line center between Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle. Kuraly finished with five shots on net, five hits and three takeaways along with 7-of-14 face-off wins in his 15:47 of ice time. It makes you wonder where this kind of game and this kind of effort has been from Kuraly for most of the season, but perhaps it’s about the guys skating with him now that he’s got a couple of big boy power forwards on either side of him.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the number of goals for Craig Smith, who became the first Boston Bruins player other than Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci or David Pastrnak to record a hat trick since Jimmy Hayes did it for the B’s back in 2015.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He’s a very popular guy in the room. I think they appreciate his kind of lunch pail approach.” –Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on second line right winger Craig Smith, who now has seven goals and 21 points in his last 19 games during a red-hot stretch for the B’s.

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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Orrfan

Correction. Smith became a “dangerous offensive threat” riding the right wing on the Bergeron line. He’s continued that play on the Krejci line. Suggesting that he’s a threat whenever he plays with elite offensive players. A great quality to have.

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