BOSTON – Eventually the Boston Bruins’ 12-game win streak against Atlantic Division foes had to come to an end, but chances are they or anyone didn’t expect it to happen against the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo took advantage of a rare stinker by the Bruins at TD Garden Saturday night and beat the host team 4-2, also snapping Boston’s four-game win streak. Scott Wilson led the way for the Sabres with two goals.
Here’s your Extra Beats on a night to forget for the Black and Gold:
1.) Bruins Can’t Afford To Look Past Anyone
Heading into the All Star break last month, the Bruins had played the second fewest games of any team in the NHL. Thankfully for Boston, they took full advantage of being rested for games in the first half of the season and racked up plenty of points, and more importantly division points. However, with so many games to play in the second half, the Bruins still can’t afford to look past a lesser team as they most certainly did Saturday night. Bruins players wouldn’t exactly admit that’s what they did against the Sabres but reading between the lines, they knew that was part of the lackluster performance Saturday but didn’t want to discredit the Sabres hard work.
“I think it was a combination of both,” said forward David Backes whose goal with 59 ticks left in regulation made it 3-2 and gave the Bruins a glimmer of hope before Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen rifled it all the way down the ice for the empty-netter to seal it 30 seconds later. “Their sticks were on it and where they needed to be all night and we just failed to simplify our game and play the way we should.”
Head Coach Bruce Cassidy concurred.
“I just thought we were cute tonight,” Cassidy said. “It was leading up to something, and we have creative guys, but at some point, you’ve got to get it there. It’s got to get to the net with traffic, and we just didn’t do enough of that to earn our goals. It’s ironic we do it with the goalie out late. Too little, too late,
but we need a lot more of that early on.”
It’s only natural that every once in a while, a team will lay a stinker like this but sometimes when a team near the top of the standings plays a cellar dweller like Buffalo, those can be the most dangerous games and the Bruins learned that the hard way Saturday. Many of the Sabres players are on the trade block and/or playing for contracts -like winger Evander Kane who scored the first goal of the game – so they’re not going to just roll over for the Bruins or any other of the playoff contending teams. Hopefully a lesson learned early as the games only ramp up even more from here for Boston.
2.) Give It Away; Give It Away; Give It Away Now!
Not take away from a very solid effort by the Sabres, but if you were to put a music bed to game highlights from Saturday’s loss to Buffalo, the classic Red Hot Chili Peppers tune Give It Away would be the perfect tune for the Bruins. Boston had 18 giveaways to Buffalo’s six. David Pastrnak’s giveaway that led to Buffalo forward Evander Kane giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead 7:42 into the second period was the most egregious but there was plenty of blame to go around in what was a sloppy game by the B’s to say the least.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) February 11, 2018
Goaltender Tuukka Rask was asked after the game what he and his teammates are doing when those turnovers aren’t occurring as they were with so much frequency on Saturday.
“I think everyone is on the same page that the timing is good and the passing is crisp,” Rask said. “When the puck is
bouncing over the blades, then the timing is not there and then odd man rushes happen and the giveaways happen. You can’t stop every bounce, so I guess today we didn’t have our minds in the game as well as we have.”
3.) Rask Finally Loses In Regulation
Another and probably the most impressive streak that was snapped Saturday was Rask’s amazing 21-game point streak. Prior to the loss against the Sabres, Rask had not lost in regulation since November 26, going an amazing 19-0-2 over that span. Following the game, Rask who made 24 saves in the 4-2 loss, didn’t seem too phased about finally losing in regulation.
“Start a new one I guess,” the Finnish netminder said with a smile.
Cassidy credited Rask for keeping his team in it while being under a barrage of odd-man rushes all night.
“That is the disappointing part,” Cassidy said of the odd-man rushes. “You can accept not executing certain nights; you can accept the puck not going in, but the giving them the free chances the other way, that’s just not who we are. We’ll talk about that in the morning; that’s not how we’re going to play.
Maybe it turned out it would have had to be a 1-0, 2-1 game tonight because offensively we weren’t getting there, but that’s fine. We’ve won our share; we’ve learned how to play in those games. It seems like we weren’t going to be respectful of that, and the odd-man rushes, eventually they got us. I think Tuukka made some good saves on them, too. Could have been a lot worse.”
4.) Jack Eichel Injured; Leaves Game In First Period
What’s even more amazing about the Sabres’ solid performance over the heavily favored Bruins was that they did it essentially without star forward Jack Eichel who left the game late in the first period after slamming awkwardly into the end boards. The former Boston University star and Chelmsford, MA native did not return. However, the Sabres scored all four goals without him in the lineup. Reports late Saturday night said that Eichel would get an MRI Sunday morning.
Here’s the injury to Eichel in 1st period Vs. #Bruins
— Nick Filipowski (@NickFilipowski) February 11, 2018
5.) With A Plethora Of Scouts and Craig MacTavish On Hand, Plenty Of Trade Chatter In Press Box
As the February 26 trade deadline inches closer the number of scouts in the TD Garden press box continues and on Saturday night, that list included Oilers Vice President Of Hockey Operations Craig MacTavish along with a regular Oilers scout that attends all Boston games.
When alerted of McTavish’s attendance, one other NHL Executive felt he was watching the Bruins more than the Sabres. The Bruins are rumored to have interest in Oilers winger Patrick Maroon.
6.) Forward Lines Remained The Same But Could Change Sunday At New Jersey
Cassidy kept the same lines (below) together Saturday, but termed forward Noel Acciari as “probable” to return from his injury. That means someone from the energy line, likely Austin Czarnik, will be a healthy scratch.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Ryan Spooner
Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-Backes
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Czarnik