The Bruins remained in Buffalo for their second of three games this week against the Sabres and, despite winning the last time out, were in search of a more complete effort.
The first two periods weren’t too pretty and the Bruins avoided injury scares with Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy each ailing after a pair of blocked shots. Still, the Bruins held a one-goal lead after 40-minutes and strung together some balanced scoring in the third to earn a 5-1 victory.
Jeremy Swayman was also strong in the winning effort, making 29 saves. He is now 5-1-0 in his young career, and the Bruins are now 6-0-0 since the trade deadline.
Here are three key takeaways from the game.
1. Marchand stays hot
For the second time in as many games, Brad Marchand opened the scoring and gave his team a 1-0 lead. In the latter half of the first period, Mike Reilly once again played to his strengths and was able to get a quick shot through from the point. Exercising great patience, Marchand corralled Reilly’s rebound and calmly wristed it into an empty net.
Marchand is playing some of the best hockey of his career this season and continues to be one of the top scorers in the league. He added an assist later in the game and now has 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists) in his last 14 games since missing two games due to COVID protocol.
2. Bruins pull away with balanced scoring
It took a little time, but the Bruins’ offense finally exploded during the third period.
After Matt Grzelcyk gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead on a soft goal allowed by Dustin Tokarski, the team kept their foot on the gas in the final 20 minutes.
It started with a confident insurance goal from David Pastrnak. Entering the offensive zone, Pastrnak cut across the tops of the circles skating left to right and flipping a self-pass to himself before shooting across his body top-shelf for his 18th goal of the season.
Then it was the third line scoring their first goal since being put together after the trade deadline. With Charlie Coyle driving hard to the net, Nick Ritchie received a cross-zone pass from Jake DeBrusk and tallied his 11th goal of the season, scoring short-side on a wrist shot from the left circle. Coyle earned his 300th-career point with an assist on the play.
David Krejci capped off the scoring late in the third, capitalizing on a rebound off a shot from the point from Jeremy Lauzon.
The third period scoring spree was exactly what the Bruins were looking for heading into this three-game set with the Sabres. Confidence is sure to come from this game as 12 Bruins recorded a point in the winning effort.
3. STAY OUT OF THE BOX
The good news is that the Bruins have the top penalty kill in the league. The bad news is that they’re the most penalized team in the league.
Having the reputation among officials as a heavily penalized team can be a significant issue for the Bruins heading into the postseason.
Though Boston was indeed penalized on a few soft calls during Thursday’s game in Buffalo, the fact of the matter is that they need to have a better understanding of what officials are calling on a game-to-game basis. Are the officials letting them play? Or are they calling the ticky-tacky calls?
Despite questionable calls during this game, the Bruins have been guilty of more penalties all season long than other teams around the league and it will likely cost them at some point in the playoffs if they don’t improve their skating and discipline when tempted to to bend the rules.
Buffalo might not make the Bruins pay while shorthanded, but Washington, Pittsburgh and New York may.
The consequences of taking too many penalties goes beyond the potential goals against. It eliminates zone time for the Bruins and can oftentimes give momentum to opponents.
Furthermore, shorthanded minutes are incredibly taxing on the goalie, defensemen and forwards on the penalty kill and can get offensive players like David Pastrnak out of rhythm from losing shifts.
Fortunately, discipline can easily be improved through coaching, and the Bruins’ coaching staff will be sure to emphasize this aspect of Boston’s game as they head down the stretch.