Quick Hits: Sabres vs. Bruins

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The Sabres returned to the First Niagara Center on Friday, to play their division, the Boston Bruins. The return home is smack dab in between two western road trips. The Sabres were seeking just their second 3 game winning streak of the season.

Mark Pysyk was yet again available to Dan Byslma, but was once again a healthy scratch.

Robin Lehner got the start in net after more than a three-month absence, due to an ankle sprain. Lehner is coming off a conditioning stint with the Rochester Americans.

The Bruins went with backup Jonas Gustavsson, giving Tuuka Rask a rest after losing 7 of his last 8 starts, and his last 5.

The first period was the most even of the periods between the teams, and the most uneventful. The game started off very slow. The Sabres didn’t record their first shot on goal until eight minutes had past in the first. Considering the team has had two days to rest coming off their road trip, the slow start was inexcusable.

Lehner didn’t get much of a chance to come out right away and show Buffalo fans what he could do either. Boston didn’t test Lehner all that much, having just 4 shots and no scoring chances through the first half of period one.

Both teams, especially the Sabres, started to establish some time in the offensive zones in the second half of the first period. The Sabres finally broke the score with a little over 5 minutes to go in the first, when David Legwand stole the puck behind the net, and wrapped around to tuck the puck between Gustavsson’s pads. It was Legwand’s 3rd goal of the year.

The Sabres ended the first period with a 10-9 shot advantage, and a 1-0 score advantage.

Boston came right out in the second period and snatched the lead away. Just a minute and one second into the second period, Matt Belesky scored his 8th goal of the year on a rebound from a Ryan Spooner shot. It was a nice shot on a rolling puck by Belesky, but the goal could have easily been prevented. Jake McCabe is mostly to blame for the goal, whiffing on the puck at the blue line, then failing to tie up Spooner who walked in alone, and then failing to tie up Belesky for the rebound when Bogosian took Spooner. Robin Lehner also was a little out of position on the goal. He made the original save on Spooner, but slid too far out to the side, giving Belesky the open side.

Following the goal, the Sabres had several opportunities to get the lead back. Immediately after, Brian Gionta had a glorious opportunity on a 2 on 1, but shot the puck right into Gustavsson’s chest.

Over the next five minutes,  the Bruins took three penalties. The Sabres failed to score on all three power plays, despite generating many chances. Following the Belesky goal, Buffalo had the next 11 shots on goal. Boston didn’t register a shot on goal until nine minutes after the goal.

Boston also had a power play opportunity with a 7:45 left in the second period, following a hooking penalty by Mike Weber. The Sabres killed off the penalty, and allowed few chances.

Both teams exited the second period tied at one, but the Sabres dominated the period. Much of it was because of the penalties taken by Boston, but Buffalo outshot them 16-9 in the period.

Just like in the second period, the Bruins wasted no time getting on the board in the third. After winning the face-off, Ryan Spooner passed the puck to the point, where Zdeno Chara floated a wrist shot on goal through multiple screens. Robin Lehner never saw the puck, and it found the top corner to give Boston a 2-1 lead. They would never give the lead up.

Ryan Spooner scored to make it a three-point night for himself at the 10:53 mark of the third period. It was Spooner’s 10th goal on the year, and he climbed to 33 points in 43 games on the season. Spooner was named the games first star. Robin Lehner seemed to be paying attention to the tie up between Reinhart and Belesky in front of the net and not the shot from the wall. It was a soft goal for Lehner.

Brett Connolly would add an empty net goal for the Bruins in the final minute to seal the victory. The Sabres wound up outshooting the Bruins in the game 34-31.

 

 

 

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    • Mark Pysyk was healthy scratched for the second straight game 
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For whatever reason Dan Bylsma doesn’t like Mark Psysk. When he was playing well throughout the year, he rarely saw over 17 or 18 minutes of ice time. Now he’s been relegated to a healthy scratch. The reason used was that the Sabres were winning and Byslma didn’t want to mess with a winning lineup. The logic used to make that decision is so flawed. Just because your 29th place team won two in a row, you can’t change your lineup at all? Even when you’re winning you should always be looking to improve. It’s expected that Pysyk will return to the lineup Saturday against Washington for either Mike Weber or Jake McCabe.

    • Lehner looks shaky in his “return”

Robin Lehner went over three months without any NHL action, it’s reasonable to think he’ll need at least a game to adjust. He wasn’t the reason the Sabres lost the game. Scoring one goal as a team is not going to get you a win unless your goalie is Dominik Hasek. Lehner stopped 25 of 28 shots for a .90 save percentage in the game. The Chara goal was not his fault, but he could have stopped the other two. On Boston’s first goal, Lehner gave up a juicy rebound and slid himself out of position for the second opportunity. On the Bruin’s third goal by Ryan Spooner, Lehner just simply wasn’t paying attention to the shooter. Sam Reinhart was tied up with Matt Belesky in front of the net, and that’s where he turned his attention. Spooner threw a very low, harmless shot at the net, and Lehner let it get through his five hole. If he wants to keep the starting job for the rest of the year, he’ll have to play a lot better than he did tonight.

    • Larsson drops the gloves 
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Johan Larsson dropped the gloves with Bruins veteran Max Talbot, for his second career fight. Larsson nearly checked Talbot into his own bench, which caused the fight. Larsson fared very well, tossing several right hands that connected. By all accounts Larsson won a fight against a guy who has 24 career fights. Larsson’s first career fight came back on November 5th, 2013 against Tyler Kennedy. The then San Jose Shark was mugging former Sabres superstar Ville Leino, and Larsson jumped in to defend him.

    • Sabres miss opportunity to get into playoff race

This game agains the Bruins was a great chance for the Sabres to climb back into the playoff race. As we currently sit, the Sabres are 11 points behind both the Bruins and Canadiens for the wild card. Had the Sabres won, they would have been just 10 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the final playoff spot, and 7 points behind Boston. If the Sabres want to get into this race, they need to put a significant win streak together soon. After winning two games in a row, a matchup at home against one of the teams in the wild card spots was a prime opportunity to get rolling. Now the Sabres have to play Washington, which is as hard as it gets, and then go on the road to Arizona and Colorado.

Written by Joe DiBiase

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