Monday, November 7, 2016
Between Tough Games (Rangers & Canadiens), B's Take Care of Business Against the Depleted Sabres
Coming off a dispiriting 5-2 loss to the Rangers (10-3-0) on Saturday, the Bruins (7-5-0) needed an easy win tonight and that's exactly what they got as they disposed of the shorthanded Sabres (5-5-2) 4-0 at TD Garden. With the Canadiens (10-1-1) looming tomorrow night, I'm not quite sure why he started but Tuukka Rask (7-1-0) made 32 mostly routine saves for his second shutout of the season and 32nd of his NHL career (moving him ahead of Tim Thomas for 3rd place in franchise history). Meanwhile head coach Claude Julien continued to extend his franchise record by grabbing his 400th win as Bruins head coach.
There were a couple very promising developments for the B's besides the two points: their power play which had been wretched all season (3-for-38) but this evening they went 3-for-8. Also, David Krejci and Riley Nash scored their first goals of the season, Matt Beleskey had an assist (his 1st point of the season) and a fight while David Pastrnak (1 goal, 1 assist) continued to score at an amazing clip (12 points in 10 games). Minus probably their three best players-BU's Jack Eichel, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian-Buffalo was not nearly at full strength.
Dominic Moore somehow completely missed the net when he was wide open for a few seconds right in front of it so the game was scoreless after one period. The action thankfully picked up in the second period as the Bruins crafted possibly their best frame of this young season. They blitzed Buffalo with three goals in a less than 10-minute span. Brad Marchand's shot squeaked by Robin Lehner (38 saves) at 5:44 for his fifth goal of the season (4-game point streak), assisted by Pastrnak and Beleskey. Coming off hip surgery over the summer, Krejci has predictably started off slowly so it was nice to see him hammer in a one-timer from Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner at 10:12 for another power-play goal (Boston was 5-on-3 for 2:34). For a second it looked like Beleskey finally got a goal of his own but Nash's centering pass actually bounced in off a Sabres skate, that made it 3-0 Bruins at 14:41.
After being a healthy scratch last Thursday at Tampa Bay, Beleskey has responded with two good performances in a row capped off by his best game thus far (clearly not saying much). You can never question his toughness or desire to win as he stood up for Marchand after the latter was cross-checked into Buffalo's net. Beleskey dropped the gloves for a short scrap with some guy named Derek Grant. Less than a minute later, Pastrnak put it on ice (terrible pun totally intended) by putting in a juicy rebound on the doorstep. It was his team-leading eighth goal of the season (he's scored a goal in 4 straight games) with rookie Austin Czarnik picking up his first career NHL assist and John-Michael Liles notching his third helper of the season.
The Canadiens have been playing like the best team in the NHL, except from their bizarre 10-0 loss to Columbus (5-3-2) on Friday, and we all know how much the B's typically struggle against their most heated rival. It feels like Boston bungled things by having Rask start tonight since he's dealing with an injury (hamstring, groin?) that has already caused him to miss multiple games this campaign. Would they dare stick rookie Zane McIntyre in goal for only his second NHL start at the Bell Centre? Either way, it's probably a moot point since the Bruins seemingly never play well up there. If you need an escape from the relentless presidential election coverage tomorrow, check out B's-Habs starting at 7:30 p.m. on NESN. No matter your political beliefs, hating on the loathsome Canadiens will never go out of style.