Obviously there are events taking place in Boston that are far more important than the Bruins this afternoon. But just for reporting purposes, the Bruins’ game against the Penguins has been postponed until tomorrow, tentatively scheduled for 12:30pm.
Last night’s game at the Garden between the Bruins and Sabres was about more than hockey, it was about a city and its people coming together in a first step towards healing. And as far as that goes, the night was a complete victory. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they couldn’t hold it together on the ice, blowing yet another third period lead and falling in the shootout.
The night got off to an emotional start, as a ‘Boston Strong’ montage was followed by a moving rendition of the National Anthem by the Rene Rancourt and the Boston crowd.
The start of the game reflected the heavy weight that was present in the building, as both teams were a little tentative after the opening faceoff. But the energy quickly returned when Daniel Paille buried a Chris Kelly net front pass to give the Bruins the early lead just six minutes in.
The Sabres would rebound before the end of the period as, to the surprise of no one, Sabres forward Thomas Vanek tipped in a Christian Ehrhoff shot past B’s goalie Anton Khudobin to tie the game. It was Vanek’s 17th goal and his sixth point in four games against the Bruins this year.
The Bruins battled back in the second and it was the Paille, Kelly and Nathan Horton line at it again, with Kelly doing the honors this time. Some good work at the point by Andrew Ference kept a bouncing puck in the zone, and Paille fired a quick cross crease pass to Kelly who flipped a soft shot over the pads of Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller.
It appeared as though the Bruins would be able to hold the 2-1 lead as the clock ticked all the way down to the one minute mark of the third period. But a bouncing puck in the Boston defensive end was swatted out of play by Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference with just 48 seconds to play, earning an automatic delay of game penalty. The Sabres then capitalized as a Steve Ott faceoff win was fired towards the net by Vanek, hitting the skates of Sabres forward Cody Hodgson before trickling into the net.
The teams battled through overtime and into the shootout, but after Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin all failed to score on Miller, Drew Stafford beat Khudobin in the third round to seal the victory for Buffalo, who now sit just two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins meanwhile earned a playoff berth of their own with the point earned by getting to overtime, so despite the loss there are still positives to be taken. The game quite frankly was one of the better games the Bruins have played this year (aside from the continually non existent physical game), firing 43 shots on Miller, many of the high quality variety. Unfortunately the Sabres goalie was extremely sharp and kept the Bruins from extending their lead.
The night was capped off by both teams heading to center ice for a stick salute to the crowd, an appropriate finish to an emotional night.
Couple quick game notes:
Props to the Sabres, who proved to be a very classy team throughout the evening. The center ice salute idea was apparently Vanek’s, coordinating with B’s captain Zdeno Chara during warmups. Sabres forward Steve Ott also was extremely well spoken in his post-game interview with Pierre McGuire.
Carl Soderberg took morning skate but didn’t dress. He could make his debut on Friday night when the Bruins take on the Penguins.
Defenseman Wade Redden made his Bruins debut, but was quiet in 12:42 of ice time.
The reunited line of Bergeron, Marchand and Seguin was very good despite not scoring, accounting for 14 of the Bruins’ 43 shots on Miller. Bergeron in particular looked like he didn’t miss a beat in his return winning 76% of his draws, though he did lose the defensive zone draw that led to the tying goal. Overall though he was one of Boston’s most consistent players on the night (again, to the surprise of no one).
Despite taking the delay of game penalty that led to the tying goal, Andrew Ference had one of his stronger games of the year. He played over 23 minutes in the game, assisted on the Bruins second goal, and played tough in his own end all night. He had a great chance to win the game in overtime as well, but Miller came up with the save.
Dougie Hamilton was back in the lineup after being scratched for two games. He had two shots on net and a hit in 15:42 of ice.
Milan Lucic once again was a non-factor, failing to respond to his demotion to the fourth line. He had no shots in 10:53 of ice and took a four minute high sticking penalty in the third period.
New Bruin Carl Soderberg does in fact exist and is on the ice today for morning skate with his new teammates. He’s rotating in with Greg Campbell, David Krejci and Jaromir Jagr, and most likely will be a healthy scratch tonight. He could make his debut Friday when the Bruins take on the Penguins.
Brad Marchand is skating again today as well, back with former linemates Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Coach Claude Julien, according to those in the know, confirmed after the skate that both Marchand and Bergeron will in fact be in the lineup tonight.
In somewhat surprising news, Milan Lucic is (finally) taking shifts with Shawn Thornton and Rich Peverley on the fourth line. This would be the first major demotion for Looch (aside from being taken off the power play against the Hurricanes), so if this lineup sticks it will be interesting to see how the big man responds.
Defenseman Wade Redden will also make his Bruins debut.
7:30 pm puck drop tonight, NBC Sports Network. Don’t miss the anthem.
Obviously the Bruins were (appropriately) an afterthought given the events that took place yesterday in the city of Boston. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those directly affected and all those who call Boston home.
While we search for answers and start the healing process, the Bruins will press on and take to the ice for the first time since the bombings, hosting the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night at the Garden (7:30 pm puck drop – NBC Sports Network). I for one am very much looking forward to what is sure to be a special rendition of the National Anthem before the game from Rene Rancourt.
Monday’s scheduled game against the Senators, which had been postponed, was rescheduled today to Sunday, April 28th at 7 pm. That will be the final game of the NHL regular season.
The black and gold held a spirited practice today and there were a few items of note:
Claude Julien termed Patrice Bergeron ‘highly probable‘ to return against the Sabres. He still has to be cleared by doctors before the game, but he appears ready to go.
Jordan Caron has been reassigned to Providence, mostly to make room for Bergeron’s return but also ahead of Carl Soderberg’s arrival, which is expected tomorrow. He could be on the ice for morning skate, but likely will not dress against the Sabres.
Brad Marchand was cleared for contact before today’s practice, but he wasn’t assigned a line so it’s unlikely that he will dress against the Sabres. If his recovery continues to go well, he could return Friday against Pittsburgh.
“We represent the city of Boston and we want to make sure we represent them well. All you can do is go out there and give it all you’ve got. Whether it gives a little bit of joy, or excitement to some people, it’s going to take a while to heal from this, and we don’t expect tomorrow to be the day that everything’s going to be OK, but you’ve got to start somewhere and tomorrow’s a great time for us to go out there and play our hearts out for all the right reasons.”
There were many displays of support across the league last night, with moments of silence in Chicago, Montreal, Phoenix and other arenas. The National Anthem in Chicago was particularly moving:
Phoenix Coyotes defenseman and Boston native Keith Yandle showed his support with a message on his skates:
Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow night’s game, it will be a big first step towards moving forward and a great opportunity for the people of Boston and all Bruins fans to come together and get their minds off of yesterday’s events for a few hours. Go Bruins!