The Boston Bruins suffered their worst loss of the season Sunday night, an 8-1 defeat at the hands of the division leading Washington Capitals. With a depleted defensive core and an offense that continued to struggle, GM Don Sweeney got to work right after the game and began to work on improving the team. He brought in forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar from Buffalo, as well as defenseman Mike Reilly from Ottawa. With the new additions making the drive down to Boston in order to avoid entering COVID-19 protocol, they were all in the lineup for their first games as Bruins Tuesday night against the Sabres, which the B’s would ultimately win 3-2 in a shootout.
With injuries to over half of the Bruins starting defensemen, the defensive core consisted mainly of depth guys who aren’t used to playing big minutes in the NHL. The Bruins lack of defensive prowess showed as they gave up 8 goals, 3 in the first, 3 in the second, and 2 in the third. Craig Smith had the lone goal of the night for the Bruins. Dan Vladar was left hung out to dry for most of the game in net, but he didn’t look great either. It is clear the Bruins need Tuukka Rask back, as Vladar can’t be the starter just yet at this point in his career.
It became clear that if guys like Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Kevan Miller, and Charlie McAvoy continue to miss time, the Bruins desperately need help. The defense they rolled out Sunday night is not one that has any chance to take a team on a deep playoff run. The Bruins brought in Mike Reilly from Ottawa in order to fill in a gap on the defense, but the Bruins best chance at getting back to a good defensive core is simply waiting for the injured guys to get healthy again. As we saw early in the season, the group they put out did the job and was able to help the Bruins get off to a 10-1-2 start. With most of those guys back on the ice, with the addition of Mike Reilly, the Bruins should have an average to slightly above average defense moving forward.
Two of the injured defenseman, Charlie McAvoy and Kevan Miller, returned on Tuesday night, as the Bruins took on the Buffalo Sabres. McAvoy led the team in ice time after missing a few games with over 25 minutes. The game didn’t get off to a great start, as former Bruin Colin Miller opened the scoring for Buffalo less than two minutes into the game. David Krejci would tie the game later in the first with a tap-in goal off of a rebound, but the Bruins looked slow and sloppy for the majority of the period. With the new additions in the lineup, one can expect a few hiccups but overall the Bruins just looked bad against a lowly Sabres team. The tempo would pick up in the second however with Craig Smith eventually giving the Bruins a lead with a top corner shot from the slot.
After a strong second period, the Bruins would take a step back in the third. They didn’t play horribly, but they did allow Buffalo to stay in the game with a game tying goal, scored by Rasmus Dahlin. Heading into overtime, Buffalo had the momentum and it showed as they controlled most of the play in the 5 minute period. Jeremy Swayman made some exceptional saves in net however and sent the game to a shootout where Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk would net goals to win the game for the Bruins, getting them to the 50 point mark on the season.
The Bruins best line by far against Buffalo was the fourth line, which had been edited to include Curtis Lazar at center with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly on the wings. Lazar jumpstarted what has been a disappointing line all season, as Kuraly and Wagner each had arguably their best games of the season. The trio created pressure all night in the offensive zone and had a bunch of scoring opportunities. Although none of them factored in on the scoresheet, they seem to have chemistry that could help the team moving forward.
Next up for the Bruins is the New York Islanders who they are still winless against this season. They will have to up their game significantly to finally get that elusive first win against the Isles.
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