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Bruins cannot hold off Sabres stampede 03.29.10 at 9:27 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins could not hold back the Sabres’ stampede in a 3-2 loss Monday night at TD Garden. Ryan Miller got the win for Buffalo with 40 saves while Tim Thomas took the loss by allowing three goals on 13 shots before getting pulled for Tuukka Rask in the second period.

The Bruins had a chance early in the first period when Marco Sturm took a pass from Patrice Bergeron through the neutral zone with a step on Craig Rivet for a breakaway. Rivet hooked Sturm, and the three of them went crashing into the net, with Sturm being awarded a penalty shot. But Miller stuffed Sturm at 3:20 to shut down a key opportunity.

David Krejci continued his great play of late as he extended his point streak to four games when he schooled Miller at 7:43 in the first. Krejci found himself with space in front of the net and circled Miller to almost the goal line before putting the puck off the goaltender’s skate for the first goal of the game.

The Sabres came back with two unanswered strikes in the period, both of which deflected off some part of Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman on the way past Thomas. The first came on a shot from the point by Tyler Myers that went through Wideman’s arms for the redirection at 9:56 to tie the game. The Sabres then went up a goal a few minutes later when Paul Gaustad picked up a rebound n the slot and backhanded it towards the net, sending it off Wideman’s skate in the process to make it 2-1.

Buffalo made it a two-goal game at 6:40 in the second when Tim Kennedy took a shot from the corner of the crease that hit Thomas in the chest but rebounded into the crease where it slipped across the goal line. That was the night for Thomas, as coach Claude Julien sent in Rask for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

Boston made it a one-goal game at 14:23 in the third period when Dennis Seidenberg pulled up on the rush and rocketed a slap shot from the point on Miller that the goaltender could not contain as it popped off his pads, over his shoulder and into the goal.

Three Stars

Ryan Miller — The starting goaltender for the USA Olympic team bested his backup by a fair margin in making 40 stops en route to his 38th win of the year.

Tyler Myers — The defenseman scored the Sabres’ first goal of the game and assisted on the second.

David Krejci — The Bruins center continued his hot play by scoring the first goal of the game and has a four-game point streak with three goals and four assists for seven points in that span.

Turning Point — One time could be a fluke but twice makes a trend, one that the Bruins would have been happy to avoid. The second goal that went off Wideman past Thomas came off of Gaustad’s backhander at 9:56 in the first. The ire of the fans will go to Wideman but the goal was set up after a shot from Myers that Thomas let slip into the slot, where the Sabres center was waiting.

Key Play — The weak goal was what did Thomas in. Kennedy had a point-blank opportunity on Thomas but did not have the angle to beat the goaltender. Thomas, however, ended up beating himself as he bobbled the rebound and let it slip behind him into the net. That giveaway brought Rask from the bench to the crease to take over the net-minding responsibilities.

Read More: Dennis Seidenberg, Dennis Wideman, Paul Gaustad, Ryan Miller Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres at 8:42 pm ET
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One game after recording his fifth shutout of the season and his 17th career, Tim Thomas was pulled after allowing his third goal on just 14 shots. It was the sixth time this season he has been lifted from a game.

The off night for Thomas has put the Bruins in a 3-1 hole after two periods.

Thomas allowed a soft wrister from Tim Kennedy at 6:08 and he came off the ice, made his way down the tunnel, swinging his goalie stick in frustration. He remained away from the bench for about five minutes before returning.

In fairness to Thomas, he was again let down by his defense who had trouble clearing bodies. Tuukka Rask was tested late in the period as breakdowns continued to thwart the B’s.

Jason Pominville had a short-handed breakaway with just 63 seconds left in the second period as the Bruins, desperate for some energy from their power play, pinched early and left Pominville alone in the neutral zone.

Boos rained down on the Bruins, who will begin the final period with 13 seconds of power play.

Each team had 14 shots on net in the second, with Boston holding a 28-25 advantage after 40 minutes.

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Bruins look to sustain momentum versus Sabres at 12:14 pm ET
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The Bruins will host Ryan Miller and the Sabres Monday night at TD Garden as they try to continue the push to make the playoffs. Boston currently holds the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, two points behind both Philadelphia and Montreal and two points ahead Atlanta. Blake Wheeler said it best this morning after the morning skate “one bad night and we could be in ninth.”

Buffalo, as a divisional opponent, is a team that the Bruins are familiar with and one of the only teams ahead of them in the standings that they can claim any significant success against. In the first four matches of the series this year the Boston is 3-1 against the Sabres and have outscored them 11-4. The Sabres have a five point lead on Ottawa for the division title and are only two points behind Pittsburgh for the No. 2 seed in the conference.

“You are playing the top team in our division, you are playing against a pretty good goaltender who has been good for them all year, a big key to their success” coach Claude Julien said. “A team, I think, over the course of the season that we have played very well. Again, these are big games for every team right now. They are trying to move up, not just in the division but in the conference. It is going to be a tough game tonight but we are up to it. I think our team understands the important-cy of every game and it is something we have to shown every night from here on in.”

Keeping the energy up and the skates moving has been a key for the Bruins this year. The bottom line is that any momentum that the Bruins generate is dependent on their compete level coming out of the gate.

“The effort the last four games has been pretty consistent so I think the guys are pretty happy,” forward Shawn Thornton said. “Come with energy, I suppose. It has to be from the drop of the puck. Can’t wait. You have to carry [the momentum], I don’t know the exact formula but we have to do it.”

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

– Andrew Ference will not play tonight as he continues to battle a hernia/groin injury that will require off-season surgery.

“We continue to get him checked out. Hopefully by the end of the day we will be a little clearer on his status,” Julien said.

With Ference out, Matt Hunwick will take his spot on the blue line. Hunwick has not had the best of sophomore seasons with a team high plus/minus of -16 for the year.

“He has done some really good things and there are some things that we have wanted him to get better at,” Julien said. “I think he is a very willing individual and wanting to get better and showing signs of a guy who wants to improve in the areas we want him to.”

Hunwick’s younger brother, Shawn, was the goaltender for the Michigan hockey team that lost on Sunday night to Miami of Ohio in the regional finals before the Frozen Four. He made 32 saves but the RedHawks topped the Wolverines in double overtime. Matt said that he watched the game and had not talked to his brother but had sent him a text.

“I told him to keep his head up and that he played really well,” Hunwick said. “He was one of the reasons they got to the tournament and do so well down the stretch … There is not too much to say, sent him a text and told him to keep up.”

– Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice  this morning which is a good indication that he will be the starter tonight.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Matt Hunwick, Ryan Miller Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Bruins win second in a row in shootout 02.09.10 at 10:08 pm ET
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Summary — Daniel Paille scored two first period goals for the Bruins at Buffalo on Tuesday at HSBC Arena, but the Sabres came back with two second-period goals to tie the game before Boston won the game 3-2 on a David Krejci score in a sudden-death shootout. Ryan Miller took the loss with 32 saves, while Tuukka Rask was the winner for Boston with 43 saves. It was Rask’s fourth straight start for the Bruins, and he has been able to get a point for Boston in all four with a 2-0-2 record.

Paille netted the first of the game at 4:51 when he scored on a wraparound against Miller to give the Bruins the early lead. Paille would strike again at 11:58 in the period when he crossed the crease in front of Miller to tip a slap shot from Zdeno Chara at the point for the two-goal advantage.

The lead would not last, as the Sabres came out strong in the second period and turn a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone. The first goal in the comeback came courtesy of Buffalo center Derek Roy with a wrist shot that beat Rask at 4:35 in the second on a 5-on-3 power play. Dynamic Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers would tie it at 18:35 with a wrist shot from the blue line that surprised Rask just enough to beat him on the glove side.

Three Stars

Daniel Paillle — Acquired on Oct. 20 in the first ever trade between the Bruins and Sabres, the speedy forward came back to haunt his former team with two first period goals to give him nine on the year for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask — The Bruins goaltender had a career-high 43 saves and made three stops in the shootout to give the Bruins consecutive wins and points in their last four games.

David Krejci — Krejci had the game-deciding goal in the shootout as he crossed in front of Miller and buried the puck to give Boston the two-point victory.

Turning Point

The Sabres comeback came in the second period courtesy of the power play. Milan Lucic went for hooking penalty at 2:54 and was joined by Steve Begin for a hook at 3:46 to set up 1:08 of 5-on-3 for Buffalo. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff took a timeout with his team down two goals to talk about the situation and was rewarded when Roy found time and space in front of Rask and put a wrist shot passed the young goaltender for Buffalo’s first goal of the game. The Sabres would play well from there on out to complete the comeback and gain a point.

Key Play

Miller came up big in overtime to stop the Bruins and send the game to the shootout. Early in the extra frame the Bruins had a great chance when Marco Sturm and Matt Hunwick had a 2-on-1 in front of Miller. Sturm crossed to Hunwick who let go of a one-timer that Miller crossed the crease to make a kick save off his pads and send the puck into the corner. Krejci had the game-deciding goal in the shootout that was tied at one after the first three rounds off of goals by Marco Sturm and Jason Pominville.

Read More: Daniel Paille, David Krejci, Ryan Miller, Tuukka Rask Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Sabres claw back to tie it in second at 8:49 pm ET
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It was a wild first five minutes of the second period in Buffalo. The Sabres came out with more aggression than they showed in the first which was immediately evident when their captain, Craig Rivet, decided it was time to throw down with Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton at 2:54. The fight started at the same time that a penalty whistle was blown to send Bruins forward Milan Lucic to the box for a hooking call. The Sabres were then given a golden chance to get back into the game when Steve Begin took a holding penalty 54-seconds later to give Buffalo 1:08 of 5-on-3 hockey at 3:46.

The Sabres would not need all of it to get on the board. At 4:35 Buffalo center Derek Roy found himself in the middle slot facing down Tuukka Rask with time and space. Roy let go a wily wrist shot that beat Rask glove side to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.

Boston got its first chance on the power play when Paul Gaustad tried to throw down with Zdeno Chara at 9:52. The towering Bruins captain cannot fight though because he tore most of the ligaments in his pinky the first time the Bruins played in Buffalo on Nov. 20. The finger looks pretty ugly as it is bent at a 90-degree angle and Chara has to wear a split on it during practice and games. Per NHL rules, a player cannot fight with any outside material on his hands, hence Chara cannot fight for fear of a suspension or injuring the finger more seriously than it already is. Gaustad went to the box for a two-minute unsportsmanlike yet the Bruins could not break down Ryan Miller’s door.

With the Sabres putting steady pressure on the Bruins through the period, Boston’s best chance came near the 18:30 mark when the puck got loose in the crease in front of Ryan Miller. Boston forward Mark Recchi dove for it but it was cleared and skipped through the neutral zone off the center wall to defenseman Tyler Myers. Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid missed on the loose puck and  Myers picked it up and let go of a sneaky wrist shot that surprised Rask on his glove side the Buffalo tied the game at two at 18:35.

Shots through second period (total):

Bruins — 11 (22).

Sabres — 14 (31).

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Paille nets two in first period against former team at 7:55 pm ET
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The Bruins look a lot crisper than the Sabres in the first period at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Boston is taking advantage of a plethora of Sabres turnovers to put pressure on star goaltender Ryan Miller and take a 2-0 lead into the second period. It is the fourth straight game where Boston has held a 2-0 lead and the Bruins are 1-0-2 in those games.

Daniel Paille is comfortable playing in Buffalo. The Sabres drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft (20th overall) and he made his NHL debut with them in the 2005-06 season and played 195 career games with 35 goals before being traded to the Bruins on Oct. 20 for a third and a conditional fourth round picks. Paille beat Miller by picking the puck up in the trapezoid and wrapping it around at 4:51 for the early Bruins advantage.

Then he did it again.

Paille started the sequence by digging the puck out of the corner and cycling it back around the net to Derek Morris who crossed it across the blue line to captain Zdeno Chara. The big defenseman wound up and fired a shot towards Miller. Paille, who cycled along with the puck, crossed in front of Miller at the same time as the puck and got a piece of it for his second goal of the period that gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Tuukka Rask has blanked the Sabres through the first. Buffalo has generated shots but not a lot of chances.

Shots through first period:

Boston — 11

Buffalo — 17

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Bruins look to continue Sabres woes at 2:28 pm ET
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Tuesday night, the Bruins are on the road in Buffalo to take on the Sabres at HSBC Arena for the second time in the last seven games. Last time the Boston visited Buffalo, it suffered a 2-1 regulation defeat which served as the sixth of ten straight losses the Bruins endured during the month of January into February.

Well, the streak is over, courtesy of a 3-0 blanking of the Canadiens on Sunday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Bears are looking to put a couple more points up before the Olympic break with games against Tampa and Florida on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

The Bruins currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference with 59 points, but are only two points from the seventh and eighth seeds and three from the sixth spot. The Sabres lead the Northeast Division with 71 points (one ahead of Ottawa), and would be the third seed if the playoffs started today.

Good things for the Bruins that they do not. The Eastern Conference is a logjam of mediocre teams playing inconsistently. Little streaks by teams have big effects on the standings. Take Ottawa and Buffalo for instance — the Sens have been as hot as anybody can be recently, and have jumped from below the playoff demarcation line to pushing Buffalo for the division lead. Ottawa’s stretch has coincided with a fall for the Sabres, who lost four in a row last week and sound very much like a team struggling to put pucks in the net.

“We’ve got to believe we’re a good team here,” Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime told the Buffalo News last week. “We had been playing great. A lot of teams go through stretches like that. It’s how you respond, how you get back out of it. We had a good meeting [Saturday]. We have to believe in here.”

Sound familiar, Bruins faithful?

When it comes down to it though, the Bruins are not in that bad of shape. According to the Simple Ratings System (SRS) used by hockey-reference.com, the Bruins are the seventh-strongest team in the Eastern Conference. The rating system works on a score aggregate that takes in baseline performance and then factors in the performance of all a teams competitors to arrive at a number that represents how much better or worse a team is in terms of predicated outcome against an average. (An average team in the SRS system is 0.) Right now, the Bruins are at -.18, which puts them ahead of the Canadiens (-.19), Rangers (-.22), Thrashers (-.26), Panthers (-.30) and Lightning (-.38), all of whom are clustered around the Bruins in the standings.

On the flip side, there is a definite disparity to the upper and lower halves of the Eastern Conference. Buffalo doubles the Bruins SRS score at .18, New Jersey is second at .30 and the Capitals blow everybody in the NHL away with 1.11.

Yet, if you looked at those rankings a couple of weeks ago, Ottawa would have been lower than its current -.07 and the Bruins would have ranked significantly higher (among other fluctuations). The Sabres’ four-game losing streak where they have had trouble getting goals has definitely lowered their SRS rank. Overall though, the system is a good indicator of the strength of a team and where it stands in contrast to the rest of the league. It is worth mentioning the Bruins current number in the ranking does indicate that they are a below average team, and in the system, they are ranked 19th overall in the NHL. That is what a ten-game losing streak does.

It will be important for the Bruins to jump on Buffalo early tonight and find a way to hold Tim Connolly and company off the board. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller may be the best goaltender in the league but, like fellow Olympian Tim Thomas, has had a few struggles of late. Hence the four-game slide.

Tuesday night’s game is the fourth in the six-game series between the division opponents. The Bruins lead the series 2-1-0 after two wins against the Sabres in November.

Boston knows all too well recently that losing streaks are a slippery slope. When things are going bad, they tend to go all bad at once. The Bruins, for a change, have the chance to continue the Sabres slide and grab themselves two points in the process.

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