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Miller and Sabres claim Game 1 04.15.10 at 9:43 pm ET
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Summary — Playoff hockey is a different animal than its regular-season cousin. The Bruins and Sabres proved that on Thursday in Game 1 of their quarterfinal Eastern Conference matchup that was won by Buffalo 2-1 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. (Recap.)

Tuukka Rask made his first career playoff start and allowed the two goals on 32 shots but was out-dueled by veteran superstar Ryan Miller, who made 38 saves in the win.

Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo the early lead at 4:52 in the first period. He was set up by Sabres center Derek Roy, who won the puck coming out of the Buffalo defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. After making the entry, he skated to the top of the faceoff circle and laid the puck up for Vanek, who chose his spot (far side high) on Rask and buried it for the 1-0 lead.

Mark Recchi got the Bruins back into it during a second period in which his team rarely let the puck out of the Buffalo zone. In the second 20 minutes, Boston outshot the Sabres, 24-8. Recchi tied it on a power play (Toni Lydman – cross check, 8:44) when he found the puck bouncing in the slot after a booming one-timer from the point by Zdeno Chara that had been set up off the stick of Matt Hunwick. Patrice Bergeron tangled enough in front of the net to let the puck pass back through traffic on the rebound, and Recchi swept in to put it back on the top shelf at 9:30.

The tie would not last long. Boston was caught sleeping once in the second period, just long enough for Craig Rivet to beat Rask with a slap shot from the top of the right circle for the game-winner. Tim Kennedy set up Rivet with a back pass from the goal line as the Sabres captain came down the wing with a full head of steam at 14:10.

The victory gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is scheduled in Buffalo for Saturday.

Three Stars

Ryan Miller — The likely 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner and MVP candidate stood tall for Buffalo, especially in the second period, when the Bruins set a record with 24 shots, the most the Sabres have ever allowed in a period in the playoffs.

Mark Recchi – The veteran scored on the power play in the second period for his 51st career postseason goal, good for a tie for second among active NHL players.

Tim Kennedy — The Sabres forward was a pest on the ice all night and totaled a plus-two with an assist on Rivet’s second-period goal.

Turning Point – In the midst of withstanding a 24-shot period by the Bruins, Rivet was able to find enough time (which the Sabres had very little of as Boston controlled the puck all period) and space on the right wing to let loose a slap shot after a back feed by Kennedy. The goal stopped Boston’s momentum just enough to allow the Sabres to catch their breath to finish the period with the lead.

Key Play — With Boston trying to claw back in the game towards the end of the third period, two consecutive hard-luck penalties that sapped any momentum it could have gained. The first was on what looked to be a phantom tripping call on Dennis Wideman when Roy went to the ice with hardly a touch at 13:20. Right after the Bruins killed that penalty, Miroslav Satan accidentally flipped the puck over the boards into the crowd for a delay of game at 15:40 that put Boston on the kill for half of the remaining four minutes.

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Craig Rivet, Derek Roy, Mark Recchi
Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 1 at 8:46 pm ET
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Maybe the Bruins power play is starting to come back to life.

They scored one in the regular season finale against Washington to break an 0 for 23 funk and then turn around to score on their first opportunity of the postseason after a Toni Lydman cross checking penalty. Mark Recchi found the back of the net off a rebound in the low slot from a Zdeno Chara slap shot from the high slot. The play was set up by a nice touch pass by defenseman Matt Hunwick on the point to give Chara the one-timer that split the Sabres forward penalty killers. Patrice Bergeron did not register and assist on the play, but he should have as his tangling play in front of Ryan Miller helped keep the puck loose from Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder long enough for Recchi to find it and put it home to tie the game at 9:30.

Boston absolutely lived in the Sabres’ zone for most of the period but, outside of the power play strike, did not have much to show for it except a bunch of shots and Recchi’s goal. Then, the moment that the Bruins let their foot off the gas pedal for a minute, Buffalo struck.

It was captain Craig Rivet that did the damage with a back pass assist from Tim Kennedy. Rivet came down the right wing from the point with a head of steam and let go a slap shot at the top of the circle that whittled its way through traffic passed Rask at 14:10.

Boston had another power play opportunity late in the period when Thomas Vanek went for tripping Milan Lucic flying through the neutral zone at 16:28. The Sabres penalty kill was more effective this time around to preserve their 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Boston outshot Buffalo 24 to 8 on the period and lead the game 33 to 20.

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Craig Rivet, Mark Recchi, Ryan Miller
First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 1 at 7:55 pm ET
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Thomas Vanek taught us the first lesson in the first period of the first game in the quarterfinal playoffs series between the Bruins and Sabres — capitalize on all opportunities.

The story lines in this series are inevitably going to be about tip-ins and deflections and superb goaltending between Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask. But Vanek, the best pure goal-scorer in the series, showed that the Sabres will not always have to rely on the dirty goals to put points on the board.

Sabres’ center and leading point scorer Derek Roy won the puck coming out of Buffalo’s defensive zone and started a break down the right wing. Once he made the entry he laid the puck up for Vanek in the high slot. The sniper picked his spot, far side and up on Rask, and let it go and the Sabres had the early lead in the game at 4:52.

Tempers flared later in the first period after a series of shots and blocks in front of the Bruins net by Tuukka Rask and defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Bruin captain Zdeno Chara got rough with former Bruin Steve Montador and forward Raffi Torres came in give Chara the what for. Away from that scrum Milan Lucic and Toni Lydman got into fisticuffs, with Lucic taking a wild swing (and missing) before Montador joined that scrum and all three went to a heap on the ice.

Sorting out the penalties.

Bruins: Chara – cross-checking, roughing, Lucic – double  roughing minor.

Sabres: Lydman, Montador, Torres — all two-minute roughing. Patrick Kaletta — 10-minute misconduct.

When it was all said and done, the Sabres had a two-minute power play that the Bruins killed off. Buffalo shortly went on another power play when Adam McQuaid went for hooking at 18:56 which brought play to the end or the period. The Sabres will start the second with a four-second man-advantage.

Buffalo leads the battle in shots thus far, 12 to 9.

Read More: Derek Roy, Milan Lucic, Patrick Kaletta, Raffi Torres
Playoff matchups: Bruins vs. Sabres 04.11.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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Coming off a 4-3 overtime victory against the Presidents’€™ Trophy-winning Capitals on Sunday, the Bruins can at the very least take momentum into their first-round matchup beginning Thursday at HSBC Arena against the third-seeded Sabres. Claude Julien’s squad took the season series from Buffalo, 4-2, but shouldn’€™t get too ahead of themselves considering they are sending a lackluster offense up against perhaps the league’€™s best goalie in the playoff-tested Ryan Miller.

OFFENSE

The Bruins’€™ offense wasn’€™t expected to be what it was a year ago, but between the Phil Kessel trade, the Marc Savard injury and a collection of stars from the ‘€™08-’€™09 team falling back to earth, the team scored just 193 goals and boasted the league’€™s worst offense and the only squad to fall short of 200 goals. Such a statistic is far from encouraging for a team that’€™s set to play at least the next four against Miller.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara led the Bruins in points with 52, 52, and 44, respectively, but the team had just one 20-goal scorer in the form of Marco Sturm (21). For the sake of comparison, the Bruins had six players with at least 50 points and six with 20 goals (Kessel led the Bruins with 36) a season ago.

Left wing Thomas Vanek, who scored four goals against the Senators Saturday, is the Sabres’€™ biggest scoring threat, as the 26-year-old led the team with 26 goals in the regular season. Derek Roy (26), Jason Pomenville (24), and Jochen Hect (21) followed, with Roy leading the Sabres in points with 68.

Edge: Sabres

DEFENSE

Much of this depends on Mark Stuart‘€™s hopeful return from pinky surgery. Stuart could be back for the third game of the series, but even so the Bruins are the better defensive team. Though there has been fluctuation in the pairings, Zdeno Chara (plus-23) with Dennis Wideman imposes a strong enough presence to make the series a struggle for the Sabres offensively. The Bruins captain is unquestionably the elite defenseman in the series, though Sabres rookie Tyler Myers (plus-13) was more than impressive in the regular season and played in all 82 games.

Edge: Bruins

GOALTENDING

The matchup of the two leaders in both GAA and save percentage is what should make this such an exciting series. One glance at the numbers of Rask (1.97 GAA, .931 save percentage) and Miller ( GAA, save percentage) and it’€™s no wonder that November 2nd’€™s 4-2 Bruins victory (which Miller didn’€™t start) was the highest-scoring affair between the two teams all season. Between Miller’€™s 34 career playoff games and the fact that he started 29 more games this season than Rask’€™s 39. Miller may slightly trail Rask statistically, but the NHL playoffs have always been about goaltending and Miller’€™s 2.40 career playoff GAA is proof enough that springtime puck doesn’€™t faze him.

How Claude Julien manages the goaltending in the playoffs will be something to watch. At times during which Rask appeared to be the hot hand and seemed to have earned the starting job, Tim Thomas continued to get frequent starts. Rask has to be the man for the Bruins, as goaltending tandems have historically failed teams in the playoffs.

Edge: Sabres

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Bruins prided themselves on their penalty kill during the regular season, finishing third in penalty kill efficiency with 88.25 penalty kill percentage. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for anyone embracing the potential offensive stalemate this series could be, the Sabres led the NHL with an 89.08 penalty kill percentage.

The Sabres are also the superior team on the power play, as their 17.62 power play percentage bests the Bruins’€™ 16.41. The Bruins finished the season 24th in the category. Mark Recchi had eight power play goals for the Bruins in the regular season, while Michael Ryder, Krejci, and Savard each notched six. Roy and Vanek led the Sabres with 10 apiece.

Edge: Sabres

Read More: Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara
Bruins foil Sabres, take step closer to playoffs 04.08.10 at 9:35 pm ET
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Summary — Boston took a big step towards the playoffs on Thursday with a 3-1 win over the Sabres at TD Garden. Boston now leads the idle Rangers by three points for the final playoff spot as each team has two games in the regular season.

Tuukka Rask got the start for the Bruins and was his usual solid self in turning away 31 shots for the victory. The Bruins may have thought they had dodged a bullet when Buffalo started backup goaltender Patrick Lalime over All-Star Ryan Miller but he backstop was solid and contributed to Boston’s goal-scoring frustration with a steady 31 saves in the loss.

Dennis Wideman got the game-winner for Boston at 1:59 in the third period with a blast from the point that had eyes through Lalime towards the back of the net. It was Wideman’s sixth of the year.

The Bruins found a familiar refrain at 11:00 in the first period. Wideman could not control the puck off the wall in neutral ice and lost it for a breakaway by Derek Roy. The defenseman could not recover and Roy had an easy time picking his spot, high glove side, against Rask for the opening goal of the game.

Boston came back early in the second. Miroslav Satan found himself in a small scrum on the half wall in the Bruins offensive zone against two Sabres and lost control of the puck but got enough stick on it to keep it live. David Krejci circled around from behind the goal line to keep the puck in play, hit a touch pass to back to Satan who skated into Lalime’s crease and put a backhander home at 2:15.

Zdeno Chara [Mark Recchi] gave the Bruins the breathing-room goal late in the third period on a one-time blast from the corner on a pass from Milan Lucic at the left point that deflected off of Recchi and  overpowered Lalime at to make it 3-1 at 16:35.

Three Stars

Miroslav Satan — The veteran forward tied the game in the second period with his ninth of the season for the Bruins.

Derek Roy — The Sabres center was pesky presence all night and was rewarded for his efforts in the first period when he plundered Wideman and took his booty to the net to beat Rask for the opening goal of the game.

Tuukka Rask — the statistical league leading netminder did his thing in shutting down the Sabres to keep the Bruins in the game and give them a position to claim points to be applied to their playoff pursuit.

Turning Point — When Wideman redeemed himself early in the third. He stood up a little short of the right point and time his shot perfectly with the screening body of Blake Wheeler to catch Lalime in a blind moment for his sixth of the season and game-winning goal.

Key Play — A lot of good Rask saves to choose from. One of the most important was a point blank shot from Sabres’ forward Tyler Ennis that was unleashed two feet in front of the crease that Rask stoned cold with a little more than a minute to play in the second period. Had Ennis been able to score and Buffalo entered the third period with a goal lead, the dynamic of the final frame would have been much different as Boston would have had a more aggressive (riskier) offensive attack as opposed to playing tighter defense with the lead.

UPDATE — There was a scoring change on the Bruins third goal after the game with the tally being awarded to forward Mark Recchi on a deflection from Chara’s shot. The goal was Recchi’s 18th of the year.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman, Derek Roy
Big minutes coming for the blueliners 04.07.10 at 12:39 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — What happens when the core disintegrates?

You could take the movie version like in that terrible version of a modern B movie “The Core” in which there are a lot of mysterious lightning storms that happen to strike over Rome as an example. Or maybe in the new blockbuster “2012″ in which the world tears itself to shreds and humanity’s elite are forced to take refuge in the digital age version of the ark. Either way, it was not that pretty.

Perhaps not quite as dramatic, but the Bruins have relied on steady defense and goaltending this year to put themselves in position to make the playoffs despite their league-worst offense. Yet, in the last week, the Bruins have had two of their top three defensemen need to have surgery and their best blueliner and captain break his nose. Mark Stuart will miss about two weeks after having surgery for cellulitis in his finger and Dennis Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season (barring some miraculous playoff run) after having surgery to fix a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm that he sustained in the first period against Toronto on Saturday.

The Seidenberg surgery came more out of the blue because it seemed that he was all right on Tuesday after he talked to the media, giving no indication that an operation was imminent.

“I think in the morning he felt pain and obviously before the game we tried something with him and in the warmup he still felt pain,” coach Claude Julien said. “In the short time I have known him I think it is pretty obvious that he is a tough individual, so for him not to go something was obviously wrong and the diagnosis we got from Toronto was not the same diagnosis we got here.”

Add to that the perpetual mystery that is Andrew Ference (out for the regular season but being evaluated every day) and Boston has all of a sudden become very light on the back end.

Practice at Ristuccia on Wednesday looked a little more like training camp than a team preparing for its final three games in a season in a playoff race. Adam McQuaid and Andrew Bodnarchuk have been recalled to the Bruins from Providence, and the ways things are going they are up for longer than just the usual “emergency basis.” On the offensive side, Trent Whitfield and Brad Marchand are not exactly the players one would expect to see on the roster in early April, but so it goes. (To be fair, Marchand and Whitfield have earned their extended cups of coffee.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg
Bruins gain important two points in Toronto 04.03.10 at 9:50 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins continue to look for ways to apply pressure in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, and they got a much-needed pair of points in Toronto on Saturday with a 2-1 overtime win against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Miroslav Satan scored the game-winner in overtime with 1:35 left when he deflected a Zdeno Chara blast from the point into the net to light the lamp and end the game. Tuukka Rask got the win for the Bruins with 27 saves out dueling Jonas Gustavsson’s 28 stops in the process.

Toronto took the early lead when Colton Orr found a Dion Phaneuf rebound in the slot in front of Rask at 5:10 in the first period. He put it in the back of the net while getting pushed to the ice to give the Leafs the early 1-0 lead.

Boston came back after getting outshot 14-5 in the first period to tie the game in the second. David Krejci took an outlet pass down the left wing, took the puck to the top of the circle and torqued a backhand shot on Gustavsson. The puck slipped through the crease to where Satan was waiting on the other side to bang home the rebound for his seventh of the year to even the game at 8:01.

Bruins’ defenseman Mark Stuart did not play and was sent back to Boston with cellulitis in his hand and Dennis Seidenberg left the game in the first with a cut on his arm and did not return.

Three Stars

Miroslav Satan — Got his seventh and eighth goals as a Bruin which tied the game then won it in overtime.

Tuukka Rask — The man behind the mask has been the Bruins best stalwart of late and stood tall against the Leafs to earn the vital two points.

Zdeno Chara — The Bruins captain was had to dig deep with the Bruins very shorthanded on defense after Dennis Seidenberg left the game with a cut to his arm and Mark Stuart was shipped back to Boston with cellulitis in his hand. Chara logged 32:53 of ice time and led the team in blocked shots to help keep the puck out of the net.

Turning Point – Phil Kessel had a self pass off the wall at center ice in the that created a 2-on-1 with Tomas Kaberle midway through overtime. Kessel had space and tried to center the puck, but it was broken up in front of Rask to end the threat. Less than a minute later, the Bruins came back to score the game winner of Chara’s shot and Satan’s deflection.

Key Play — Chara set up from the point and delivered one of his patented slap shots that deflected off of Satan’s stick with enough power to flash passed Gustavsson to earn the vital two points.

Read More: Colton Orr, David Krejci, Jonas Gustavsson, Miroslav Satan
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