After a heartbreaking last minute loss to the Devils Thursday night, the Bruins took to the ice today against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers traveled to Boston yesterday arriving late in the afternoon after an emotional shootout win against the Red Wings at home Thursday night.
As much as the Bruins are banged up, missing key players like Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, the Oilers are getting blasted by a flu bug in their locker room. The visitors were missing guys like Mike Comrie, Sheldon Souray, Steve Staios and Lubomir Visnovsky. I spoke to Comrie in the press box before the game and he told me five or six of the guys playing today were run down from the bug in the room.
The Bruins historically have not started well on Saturday matinees but the Oilers should give the schedule makers a call and request to never have a game like this on the first game of a road trip. Coming here to start a brief road trip, the 1:00PM start time for the Oilers felt like an 11:00 AM start based on their mountain time zone internal clocks. Needless to say it was an uneventful first period with the Bruins out shooting the Oilers 7-5
The second period, the Bruins started to wrestle control of the game. The third line consisting of Vlad Sobotka between Daniel Paille and Blake Wheeler and the fourth line of Steve Begin, Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz were really were the lines that took control of the game. As I said all last year, these lines are the biggest reasons that teams win or lose in any league.
Everyone's first two lines will get the goals but when your “bottom” six forwards contribute
like these guys did today, that's when you separate great teams from the good ones.
Tuukka Rask made a few good saves in the second. None better than the one on a partial breakaway by Patrick O'Sullivan and a follow up save on Sam Gagne with about four minutes left in the period.
The Sobotka line had the best shift of the game in the final twenty five seconds of the second with Sobotka beating Khabibulin with a high wrist shot but he didn't beat the clock. The green light had come on so the period ended and the goal did not count. That didn't slow the trio for the final period.
Just 2:47 into the third, Blake Wheeler struck the first dagger into the Oiler heart. After a ten second puck battle along the wall, Vlad skated behind the net. As Khabibulin turned his head and left his post to follow Sobotka, Vlad then slipped a backhand pass to an uncovered, streaking Blake Wheeler who redirected the puck into the short side that Khabibulin just vacated. Danile Paille had the second assist. Wheeler said after the game, “What surprised me more, was that Khabibulin looking over his right shoulder, I don't know if he thought Vladdy was going to go behind the net or what but I was more surprised to see him leave his post and sort of shift a bit. When I saw that, it was all about reacting and trying to just put it in the hole.”
At the 7:02 mark, it was the Sobotka trio doubling the lead. Vlad cleared the puck out of the Bruin zone as Paille was about to pick it up, the puck bounced and he over skated it. Sobotka following up the play scooped the puck, made a cross ice pass to Wheeler on the right wing. Wheeler gained the offensive blueline and passed back to Sobotka just outside of the crease and he chipped in it past Khabibulin as he went post to post.
That was it for scoring and Tuukka and the defense shut the door when called upon.
Today's three stars are as follows:
1 – Zdeno Chara - although I didn't say much about him, he had one of those games that he was famous for last year during his Norris Trophy season.
2 – Vlad Sobotka – A two point night setting up the game winner and scoring the second goal. He and Daniel Paille are really becoming a threat on the third line.
3 – Tuukka Rask – The kid gets his second career shutout and he's only the third star? Unreal. He didn't have a ton of saves but when called upon, he was great positionally and he rebounds were always put in a place the Oilers couldn't get to. Great, great work by the kid to stay in the game mentally with so few shots on goal
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About the Author
Written by Jim Mulligan