Some said the Bruins were “lucky” to be heading into game 6 at home with a 3-2 series lead. After all, the Sabres scored first in every game and remarkably, the Bruins held the lead for less than twenty minutes total in the series.
Tonight, things were different. The Bruins were able to score the first goal of the game and from there, they never looked back. Led by David Krejci’s three point night, the Bruins are moving on to an unknown opponent from Pennsylvania.
Coming out of the first period with a 1-0 lead, the Bruins doubled their lead a minute into the period. Mark Recchi’s power play goal from a tough angle just off the post lit the fuse for the rest of the game but the Sabres made it interesting six and a half minutes into the second. At the 6:34 mark, the Sabres played tic-tac-toe off of a bad Dennis Wideman turnover. Adam Mair intercepted Wideman’s clearing pass and set a three on one in motion. Mair passed down low to Tim Kennedy who tipped a pass across to Patrick Kaleta who deflected it past Tuukka Rask. Prettiest goal of the series right there.
The third period was a four goal explosion. It was at the 7:18 mark when Milan Lucic’s work behind the net set up David Krejci’s second of the night. Krejci spoke about the work Lucic now brings to his line, “I think he’s been playing very well today. Even [in the] first period, he won so many battles for me on my second goal, you know, it was basically all his work so I’m very happy [with] the way he played and I look for him to do the same thing in the second round.”
Just 22 seconds later, Nathan Gerbe buried his first career playoff goal.
Miroslav Satan scored what would be the game winner with 5:11 remaining in the game. Dennis Wideman’s cross ice pass to Satan set up his tap in got Miller moving around in the crease and by the time the puck was on Satan’s stick, Miller was so far out of position that all Satan had to do was make sure he hit the empty net. A Thomas Vanek goal with Miller pulled and only 1:13 left on the clock, finished the scoring.
So the Bruins move on to the conference semi-finals for the second straight year. Everything hinges on Wednesday night’s game in Washington. If the #1 seed Caps win, the Bruins travel to Pittsburgh to face the defending Stanley Cup champs. If #8 Montreal can pull off the upset of upsets, then the Bruins will have home ice and host their Winter Classic partners, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Some people really said the Bruins were “lucky” to be heading into game 6 at home with a 3-2 series lead. I don’t think it was luck. I’ve said to people – especially my dad – that the Bruins have one of the best defensive systems in the league. If they could have been even the #15 team in goals scored, they may have their division and been the #3 seed. Other than game 5, the Bruins were as good as the Sabres throughout this series. The hit with them, got traffic in front of Miller and most importantly – scored goals on the power play. That right there is the reason why the Bruins are moving on and the Sabres are golfing. Those two words – “power play”.
For the series, the B’s outscored Buffalo 16-15 but the key was the Bruins were better than respectable going 6/22 (27.3%) with the man advantage. Take away the power play goals and they are out scored 15-10. So Buffalo outscored the Bruins 15-10 while 5 on 5 and scored 15 total goals in the series. That means the Bruin penalty killers were perfect in the series? Another point the Bruins were better and where it cost the Sabres the chance to move on. The Bruin PK was a perfect 19/19 in the six games.
All is not perfect. There are several players that can step up their game for the team to have continued success.
Marco Sturm can’t hit the ocean with a shot and simple things like receiving a pass seem to be a chore as he grips his stick way too tight.
Blake Wheeler has been a non factor on the score sheet.
The “D” combo of Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick seems to have a costly mental mistake or two per game.
Michael Ryder needs to find his scoring touch.
The outlet pass from the Bruins defense. Tonight there were portions of the game where the Bruins handled the puck like it was a bomb ready to explode. Reminded me how they played last year in the Carolina series. Against a great team like the Penguins, they will be exposed for this kind of mistake.
Not allowing the first goal of the game. Tonight, the team played the first period like they’d been playing the third period of past games. They came out with the same drive they have been finishing games with.
All of these issues need to be rectified before the next game.
Speaking of that next game…Will Marc Savard really be cleared to play or will he have the same fate that Patrice Bergeron had in 2008? If Savvy plays, who sits?
Then there’s Mark Stuart. Will his hand injury heal enough to allow him to suit up in the second round? I’d feel bad for Adam McQuaid. He’s played well in his first NHL playoff series.
These are two questionable players Claude Julien has to deal with. Do you tinker with team chemistry to bring in these players? Or do you let things play out as they are?
These are all decent problems to have. Even if you get half of them fixed, you are in the second round and the team could be that much better. Once I know the Bruins schedule, I will post it here.
The team has an off day tomorrow with no media access.
Be sure to check out William Brouillette’s thoughts from the Sabre side of things.
As always…Go B’s
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Written by Jim Mulligan