One day after giving up a 2-0 over the New York Islanders, the Bruins received a verbal bite from Bruce Cassidy during practice Friday at TD Garden. On Saturday, they returned to Causeway Street hoping to take care of business against a Buffalo Sabers squad with the fourth-longest losing streak in National Hockey League history.
With Brad Marchand Added to NHL’s COVID Protocol ListThe injury-plagued Bruins entered the competition without their left winger on the top line, their fourth-line center on Sean Kuraly and forward Jake DeBrusk up front. Dan Vladar made the start between the tubes two days after Jaroslav Halak’s relief appearance for an injured Tuukka Rask.
The return of Jeremy Lauzon provided a positive but unexpected development for the Scarce Bruins. However, the team they lined up on paper had the upper hand over the lowly Sabers.
Things were hardly easy. The Bruins had to bounce back from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1. But the secondary scoring production needed, through Matt Grzelcyk’s second-period tie count, Nick Ritchie’s third-period tie, and Craig Smith’s win score at the end of regulation time, helped the teams. Bruins to a 3-2 victory.
All of Craig Smith’s celly: pic.twitter.com/jZLAFjIgKb
– Conor Ryan (@ ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
“It was a battle,” Cassidy said afterward. “There are no easy games in this league, and that is something we must recognize. We played hockey winning in the third period on both ends of the ice. “
Here’s what we learned when the Bruins gave the Sabers their 17th straight setback.
Charlie McAvoy organized a skating clinic.
The Bruins went into the third period needing something or someone to give them a jolt. Enter McAvoy.
Along with fellow ex-BU teammate at Grzelcyk, McAvoy made his presence known in his peak time of 26:32 on ice. His impact in the third period, in particular, gave the Bruins a much-needed life.
The instinctive McAvoy took matters into his own hands with his speed, quickness and skating prowess. After a couple of trips around the net against Buffalo’s man-to-man defensive setup, McAvoy finally found a crease to offer a potential scoring opportunity for Smith. The puck bounced off the skid of a Buffalo defender en route to Ritchie’s stick, who quickly snapped his eight-game goal drought to even things 2-2 at 5:22 in the final stanza.
A great hockey play, indeed.
Charlie McAvoy goes for a ride against the Sabers and sets up Nick Ritchie’s draw. pic.twitter.com/zcrBhNgxG4
– Conor Ryan (@ ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
“I only play hockey”, many times when I play hockey… I don’t think too much. I’m just trying to find space, trying to find a play and trying to make it. And there, I was just looking to get to an open space, and when you get skating and against a man-to-man team, it can sometimes create confusion, “McAvoy said of his thought process on Ritchie’s ninth goal of the season.
“They did a good job trying to pack it in the middle, but like I said, it was a lucky rebound. When I try to move the puck on the ice or play in the offensive zone, I’m just playing on my instincts, and when I see a guy, that’s really it. “
McAvoy held his ground as the Bruins sought the go-ahead in the final 2:38 pm of the game. His thunderous blast of ice open at Taylor Hall shortly afterward provided another moment of energy boost.
After those game-changing moments, McAvoy watched as the Bruins finally took the lead with Smith’s winner in a stellar second-row change with linemates David Krejci and Ritchie assisting.
Dan Vladar bounced back from his first period mistake.
It has not entered the network in the most ideal circumstances.
Reinhart with the bill!
– Buffalo Sabers (@BuffaloSabres) March 27, 2021
His first appearance was in the postseason last year, where Cassidy threw Vladar into the proverbial fire in relief from Halak in Game 3 against a high-octane Tampa Bay Lightning squad. Vladar’s two regular season starts this year came in the heat of the Bruins’ injury and the COVID situation.
Amid all of this, Vladar held his ground in his first two career starts. But his second appearance of the 2021 campaign didn’t start as well compared to his stellar outing in Pittsburgh 11 days ago.
A miscommunication between Vladar and fellow rookie Jakub Zboril prompted an easy power play tally for Sam Reinhart with just 2:25 left. Vladar got rid of the mistake and gave his team a chance to win.
“To be fair, it looks bad in [Vladar], but it fired the puck just past Zboril … so that’s a shared responsibility in my opinion, “Cassidy said of the error and Vladar’s recovery effort. “I thought you answered well. You do not know with a young boy if it will get into his head or if he will park it. I thought you did a good job parking it. He made good stops for us. I don’t think he made many stops there, but he did what he was supposed to do. “
He didn’t need to stand on his head in this one, especially after facing just three shots from Buffalo in the third. But Vladar (25 saves) made some timely saves for his second career win, becoming the eighth goalkeeper in franchise history to win his first two starts, before the Bruins found his skating legs in the final stanza. .
The understaffed Bruins are currently in survival mode.
Between their injuries and the COVID situation, the Bruins barely entered an ideal situation when they returned to the ice this week. It wasn’t any easier with Rask and Karson Kuhlman leaving on Thursday night. Marchand’s arrival on the COVID-19 protocol list further messed Cassidy’s lineup.
Even with Lauzon’s arrival, the Bruins entered Saturday’s race without their left winger (Marchand); a middle forward six (DeBrusk); its fourth central line (Kuraly); a piece deep in the last six (Kuhlman); your hardcore on the net at (Rask); and one of his two anchors on the right side of the blue line (Brandon Carlo).
The Bruins have several games on their hands against everyone in the division. They have six more meetings with the Sabers in the last 26 games. But they know they have little room for error trying to avoid the Flyers and a resurgent Rangers group for last playoff spot in the East.
Even with a healthy lineup and a recent rally in the high school scoring department, Don Sweeney knows they need outside help from now until the April 12 trade deadline. The Bruins remain stuck in neutral as they fight their hardest path this young season. It won’t be any easier, either, with his hectic 24-game-41-day stretch (not including his postponed inclinations against the Sabers and Islanders from last week).
Given it all, Cassidy has done an extraordinary job keeping her team in the playoff position. However, the roller coaster season continues on Sunday as the Bruins hope to get over their fights against the bottom-feeding Devils.
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