The first Northeast division game for the Boston Bruins was tonight at the Garden. On paper, things looked rather good for the Bruins. (Then again, in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals all the paper declared that the Vancouver Canucks were going to win.) The Bruins had a six point lead in the division, and the Buffalo Sabres had dropped their last four games. I am a Bruins fan, but tonight was the Thomas Vanek show. Three goals, two assists and a +4 for for the night. The Bruins seemed a little loss on the transition from offense to defense, and that truly hurt them.
It started out alright though. We were wondering if there was going to be a lot of physical action, and that question was answered relativly quickly. Five seconds into the game, one of Marchand’s shots went off his stick and into the Sabres bench. Then there was the Scott-Thornton fight. John Scott is the recent Sabres import brought in to add pure physical brute force to the game. (While I have said I am not a fan of the term ‘goon’, one goal and two hundred and forty minutes in penalties in six NHL seasons sort of defines that term.) Scott pummeled Shawn Thornton down, and Thornton did not return for the remainder of the game.
There no goals scored in the first period, but six in the second. Vanek got off the first one ninety seconds into the game. Rich Peverley responded three minutes later with his line. A line that had Lane MacDermid up from Providence to fill out the Merlot Line, and Daniel Paille bumped up replacing Chris Bourque who was out as a healthy scratch. The third line played well together, and it may not be a bad alignment in the future.
The Bruins’ second line (Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron) made it interseting for a while. Great passing and good aggression quickly bagged two goals for Marchand. (Bergeron earned two assists, and Seguin one.) There was a lot of good momentum going for the Bruins, and then as soon as it was there, it disappeared. A double penalty against the Bruins (boarding for Lucic, holding for Chara) put the Bruins’ on the defensive and they never really recovered. They gave up one goal to Vanek on the 5-on-3, and Tyler Ennis got one by to tie it up at three.
The Bruins’ hadn’t given up the fight though. Patrice Bergeron got knocked into the boards and was down for a few minutes, and later Hamilton took an elbow to the face (no penalties called). In the middle of the ref’s nap though, David Krejci showed a great transition, turning defense into offense and got one by Ryan Miller to get the B’s up 4-3. Buffalo defenseman Alexander Sulzer though came right back, and got one past Rask for a 4-4 tie. The Bruins defense started making some bad plays and it left Rask in bad position for a shot by Cody Hodgson that put Buffalo up for good at 5-4.
The Bruins did have multiple opportunities to come back though. A double penalty on Ennis Tyler for hitting Daniel Paille in the face with his stick gave the Bruins a good chance, but that power play was taken away quickly when Dennis Seidenberg was called for tripping. Miller channeled Tim Thomas in the last part of third period and let nothing get by him. Then Vanek got his hat trick goal with some rather good stick handling in front of the net. That was the last of his five point performance, and for the first time in a while, Boston was trying to come back from two down. An empty netter by Jason Pominville sealed it up with thirteen seconds to go.
The Buffalo Sabres out played us tonight. While I know they played a great game, and Vanek was simply amazing. In the end, the Sabres lost my respect. Thirteen seconds to go, a totally secure three goal lead, and head coach Lindy Ruff calls a time out. That was uncalled for coach. Being a sore loser in sports is a sign of bad character, but being a poor winner is even worse.
The problem with rivalries is that things that could be done to end them have a way of making things worse. The Sabres were up in arms last season on Lucic sending Miller to the ground. This time, the head coach of the organization chose to deliberately ‘poke the bear’. The Bruins will be seeing the Sabres again, and the B’s have a long memory.