It’s safe to say that the Bruins sent their fans home happy in the last game at TD Garden before the holidays.
In an entertaining but crazy contest, the Black and Gold got two goals from Reilly Smith, a rare fight from Patrice Bergeron and extended their home unbeaten streak to 14 (12-0-2) in their 4-1 win over the lowly Buffalo Sabres Saturday night. Here are the three takeaways from the B’s 24th victory of the 2013-14 season.
Bergeron drops the gloves
It’s a rare sight to see, but who can blame Patrice Bergeron for dropping the gloves with Tyler Myers?
It all began with Myers cross-checking Bergeron a couple of times down the Sabres’ end of the ice late in the second period. But it continued with Myers putting his stick between Bergeron’s legs.
Finally, Bergeron had enough with the 6-foot-8 Sabres’ defenseman and decided to drop the gloves for the fourth time in his 11-year pro hockey career.
“His last cross check he got me in the face so it obviously got me fired up. But it’s part of the game, and we were both battling to get to the front,” Bergeron said about his exchange with Myers. “I was trying to get to the front and he was trying to obviously keep me away from his goalie. And he’s a pretty tall guy so he got me in the face. But it’s part of the game also.”
It was Bergeron’s first career regular season fight. His other three bouts came against Josh Gorges in 2009, Evgeni Malkin in 2013 – both occurring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs – and in his lone AHL season with Providence in 2005 according to hockeyfights.com.
Was it concerning that Bergeron dropped the gloves given his concussion history? Yes. But I’m pretty sure The Hub of Hockey will give him a pass on this night.
Smith stepping up
There’s no denying that Tyler Seguin is living up to the hype in Dallas since he got traded from Boston on Independence Day. But, even without Loui Eriksson, the Bruins are also faring pretty well from that trade thanks to a confident Reilly Smith.
“Confidence is probably the biggest thing,” Smith said. “As soon as you join a new team, and just my second year in the NHL, you’re not always 100 percent sure with the plays you’re making on the puck, you try to rush things a little bit too much. But it seems like now I’m getting the chance to settle the puck down, take time and find open space, and I think that’s probably the biggest thing that’s changed in my game this year.
Smith lit the lamp twice on Saturday night and became the second Bruin to tally double digits goal totals. His 11 goals trail only Milan Lucic, who now has 12 on the year after his goal early in the third period.
Smith’s consistency is paying off for the Black and Gold, and that’s encouraging to see, especially with the team being shorthanded due to injuries, sickness and Shawn Thornton’s suspension.
“He’s a good player and I think this is the first time he’s really had a good shot at playing at this level and making sure he has the opportunity to play in the areas that we think he can excel and he’s done a great job,” head coach Claude Julien said. “He’s a crafty player, he’s a smart player, he makes a lot of good plays and very reliable. So I like his game and I’ve liked it since the beginning of the year.”
Home sweet home
The Bruins want to establish the TD Garden as a difficult place to play for opposing teams. Through the last 14 games, they’ve certainly accomplished that.
The B’s last regulation loss at home came on October 26 when they gave up four power play goals in their loss to the New Jersey Devils. Their last loss in front of their fans was exactly one month ago in a 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
While their home record is great, the Bruins are looking to improve their 9-7-0 mark away from the friendly confines. Still, at least in Boston, they are sending the capacity crowd of 17,565 – the 185th consecutive sellout on Causeway Street – with a smile on their face.
“You want to make your building a tough one to play in and the crowd’s been great. They’ve helped out a lot so far throughout the year,” Lucic said about playing in front of the TD Garden faithful. “On the other hand we’re 9-7 on the road, so if we can clean that part up and get points on the road, we can move ahead in the standings. But definitely [we] want to do whatever we can in our power to make this a tough place to play.”
See what Bergeron, Lucic, Smith, Tuukka Rask and David Warsofsky had to say after Saturday’s victory.