Any coach in the National Hockey League will tell you there’s always one formula for success: getting pucks to the net. The Boston Bruins hardly followed that formula against the lowly Buffalo Sabres Saturday night at TD Garden.
On a night where the ice surface was wearing down as the game progressed, the Bruins could’ve used that philosophy of getting pucks to the net. Instead of keeping things simple, the B’s were too cute with their decision making with the puck and looked for the perfect play more often than not.
The opportunistic Sabres capitalized as they forced 18 Boston giveaways to jumpstart their transition game. It all accumulated into Buffalo’s second win over the Black and Gold at TD Garden in 2017-18.
“Well certainly not very high,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about the Bruins’ execution level in their 4-2 loss to their Atlantic Division foes. “The ice, later in the game, looked a little warmer than normal but we’re certainly not going to put it on that because we did it from start to finish.”
“I thought part of the problem,” Cassidy added, “was that we overpassed, so obviously the execution gets magnified. So if you simplify it, find some open ice and get it to the net — and get some second chances — then you don’t have to worry about that part, you just have to worry about the execution of hitting the net. I just thought we were cute tonight and it was leading up to something and we have creative guys, but at some point you just have to get it there. You have to get it to the net with traffic, and we just didn’t do enough of that to earn our goals.”
Oddly enough, both of the Bruins goals came from creating traffic in front of Chad Johnson. The first was from Ryan Spooner, who drove hard to the net and tipped a Jake DeBrusk feed past Johnson for his ninth of the season to cut the Buffalo lead to 2-1 at 14:39 of the second period. David Backes tipped their second goal with 59 ticks in regulation to cut the Bruins deficit to 3-2.
It wasn’t enough, though, as the Bruins had a rare frustrating night that resulted in just their second regulation loss since the turn of the calendar to 2018.
“There were certain plays that were too pretty and I think we were fighting the puck a bit as well,” DeBrusk said after extending his point streak to three games. “So it was kind of a mix of that and some unfortunate turnovers that Buffalo capitalized [on].”
Those turnovers proved costly and left Tuukka Rask in a vulnerable spot trying to stop Buffalo’s attack.
The first of those turnovers came when David Pastrnak tried to force the issue with an errant pass that led to Sam Reinhart’s stick. The Sabres forward would then send Evander Kane on a breakaway and give the Sabres the 1-0 lead early in the second.
The next costly turnover came as Adam McQuaid couldn’t corral the puck after a pinch attempt leading directly to another Buffalo odd-man rush. Former Bruin Benoit Pouliot finished off the scoring chance by sliding a Scott Wilson feed past Rask to put Buffalo ahead 3-1.
“They were right on top of us and they were doing a good job of denying time and space,” Patrice Bergeron said after tallying a rare minus-2 rating — along with fellow linemates Pastrnak and Brad Marchand — on the evening. “We got stubborn at the line especially and they took it to us with odd-man rushes. So, yeah, I think we should’ve played a simple game and went back [to basics] in establishing some good forecheck and some o-zone time and we didn’t do that.”
Bergeron, Cassidy and the rest of the Black and Gold will go back to the drawing board on short notice as they prepare for their second set of back to backs this week. Awaiting them are the New Jersey Devils, who will travel back to Newark fresh off a 6-1 shellacking courtesy of the Columbus Blue Jackets.