Sure, the ice was slippery at the TD Garden as the Sabres beat the Bruins 4-2 on an uncharacteristically warm Saturday in February. But the Atlantic Division’s No. 2 Bruins and dead last Sabres obviously shared that same ice.
So when Jack Eichel, who (according to TSN) had factored in on 42.7 percent of the Sabres’ offensive output on the season, left the game in the first period due to an injured right leg…Boston just should’ve had this one.
“I don’t know if we would’ve had the mindset anyway if the ice was great tonight,” the perpetually blunt Bruce Cassidy said postgame. “Things have gone well for us, so maybe our guys thought ‘Well, we’ll Tic-Tac-Toe around tonight’ and we needed a little more meat and potatoes…It’s hard to reel it back in when things start going a certain way no matter how good a team you are or what team you’re playing. We never got it back and we got what we deserved in the end.”
Patrice Bergeron wasn’t about to chalk the loss up to external conditions. The four-time Selke winner’s line had allowed just two even-strength goals the entire season and doubled that Saturday night. He disagreed with the notion that his team was looking past Buffalo, though.
“I don’t think that’s really the issue there,” he said. “I think we were flat, just like the Anaheim game. When you do that you don’t deserve it. I really thought it was at the blue line, a lot of mental mistakes.”
Call it what you want, but the Bruins were lax on the forecheck and it showed. The hunger that’d been apparent when Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy were out of the lineup just wasn’t there for whatever reason. That’s why the Bruins’ 18 giveaways stuck out, and that’s why it’s fair to consider the Bruins overlooked the 16-29-10 Sabres.
The NHL regular season is a long one, it was one-of-82 games, all these things are true — but this one still doesn’t sit right. The team that made a 6-1 mockery against the Rangers in New York, pretty much forcing them to put out a statement on social media indicating organizational changes were coming, struggled hard against arguably the worst team in the league. It’s not just that it was that team, but it was that team with their backup goalie and without their star.
“You can accept not executing certain nights, you can accept the puck not going in…but giving them the free chances the other way is just not who we are,” Cassidy said. “That’s not how we’re gonna play…[we were] trying to beat guys without the speed and support, and then off they came the other way…I don’t think we stressed their defense enough tonight.”
Although Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk were adamant that they didn’t look past the Sabres, the blatant lack of defensive pressure was telling. Either way, the Bruins will have the chance to put it right behind them Sunday night against a Devils team that lost 6-1 to the Blue Jackets Saturday.