In the opening two weeks of the season, the Boston Bruins adjusted themselves to long layoff between games. They had a 10-days break between their preseason finale and their regular-season opener, and another three days from their first win of the season over Dallas to their sloppy 6-3 loss to the Flyers on Wednesday night.
This time, the Bruins only had 48 hours between the setback in Philadelphia to Friday’s tilt in Buffalo against the Sabres. And they turned to a former Sabre to backstop them to victory.
Linus Ullmark stood tall in his first career start with the Bruins. His new teammates made the most of their chances.
The Bruins received contributions from a pair of usual suspects in David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The former netted his first goal of the season to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead, while the latter notched a pair of helpers highlighted by his feed on Charlie Coyle’s second-period power-play tally.
Coyle added a pair of assists to cap off a three-point night. His fellow linemates, Tomas Nosek and Taylor Hall (two points), each added a lamplighter in Boston’s 4-1 triumph.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins handed the Sabres their first loss of the season.
Ullmark provides a good first impression against his former team
A start against some old friends might provide a remedy for Ullmark following his shaky preseason.
The Sabres sustained a healthy attacking zone rhythm against their former netminder. Still, they found themselves playing catchup thanks to Ullmark’s timely saves, including a back skate stop on Dylan Cozens late in the opening stanza.
The Bruins hardly displayed a cohesive defensive setup two nights prior with Jeremy Swayman between the pipes. The D looked a little shaky again clearing traffic in front of Ullmark, but his confidence never wavered during his first appearance in 16 days. Ullmark’s lone blemish came with 5:25 left in regulation on a slick Victor Olofsson wrist shot to cut Boston’s lead to 3-1.
The Bruins saw something in Ullmark during his time with the Sabres. He was one of the rare bright spots during a tumultuous time in Buffalo.
Surely, the Ullmark deal — four years, $20 million — is a risky investment for Don Sweeney and the front office. But in his first career start with his new club, Ullmark left a good impression when it mattered on a night he’ll never forget.
“It’s definitely gonna be one of those lifelong memories for sure,” Ullmark told reporters following his 35-save outing. “It was very special.”
Pastrnak dominated in the opening stanza
At times, Pastrnak makes everything look easy. Heck, even his shot attempts that don’t find the back of the net deserve their own highlight reel.
Early on, the Bruins needed Pastrnak’s dominance. As the Sabres began their relentless pressure on Ullmark, Boston’s offense sputtered to generate quality looks. Yet, Pastrnak provided timely pressure on Buffalo’s D, accounting for Boston’s first five shots on veteran Craig Anderson.
Pastrnak made his effort worthwhile, firing home his first goal of the season from the slot on Marchand’s feed to give the Bruins a needed 1-0 lead 3:49 in.
Ironically, Pastrnak only fired one more shot toward Anderson, finishing with a game-high six shots on goal (tied with Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens and Tage Thompson). But they needed his spark for a good 10-15 minute stretch before his teammates found their footing in their first divisional matchup of the season.
Bruins make the most of their makeshift second line
Tomas Nosek fits a prototypical fourth-line role to a T. But an upper-body injury to Nick Foligno forced Bruce Cassidy’s hand, prompting Nosek to third-line duty to start Friday’s matchup with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula.
It didn’t take long for Cassidy to make another switch, promoting Nosek to second-line duty as the usual trio of Hall, Coyle and Craig Smith struggled to gain any traction 5v5. Eventually, the makeshift second line found its groove after Nosek notched his first as a Bruin, tipping in Coyle’s feed past Anderson to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead late in the opening stanza.
Smith’s uncharacteristic off-night carried over in third-line duty with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula. But Nosek’s promotion with Hall and Coyle provided a necessary spark to the second line, outshooting the Sabres 5-2 in 6:03 of 5v5 situations.
Anton Blidh, who skated on the fourth line with Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman, exited Friday’s contest with an upper-body ailment. The Bruins will likely need to call someone up from Providence with Foligno and now Blidh potentially missing extended time ahead of Sunday’s matchup with San Jose. Regardless, Nosek will likely find himself in the middle of the lineup against the 4-0 Sharks.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.