Even after a 16-day layover, the Boston Bruins managed to channel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
With a new-look lineup, Bruce Cassidy’s squad dominated the puck possession and the shot column metrics only to find themselves trailing the lowly Buffalo Sabres 3-1 after 40 minutes of play. The Sabres took advantage of their opportunities through deflections, extended zone time and a power play on the heels of Connor Clifton missing an open net.
But the Bruins finally found a finish early in the third. They needed it. So did Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall, a pair of struggling players who sparked Boston’s comeback after evening things up with their lamplighters coming 1:25 apart.
The Bruins continued their dominant effort en route to overtime. They didn’t waste any time securing the extra point as Brad Marchand found Charlie Coyle — coming on a line change for Patrice Bergeron — for the 4-3 triumph a mere 34 ticks into the 3-on-3 extra session.
The Bruins prided themselves as a blue-collar team throughout their illustrious history. Establishing that identity is obviously easier said than done, especially this year, given the high turnover on the roster.
Part of their identity involves their willingness to drive to the net. At times, the Bruins settled for perimeter-based shots and opted for the perfect play over firing pucks at opposing netminders.
The Bruins didn’t struggle generating quality looks on Sabres netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, finishing the night with 41 shots on net. They didn’t hesitate driving to the front of the net for secondary looks either. But aside from Craig Smith potting home his third goal of the year on a Brad Marchand rebound, just couldn’t find the back of the net through the first 40 minutes.
But the Bruins didn’t deviate from their blueprint. Foligno kicked off Boston’s comeback after backhanding home his first of the season set up by Jake DeBrusk’s aggressive entry into the attacking end at 3:24 of the final stanza.
The vocal Foligno watched from the bench with the monkey off his back as another slumping Bruin tied things up a mere 85 ticks later. A hard net drive by Erik Haula in front of Luukkonen provided plenty of room for Hall to fire home his sixth of the season.
The Bruins earned their greasy goals to kick-off 2022. Sustaining these efforts nightly isn’t easy. They aren’t a skilled-based bunch like the Lightning, Maple Leafs or Panthers. Instead, Cassidy’s squad needs to light the lamp through tips, rebounds and other secondary scoring means with similar outings like Saturday.
“On the surface, some positive results. Took a little while, but two greasy goals from the net-front, another one with a nice attack and the center lane drive,” Cassidy said. “Good for the guys. See how it works out [in Detroit] tomorrow.”
The Bruins entered a “new season” following another long layover
Granted, the Bruins never had a layover as lengthy as this one. But they weren’t strangers to encountering significant time off either.
Their 16-day pause allowed the ailing Bruins plenty of time to recover. By Friday, they didn’t have any players on their COVID-19 protocol list.
In a way, Saturday’s tilt provided another unique perspective. It marked the first game of following stricter protocols amid the omicron variant. It also marked their first day with a rather fully healthy roster since the beginning of the 2021-22 campaign.
“To be honest with you, I used that break as we had as a way to reset my mind, and this is like a new season to me it feels like in a lot of ways,” the first-year Bruin Foligno said. “There’s an adjustment period to get used to the guys. And now I’m feeling a little more comfortable with what I can bring.”
Foligno and company handled this latest layover well. It took the Bruins a few minutes to find their skating legs, but for the most part, they hardly looked like a team that hadn’t played in 16 days.
Boston’s heavily backloaded schedule will eventually take its toll. They’ll likely face an even busier back-end of their slate with the originally-scheduled two-week break for the Olympics now open for rescheduling its handful of postponed tilts.
The Bruins need to pile up the victories before the home stretch. They’ll take them any way they can, even if it means coming from behind against one of the league’s bottom-feeders.
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.
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