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  • Takeaways: Bruins go “from awful to poor” in loss to Sabres

    James Garrison December 8, 2023

    It was “one of those nights” for the Boston Bruins. 

    A low-energy practice on Wednesday manifested itself into one of Boston’s more disappointing wire-to-wire performances of the season. 

    “I was worried after the way we practiced yesterday,” head coach Jim Montgomery said following the Bruins’ 3-1 loss to the Sabres on Thursday. “I think we went from awful to poor. We never really got to average for our game.”

    After a 19-shot first period, the Sabres finally got on the board early in the second period. Within seconds of a faceoff win in Buffalo’s’ attacking end, J.J. Peterka opened the scoring with his 11th of the season just 1:18 into the middle frame. 

    “It was a good shot, you know,” Linus Ullmark said of Peterka’s tally. “Sometimes you’re in a good position and see it all the way and sometimes they utilize people in front of you in a good way, and that was one of those situations.”

    The Bruins started to come alive after Peterka’s tally but struggled to find the back of the net.

    The opportunistic Sabres extended their lead to 2-0 when Tage Thompson blasted home a one-timer on a feed from former Bruin Connor Clifton at 16:57 of the second. 


    Boston finally broke Devon Levi’s shutout bid at the tail end of the middle frame. Brad Marchand capitalized on a funky bounce to notch his fifth goal in the last three games to cut Buffalo’s lead to 2-1 just 38 seconds after Thompson’s marker.

    The Sabres withheld Boston’s third-period push and immediately silenced the Causeway St. faithful. Victor Olofsson wristed home a two-on-one opportunity to regain Buffalo’s two-goal lead past the midway point of the final stanza. 


    The Bruins put on a solid push with Ullmark pulled in the final minutes but failed to get another puck past a tested Levi.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins started and finished slow against their Atlantic Division rivals.

    The Bruins never got it going

    Montgomery was noticeably unhappy with the Bruins’ performance in practice on Wednesday. The Black and Gold were coming off three games in four nights, followed by an off-day on Monday and an optional skate on Tuesday. 

    Boston lost much of its mojo from its three-game win streak, falling into a lull that slowed them down Wednesday and plagued them on Thursday. 

    “We just didn’t have any energy or life to us,” Montgomery said. “I’ve got to take responsibility for the lack of us having that. You know, the preparation clearly wasn’t correct.”

    While some needed downtime during the rigors of an NHL season can prove beneficial, a lengthy layoff can also have the opposite effect. The Bruins fell victim to the latter Thursday night, but they’ll be “back to work” quickly with a practice Friday to prepare for a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Arizona Coyotes.

    “When you’re in the flow of the season, even if you’re playing back-to-back games or every other day, you kind of just find a groove,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “When you have a couple of days off in between, it can be a little harder to get back into it.”

    McAvoy leaves with upper-body injury

    The Bruins placed Derek Forbort on LTIR on Thursday, meaning that he will miss a minimum of 24 days.

    To add insult to injury after an ugly showing, Boston’s blueline may have taken another hit after Charlie McAvoy left in the third period after catching an elbow up high on a reverse hit from Peterka.

    “Upper-body [injury],” Montgomery said of McAvoy. “I don’t have any extent.”

    As sluggish as they were Thursday, the Bruins missed McAvoy’s presence in their hopes for a third-period comeback. Instead, they had to search for a spark from the five remaining defensemen to try and fill McAvoy’s massive void collectively.

    “That’s a gap that’s hard to fill…obviously our best defenseman,” Carlo said. “When you’re down by a goal or two, he’s a guy that you want on the ice.”

    Marchand continues scoring streak

    The captain now has Boston’s last five goals. 

    Marchand’s 12th goal of the season was by no means as flashy as his third-period natural hat trick against the Blue Jackets. But pretty is the last adjective that any Bruins fan would use to describe Boston’s effort against Buffalo.

    “It can get frustrating when teams are clogging up the middle,” Marchand said. “They did that at times, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot…We didn’t support each other good enough and didn’t put pucks in areas where we could get them back.”

    Even though they notched 30 shots on goal, the Bruins struggled to generate quality scoring chances in high-danger areas. Case in point, Boston’s lone goal came off a fluky bounce after Marchand threw the puck into heavy traffic. 

    “Sometimes we just aren’t prepared to start with the intensity we need to,” Marchand added. “We seem to be kind of going back and forth to play in the way we need to be successful. Trying to be too cute and thinking the game’s gonna be easy at times.”

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