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  • Takeaways: Bruins ride special teams to end losing skid

    James Garrison December 28, 2023

    The Boston Bruins entered the holiday break as a hobbled bunch after dropping their last four contests.

    After a strong performance against the Buffalo Sabres, it seemed that a three-day hiatus was exactly what the Black and Gold needed. The Bruins took the mental and physical reset and responded with a decisive 4-1 victory over their Atlantic Division foes.

    “Just shake the rust off for the first couple of periods and get our legs under us,” Morgan Geekie told reporters after notching one of three Boston power play goals on the evening. “I thought as the game went on, we started to get some more chances and play the right way.”

    Mason Lohrei opened the scoring, crashing the net to bury a rebound past Devon Levi to give Boston the lead just 4:19 into Wednesday’s contest. 


    Shortly thereafter, the Bruins were forced to kill off a four-minute man advantage for Buffalo. In a dominant special teams performance, Boston passed its first of many tests. 

    “Obviously, [the kill] was a big thing,” Jake DeBrusk said following his first multi-point game of the season. “We were able to score on our turn right after which is a complete change and shift in the game.”

    The Bruins continued their strong special team’s performance, as Charlie Coyle found the back of the net following a brilliant feed from DeBrusk for his first of two power-play goals.

    “I think that we were opportunistic at the beginning,” DeBrusk added. “That first goal was big; obviously it was a great play in the neutral zone…special teams can go either way. Penalty kill and things like that, it gave us momentum.”

    Boston continued to put the special teams throttle down, collecting two more power-play goals during the middle frame. Coyle’s second of the night – and 12th of the season – put the Bruins up 3-0, with Geekie extending the lead to 4-0 later on. 

    The Sabres got one back late, but Boston closed things out to snap the four-game skid.

    Here’s what we learned as the Bruins got back on track out of the holiday break. 

    Boston’s special teams sets the slump-busting tone

    While the Bruins looked solid during five-on-five play, their special teams play that allowed them to snap their first four-game skid since the 2019-20 campaign. Boston went three-for-four on the man advantage and successfully killed off all six of Buffalo’s power plays. 

    “We were able to capitalize on the power play kind of bang-bang,” DeBrusk said. “We play a defensive system so when we get a couple of goals…we’re a tough team to come back on.”

    Boston’s top-tier penalty kill, which hit a snag during its four-game skid, faced a pivotal situation early after Brad Marchand served four minutes in the box for a questionable cross-checking call and a subsequent unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

    The Bruins snuffed out Buffalo’s momentum then and there, limiting the Sabres’ chance to even the contest. Boston’s shorthanded unit faced another hefty test at the end of the second period during a parade to the penalty box. The Bruins killed off a four-on-three and a five-on-three to keep their 4-0 lead intact at the end of 40 minutes of play.

    Swayman bounces back

    A staple of the Bruins’ success this season had been their goaltending bailing them out. Conversely, a staple of their recent slide was their goaltending falling victim to numerous defensive misgivings. 

    In a rare occurrence last Friday, Swayman allowed five goals in a blowout loss to Winnipeg – a slight hiccup in an otherwise Vezina-caliber season. 

    “This league is so good. It will humble you if you get comfortable,” Swayman said as he enjoyed some tasty Buffalo wings following his 10th win of the season. “That was the mindset I had going in.”

    Although the Sabres hardly tested Swayman, the fourth-year netminder provided another solid outing, stopping 25 of 26 shots.

    Swayman’s best stop came in the second period as he denied a shot from J.J. Peterka on a bang-bang feed from Jack Quinn. But oddly enough, Boston’s top save of the night didn’t come from Swayman.

    McAvoy comes up big with highlight-reel defensive play

    In the second period, Dylan Cozens fired a wrister up high on Swayman. The puck popped directly up and over Swayman and began its descent into the Boston net. 

    That was until Charlie McAvoy had something to say about that.

    In a last-ditch effort, McAvoy dove into Swayman’s crease, batting the puck out of midair and away from trouble, saving a sure goal in the most dynamic way possible

    “Unbelievable,” Swayman said. “I owe him a dinner. That’ll be a fun one.”

    For now, McAvoy would have to settle for an honorary goalie hug from Swayman.

    Such an honor is rare for anyone other than Linus Ullmark, but memorable plays like McAvoy’s stop call for special circumstances.

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