By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob
The Boston Bruins had a rough start to their 2018-19 NHL campaign. “Rough” is probably an understatement as they lost 7-0 to the Washington Capitals. While back-to-back games are often rough for a hockey club — especially when both are on the road — the Bruins’ matchup with the Buffalo Sabres is a blessing in disguise. The B’s have the chance to put the Capitals’ blowout behind them, but they have a lot to figure out before they hit the ice in Buffalo on Thursday night.
Bruins Have A Lot To Fix
The Bruins simply couldn’t get anything going on Wednesday night. They lost plenty of 50-50 battles along the boards, couldn’t string together enough passes to create scoring chances, and were a step (maybe a few steps) behind the Capitals all game long. It seemed as though they missed their wake-up call and missed pregame drills.
Boston opted to pass on their morning skate. They likely want to keep their legs fresh, and perhaps work on things off the ice. Hopefully, they spent their time studying film from last night so they can improve upon their weak performance.
Bruce Cassidy indicated that Jaroslav Halak would be the starting goaltender after Tuukka Rask’s bad night in Washington. Rask featured a .737 SV% and gave up five goals before being pulled. The coaching staff also seems to be open to making some changes to their lines. A change could bode well for the boys in black and gold.
They sure have plenty to work on, though they only have a 24-hour window to do so. For starters, the defense needs to be a lot better — not just by the blueliners but every skater on the ice. Boston gave the Capitals way too much space, opting to collapse into the crease instead of challenging the puck handler. This gave Washington skaters plenty of time to pick their spot and throw one to the back of the net. It also opened up a number of passing lanes that proved to be fatal.
The Bruins’ special teams play also needs to be a lot better on Thursday night. Boston filled the penalty box with more than 30 penalty minutes on Wednesday, but their penalty killing unit wasn’t up to the challenge. Washington went 4-for-6 with the man advantage, and all those chances helped them maintain momentum throughout all three periods. The Bruins barely challenged the Capitals’ most gifted players, which led to a number of goals.
Boston’s power play also struggled. They didn’t only go 0-for-2 but also gave up a number of scoring chances to the Capitals. It seemed as though when Washington was short-handed, the Bruins forgot and only threw four guys on the ice themselves.
If the Bruins can work on some of these aspects, and play with a chip on their shoulder, they should be able to skate past Buffalo. Perhaps their opening night loss will give them the hunger to prove to the fans that they are a team worthy of a playoff spot this season.
Sabres Projected Lines
The Sabres went 3-4-0 this preseason, winning their final matchup against the New York Islanders by a score of 5-4. They recently named Jack Eichel as the organization’s 19th captain in history.
Eichel will play alongside the newly acquired Jeff Skinner. On the right wing will be Sam Reinhart who will be appearing in the 250th regular season game of his NHL career. He registered 25 goals and 25 assists in 82 games last season. Meanwhile, Eichel is entering his fourth NHL season and will be looking to improve upon a 64-point 2017-18 season in just 67 games. Many expect him to be a point-per-game player so he could very well get on the board against Boston on Thursday night.
The Sabres feature a much deeper lineup than in years past. On the third line is former Bruin Vladimir Sobotka. As a Bruin, Sobotka tallied six goals and 16 assists in 134 games. He then moved on to St. Louis where he notched 11 goals and 20 assists last season. Casey Mittelstadt will be jump-starting what is expected to be his rookie season. The apparent third-line center only saw six NHL games last season but produced a goal and four assists for Buffalo.
But the man — or I suppose kid — that is drawing the most attention to the Sabres this year is Rasmus Dahlin. The 18-year-old was selected first overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and is toted as a saving grace to the Sabres. It looks like he’ll get his start on the second defensive pair as he looks to make a push for the Calder Trophy.
Carter Hutton will be in the crease for the Sabres’ season opener against the Bruins. Hutton is 1-2-0 against Boston through his career, featuring a .875 SV% and 3.30 GAA across four appearances (three starts). Ironically, Hutton is 5-0-0 against his new team after spending six seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, and most recently the St. Louis Blues.
All in all, seven players will be making their Sabres debut on Thursday night. Buffalo has a very fresh feeling this season, and we will soon see if they are up to the task of taking on one of the best teams in the Atlantic Division.