Pregame Notes: Bruins vs Sabres – 04/22/21

(Photo by Sara Schmidle/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21

It was ‘Tuukka Time’ in the Bruins latest win. A 32-save shutout from Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask sealed a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on the road Tuesday evening. The Bruins have now won five straight and are beginning to separate themselves in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the MassMutual East Division. They’re set to meet with the Sabres for the second straight time tonight, with a third meeting tomorrow night. The puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 7 pm EST.

Starting Swayman

With Jaroslav Halak still sidelined (COVID Protocol) and Rask expected to handle the start tomorrow night, it’ll be Jeremy Swayman between the pipes for tonight’s tilt. He’s been terrific this season, and the 22-year-old Alaska-native has quietly silenced the doubters who thought he’d be rushed into the league. He’s still young, so continuous reps in real game situations mean everything for his development. Expected to be sent back to the Providence Bruins when Halak returns, Swayman has another chance to stabilize his position in the future of the Bruins crease tonight.

In his first taste of NHL hockey, Swayman has a 4-1-0 record with a magnificent 1.78 GAA and a .938 save percentage. He’s truly turned heads around the league and can continue his young-blooded run tonight with a strong performance from the Bruins corps in front of him. Some of his saves this season have been highlight-reel caliber, and he has a high climb ahead of puck drop to match Rask’s superb performance in Tuesday’s win.

Goal Slumps Continue

While the Bruins enjoy one of their best runs through the 2020-21 season, some key players are not. Many guys have gone too many games without putting the puck in the back of the net, and their slumps seem to be never-ending. Among those in their own slumps include forwards Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, and even David Pastrnak to an extent. The first three play on the third line together, meaning their line has barely produced as of late, and ‘Pasta’ has a spot playing with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the premiere ‘Perfection Line.’

It’s hasn’t been since March 30th that Nick Ritchie has scored a goal, and he’s collected two assists in 12 games since then. Coyle hasn’t potted a goal since February 28th, nearly two months ago. In 24 games since then, he’s collected just six assists. DeBrusk hasn’t had his luck all season, really, but his last goal came on April 10th, and he only has a total of four this season. Pastrnak hasn’t been his usual self lately. His last goal came on April 16th against the New York Islanders, but in his last 16 games, he’s only scored three times. All four of these key pieces for the Bruins need to get their wheels churning, and there’s no better time to do it against the dismantled Buffalo Sabres a few weeks before the playoffs.

‘Full-60’ Effort

A matchup against a team like the Buffalo Sabres, who have just 12 wins in 47 games this season, seems very enticing and could be an easy two points in the standings. However, that shouldn’t mean the Bruins could prepare and play this game any differently. Tuesday’s win was only a two-goal margin, and with a lack of discipline in the final moments of the game as well as a decline in an effort, that Bruins third period showing from Tuesday’s win won’t fly in the playoffs. Tuukka Rask was their best player.

The Bruins should use this game to test for their own effort and preparation as they gear up for the playoffs in May. Following this is another matchup with the Sabres tomorrow night, but then it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road with a game on Sunday. The Bruins effort in Tuesday’s third period won’t get them far against the Penguins, and they should use these remaining four games against the Sabres and two against the New Jersey Devils to get their track aligned, and ready for a big playoff push come that time.

Bruins Projected Lineup

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Hall – Krejci – Smith

Ritchie – Coyle – DeBrusk

Kuraly – Lazar – Wagner

Grzelcyk- McAvoy

Reilly – Clifton

Lauzon – Kampfer

Swayman

Rask

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