By: Carter Hochman | Follow me on Twitter @Carterr33
Make no mistake, that was a good Buffalo Sabres team that the Bruins seemingly manhandled the other night after what seemed to be a complete loss of identity vs. the Flyers. Was it a perfect performance? Absolutely not. But, when you win like that without playing your best hockey, that’s definitely a good thing. Linus Ullmark helped a little bit too.
Pasta scored early, Nosek got his first in the black and gold, Coyle got in on the action, and Taylor Hall put the icing on the cake in front of a less-than-cordial (and relatively empty) crowd. Marchand, Coyle, Bergeron, Reilly, and Hall also tacked on assists for the night, with Marchand and Coyle getting two-a-piece.
The win, however, did not come without some asterisks in the injury department for Boston. Let’s talk about them. The Bruins played that entire game without Nick Foligno, who was out with an “upper-body injury” with Anton Blidh filling in doing a fairly decent job in his own right. That being said, Blidh is now confirmed to be out against San Jose, also with an “upper-body injury” with Jack Studnicka being called up from Providence. Along with that, throw a “questionable” next to the name of Craig Smith, and the Bruins might have a situation on their hands early in the season.
Let’s talk about Studnicka first. We all know that he brings speed, tenacity, grit and is a generally well-liked guy around the locker room in Boston. Last season, in 20 games played, he put up a goal and three assists with a -1 rating. Now, we know the game isn’t played on paper, but that’s not to say Studnicka won’t be utilized throughout the season, and this won’t be his only stint in Boston this year. His 2019-2020 season in Providence was his most promising to date totaling 23 goals, 26 assists, and a +9 rating. Bruce Cassidy said Studnicka “is most deserving” of the call-up, and I’ll take his word for that.
Now we’ll get to Craig Smith. Smith has proven absolutely vital on that second line paired with Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle. According to Cassidy, he “wasn’t 100 percent throughout the game [in Buffalo]” and that he’s been playing through a “nagging injury,” but that’s about as much as we got from Bruce. It will definitely be interesting to see if he’s able to put in 60 minutes of hockey vs. a very physical and fast Sharks team.
Finally, we get to Linus Ullmark. I’m not going to say it was a genius move giving Ullmark his first start as a Bruin in the arena that he’s spent his entire career up to this point, but it definitely deserves a tip of the cap in the direction of Bruce Cassidy. With 35 saves on 36 shots and the one goal being one that he probably should’ve had, it was a complete night for the Swedish netminder.
Ullmark looked calm, he looked in control of his body, and he looked like his communication with the defensemen in front of him played a key role in the organization of what was going on in their defensive zone. Because of that key role, Cassidy has named him the starter against San Jose today. “He’s definitely earned it; he was excellent,” Cassidy said, “He deserves to go back in, so he will go back in.”
All that being said, this will be the second undefeated team in a row that the Bruins will look to disrupt in the San Jose Sharks, who boast a 4-0-0 record to begin this campaign. It’s the first meeting between the two since Oct. 29, 2019, and fireworks are in the forecast.