By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter: @zcarlone21
Wednesday night’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers had Bruins fans witness a forgettable performance on the road. The Bruins lost the game 6-3 in a very uncharacteristic game for the team. The Bruins goal scorers were forwards Karson Kuhlman, Taylor Hall, and Brad Marchand. Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman surrendered five goals on 24 shots. A date tonight with the over-achieving Buffalo Sabres is undoubtedly a wake-up call for the team, and it’s the second game on the road before returning home on Sunday. The puck drop for tonight’s contest is scheduled for 7 pm EST.
Debut for Ullmark
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy decided to start goaltender Jeremy Swayman for the season’s first two contests. It was the tale of two opposites, as the 22-year-old was solid in game one and had an unsatisfactory night in game two. For game three of the 82-game slate, Cassidy is starting incoming goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was signed as a free agent during the offseason to a four-year deal. Not only is this Ullmark’s first regular-season start of his career with the Bruins, but it also comes against his former team, the Buffalo Sabres.
Ullmark was shaky at times during his preseason action, making poor mistakes and leaving his five-hole area in a vulnerable position more often than not. Cassidy and others believed he needed to shake off the rust because he hadn’t played a game since last April (because of the Sabres not making the playoffs). Tonight, it’ll be for real, and it’ll count for two points in the standings if he secures a win. Last season, Ullmark went 9-6-3 with the Sabres and held a 2.63 GAA, and a .917 save percentage. That is a decent save percentage and goals-against average for a player on the Sabres. With a better defensive core, you could see those numbers improve with the Bruins. His strong season needs to start tonight.
Bruins forward Nick Foligno suffered an upper-body injury in Wednesday’s loss to the Flyers late in the second period, and he didn’t return to the game. Cassidy said the injury doesn’t seem to be severe, and he’s considered day-to-day. The Bruins’ third line will have to fare without him for tonight’s game. In two games this season, the 33-year-old has one assist to his name, which he earned on Jake DeBrusk’s game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars on October 16th.
With a streaking performance in Wednesday’s loss, it seems as if Karson Kuhlman will take his spot on the right side of the third line, and he is expected to play with Erik Haula and DeBrusk. Kuhlman scored one of the Bruins three goals in their latest game. Left-handed forward Anton Blidh is expected to play his first game of the season in place of the injured Foligno, but I would think he’s not going to play a ton of minutes. In 38 career NHL games, Blidh has just two goals and three points.
Inconsistency Early On
The Bruins’ defense was rock solid in their win against the Stars on October 16th. They supported Swayman tremendously outside of giving the Stars their lone goal, but Wednesday’s loss was a different story. The transitions were sloppy, mistakes were made and the Flyers capitalized on them. The Bruins scored three goals but gave up six, and that type of effort isn’t going to earn you a win against a team like the Flyers. The Sabres are 3-0-0 this season entering this game and shouldn’t be taken lightly either.
Wednesday’s loss wasn’t all bad, however. In the game, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy collected two assists, the second counting as his 100th career NHL assist. It’s a small milestone for the 23-year-old who has his eyes set on more rewarding prizes in the league. He cashed in a large contract before the regular-season kicked off and is proving his worth on the ice. In two games this season, McAvoy has two assists and a +/- of three. After surrendering six goals to the Flyers last time out, I’m expecting a big turn-around performance from ‘Mac’ and company.
Bruins Projected Lines
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Hall – Coyle – Smith
DeBrusk – Haula – Kuhlman
Blidh – Frederic – Nosek
Grzelcyk – McAvoy
Reilly – Carlo
Forbort – Clifton