The Bruins ended 2016 on a high note, taking four points out of this week’s home and home series against the Buffalo Sabres and sweeping the season series against the division rival.
The Bruins’ four wins against Buffalo this season showcased the best of what this Boston team has to offer. The Bruins outscored Buffalo 3-1 on Saturday and 13-4 through the season series. In a season where the defense has been surprisingly stellar and the offense lacking, everything has clicked for the Bruins against Buffalo lately. Sure, Buffalo is no powerhouse in the Eastern Conference, but they are the type of team Boston has been prone to play down to and slip up against in the past. A competitive hockey team should be beating Buffalo handily, and the Bruins have.
These two Buffalo games have (hopefully) marked a turning point for Boston’s offense. Patrice Bergeron only had ten points on the season before Thursday night’s game in Buffalo. His goals in both games against the Sabres are exactly what the Bruins need from Bergeron- no matter how well he plays in the other two zones of the ice, he’s is a critical offensive player for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner picked up three points- two goals on Thursday and an assist Saturday- during the home and home series. Frank Vatrano found the inverse, with two assists Thursday and a first period one timer Saturday to open the afternoon’s scoring. It’s a good look for a team that should be scoring more than they have, and likely will improve their shooting percentage as the season progresses.
Most importantly, this home and home series against the Sabres was entertaining, and that’s been tough to say about the Bruins at times this season. Sure, they won both games convincingly, and it’s easy for Bruins fans to simply be happy with the team’s offensive output, but neither game was one sided. Both were amongst the most spirited and physical affairs of the Bruins’ season. William Carrier’s hit on David Backes concussed the Bruins forward Thursday night has helped open a dialogue over whether or not the NHL has mandated its officials to stop fighting at all costs, most notably when Adam McQuaid and Carrier tried to drop the gloves, only for McQuaid to be held back by the linesmen. The official’s insistence on keeping the Bruins and Sabres from fighting appeared misguided, as frustrations mounted throughout both games and flaring up again Saturday when Buffalo’s Evander Kane was restrained from fighting Kevan Miller and assessed a misconduct penalty.
Despite the officials’ odd actions, it’s nice to see a physical affair between division rivals. We do not see enough of it with the NHL’s current schedule, which scales back inter-division games in favor of seeing each team in the league at least twice a season. Hopefully Boston’s final two victories in 2016 will carry over to the new year and make a push to the top of the Atlantic Division.
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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA Today