The last time these teams faced each other was during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last April. The Sabres were favored to win that quarterfinal series, but the Bruins proved to be the better team and advanced, only to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals.
The Bruins are a completely different team this season. They're healthy and showing a chemistry almost unmatched throughout the league.
With its victory Thursday night, Boston is 7-2-0. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron netted a pair of shorthanded goals, while Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder each added an even-strength goal. Milan Lucic added an empty-netter at 17:53. Of course, Tim Thomas continues his solid play and extended his winning streak to seven.
It didn’t help that the Sabres were without No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller, who was out with a lower-body injury.
TANK SURPASSES TINY: Thomas’ nickname is “Tank” and with his victory over the Sabres he surpassed “Tiny” in becoming the first goalie in franchise history to start the season 7-0-0. Cecil “Tiny” Thompson began the 1937-38 season 6-0-0, but Thomas’ 33 saves Thursday night helped the Bruins to victory and the club record. Thomas entered the game without allowing a goal in 130:33, but he surrendered a power-play tally to the Sabres’ Drew Stafford at 16:39 of the second period. Thomas now has a 0.71 goals-against average, along with a .977 save percentage. The Bruins have back-to-back games on Friday at Washington and Saturday at home; it’ll be interesting to see if Bruins coach Claude Julien plays Thomas in both games.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: Marchand, a crafty forward, had had plenty of scoring opportunities this season without being able to light the lamp. In his 29th career NHL game over the last two seasons, Marchand finally found the back of the net when he recorded a shorthanded goal at 3:32 of the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead. The third-year pro has been a major energy player and a key member of the PK.
WHEELING ALONG: His name has been mentioned in possible trades, but Wheeler hasn’t let it affect his play. He finally posted his first goal of the season when he gave Boston a 3-0 lead at 16:54 of the first period. He did a good job staying in front of the net when he took a pass from Ryder from behind the net and pumped it home.
RIDES CONTINUES TO MOVE: Ryder notched his third goal of the season to give the Bruins a 4-0 bulge at 2:11 of the second period. He’s posted seven points in nine games this season. His name also has also been mentioned in possible trade talks because of the Bruins’ salary cap issues, but if he continues to play the way he has, he’ll make himself valuable for anyone who wants him.
KILLING ME SOFTLY: The Bruins’ penalty killing unit has been a key component to the club’s success all season, and it didn’t disappoint Thursday. Even though the Sabres scored a power-play goal, Boston killed off 4-of-5. More importantly, with the Bruins holding a 4-1 lead in the third period, Boston’s PK come up with a huge play. The Sabres had a two-man advantage for 37 seconds early in the period, but the Bruins stifled any attempt by Buffalo to get back in the game.