Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Bruins Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 3-1 win vs Flames
Division Ranking: 1st in Atlantic Division
PP: 24.0% (13th)
PK: 94.1% (1st)
What to Watch For
1. Time To Bounce Back
The Sabres have lost four games in a row now after dropping two on the road at Carolina then Tampa, followed by another pair of losses at home, against Arizona and then Vegas. While the offense has not cooled off after a torrid start, it’s the back-end where the games are getting dropped.
Buffalo are still second in the league in goals scored per game, but for a variety of reasons they are shipping a lot more goals than they were. Top pair defenseman Mattias Samuelsson continues to be out on a week-to-week basis but mercifully the rest of the injured defensemen are back on the ice.
Eric Comrie started off his Sabres career on a tear, stealing game after game, but that form has cooled off now, with his save percentage dropping to a measly .885, while veteran Craig Anderson has maintained his level at .927, but has only played in four games so far. It’s not like the Sabres are giving up that many more shots during their last four games but are definitely giving up more goals - 30.8 shots against (season average 31.4) and 5.25 goals against (season average 3.50).
The early season power play woes appear to have been corrected by Granato’s tinkering, with the Sabres scoring at least one man-advantage goal for eight straight games now. As long as the offense keeps firing they give the team a chance to win every night, something that wasn’t happening in previous seasons.
2. Changing Recent History
This was supposed to be a down year for the Bruins for a number of reasons, but they have started hot out of the gates. In fact, the only team that has had a better start than the B’s would be Buffalo’s last opponent, the Golden Knights. Playing two of the best teams in the league back-to-back (and four of the best in the last five) might not be the most barometer for development, but the schedule is what it is.
Boston has had Buffalo’s number in the NHL for some time now, sweeping last season’s four-game series and are 14-1-0 against the Sabres in the last three years, that’s pretty dominant.
To change that recent history the Sabres are going to have to play tough, mistake-free hockey tonight, which is something they have shown themselves to be capable of, just not on a consistent level quite yet for 60 minutes, night after night.
3. The Youth Will Learn
The Sabres are a very young team, which early success this season is leading many of us to forget. The mistakes they are making are the same kind of errors young teams make. There is of course some responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the veterans on the team, and coach Don Granato said as much after the heavy loss to the Golden Knights.
“We looked like a young team tonight. Pretty simple. And the more experienced guys didn’t lead the way they should have. They’ll self-correct.
“There’s no reason to not be confident. This league can beat you up. My thought is we have a choice. If you want to get beat up by it, you get beat up by it. If you want to move on, you move on. I think that’s what this group has done a real good job at.”
It’s still very early on in the season, and while the Sabres are now a .500 team, there’s still plenty of time to course-correct and get back on track. It’s adversity that tests character and builds strength, and Buffalo facing that hardship early in the season will only serve these youngsters well.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
Jack Quinn - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka
Peyton Krebs - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson
Rasmus Asplund - Zemgus Girgensons - Vinnie Hinostroza
Owen Power - Rasmus Dahlin
Jacob Bryson - Casey Fitzgerald
Lawrence Pilut - Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie (projected starter)
Scratches: Kyle Okposo, Kale Clague, Henri Jokiharju
Injuries: Mattias Samuelsson
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake Debrusk
Taylor Hall - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Trent Frederic - Charlie Coyle - Pavel Zacha
Nick Foligno - Tomas Nosek - Craig Smith
Matt Grzelcyk - Charlie McAvoy
Hampus Lindholm - Connor Clifton
Jakub Zboril - Brandon Carlo
Goaltenders: Linus Ullmark (projected starter), Keith Kinkaid
Injuries: Jeremy Swayman