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Sabres V Bruins Game 21

You could almost hear the collective Bruins nation, sarcastically chanting before the game. “One, two, three, four, five… we want six!” The Sabres responded: “Not tonight.”
The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Eastern Conference leading Boston Bruins Thursday night in an ugly 3-2 victory to put an end to their 5-game losing streak. The Sabres’ play was rife with desperation and hard work, but they also showcased a few areas they need to tighten up as well.
One of the biggest reasons Buffalo came away with the win was physical play. They didn’t exactly dominate Boston in terms of hits, registering 32 to Boston’s 27, but they did manage to match the B’s intensity for a full 60 minutes. Instead of keeping to an imaginary perimeter around the opposing goaltender, the Sabres crashed the net with reckless abandon. They even took a penalty for Goaltender Interference when Kaleta bowled Thomas over on a rush. It’s certainly not an honorable way to win, or even a pretty one, but it’s certainly better than the recent habit of putting little-to-no pressure on the forecheck.
It’s clear, however, that the Sabres still need to learn to play responsibly while playing tough. Around 8 minutes into the first, Spacek came to the aid of Gaustad and got involved in a scrum along the boards in the neutral zone – something we don’t see enough of with this roster. However, Ryder came up with the puck on the other side of the ice and almost skated in on Miller undetected. Play probably should have been stopped – it was a pretty big traffic jam, but there’s no excuse for a near-breakaway in that situation when it’s 5-on-5.
Another thing they seem to have a problem with is getting the puck out of their own end. Sure, they only gave up 2 goals, and yes, they did a much better job at making sure passes were broken up and shots were more difficult to take. But it seems like it takes four or five attempts to clear the puck out of the zone. They can’t seem to chip the puck past opposing players stationed at the blue line with any sort of consistency. When they fail to get the puck out of the zone, it usually ends up on the stick of an opposing player , who then passes the puck to a teammate and the process starts all over again. These turnovers have a tendency to turn into goals against and it’s something that has to stop.
That being said, they did an excellent job on the forecheck, and Boston had a lot of the same problems as the Sabres in their own end. The pressure was high, the offensive-zone turnovers were low and the Bruins had trouble getting the puck out of their end. Yes, the Sabres only shot 23 at Thomas, but they were of a higher quality than any of the 40 shot at Philadelphia netminder Martin Biron in last Friday’s shutout loss.
Maxim Afinogenov made his return to the lineup and had a surprisingly strong game. He seemed to be holding onto the puck better than he has in recent memory (even if he was hogging it at times) and even threw a few hits. Henrik Tallinder also made his return and looked better as well. While he played solid defensively, his shining moment was when he entered the zone along the right side and got behind the Boston net with the puck, essentially setting up Derek Roy’s first goal of the night.
It was beginning to look like Roy might spend a few games in the press box before posting a 2-goal performance, but reuniting him with Thomas Vanek was an intelligent and inspired maneuver that may serve to rejuvenate his play. It was also nice to see Jochen Hecht, who has been unimpressive since returning from an injury at the beginning of the month, play with some more spring in his step. He scored the game winning goal when he shot past Chara at center-ice and burned Thomas glove-side for the short-handed game-winner.
But like Roy and Hecht, it’s still too early to tell if the team is back on track. Has the team found a winning formula, or did they just play well enough to post a rare win? More answers are sure to come against the high-speed Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

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