Talking Points: Sabres 2, Bruins 1

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Talking Points: Sabres 2, Bruins 1

BUFFALO The Bruins didnt have their best legs or their best brand of hockey in Buffalo, but its results that matter most this time of year.

So somehow the Bruins overcame a lackluster first 40 minutes to get a point in a 2-1 grudge match shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center, and continued making steps in the right direction.

David Krejcis opening bid trickled through Ryan Millers pads, but both Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy scored for the Sabres on Rask to make the difference in the shootout.

A Zdeno Chara bomb just outside the right face-off circle steamed over Ryan Millers left shoulder to tie the proceedings up at a 1-1 score and kick-started another strong third period effort for the Bs.

It was sweet justice for the Bs captain, who had been denied on a first period shot that dinged off the crossbar after it had beaten Miller.

The Sabres had seized control of the game in the second period when Buffalo held the Bruins without a shot on their first power play of the game, and then poured on the pressure immediately afterward. Tyler Ennis fed a trailing Andrej Sekera from behind the net, and the Sabres defenseman smoked one past Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.

The two teams battled through a scoreless overtime before deciding things in the shootout for the second time this season.

GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask finished with 26 saves and seemed to finally find himself despite extending his personal losing streak to six games. The Finnish netminder had worked with goalie coach Bob Essensa on his technique over the last few days and the 24-year-old Rask appeared much more comfortable between the pipes. He had a solid stop on Derek Roy in the opening minute of the game, and then stopped Roy again late in the third to force overtime. Rask got a piece of both successful shootout bids by Thomas Vanek and Roy, but couldnt contain them. It wasnt perfect, but it was an excellent first step.

HONORABLE MENTION: Johnny Boychuk didnt factor into the scoring, but he played a heavy 21:47 for the Bruins while pushing the game to overtime. It was Boychuk who helped foster the sense of urgency in the final period by flopping down face-first to block a Jordan Leopold shot from the high slot area during a scrambling moment in the opening minute. He blocked that single shot, tossed out three hits and fired off four shots in an active, physical evening for the Bs that doesnt show up on the stat sheet.

BLACK EYE: No shots on net and no hits for Brad Marchand in 19:31 of ice time and he danced perilously close to earning his team a penalty in the closing moments of the third period while tangling with Paul Gaustad and Mike Weber. The scrum ended with both Weber and Marchand attempting to raise their sticks up between the other players legs. So uncouth. Marchand was also booed every time he touched the puck by the Buffalo faithful after making the nightly news for calling their fair city the worst city in the NHL during a radio interview with WEEI.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were down 1-0 headed into the third period and hadnt shown close to enough urgency with every game gaining in importance down the regular season stretch. But they out-shot the Sabres by a 15-5 margin in the final 20 minutes, tied the game on a Zdeno Chara bomb and guaranteed themselves a point for the second straight game. It isnt exactly winning streak, but its the beginning stages of the Bs rounding back into form.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-2-3 the Bruins record in the first end of back-to-back games this season with a Saturday night tilt in Ottawa against the Senators on the schedule.

QUOTE TO NOTE: It was a good battle. The shootouts can go either way. I just tried to be more patient and not go down too early. I did a pretty job of that except for the Sekera goal. It was a good step ahead for me. Hopefully I can keep it up. Tuukka Rask, who lost his sixth game in a row but put forth his best effort in more than a month in a 2-1 shootout loss.

Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

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Mueller aims to take advantage of opportunity in tonight's Bruins-Wings game

BRIGHTON -- Tonight’s Bruins-Red Wings game against the Red Wings should be a big chance for training-camp invite Peter Mueller as he readies to skate in a second straight exhibition game after a quiet night in the opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

The former 22-goal scorer with the Coyotes felt he was “solid” and “held his own” while not getting any shots on neta againsy Columbus. The veteran winger feels like he’s again starting to pick up the NHL pace after spending the last three years in Europe, and that’s mandatory to start making plays. 

“It was a good adjustment, but hopefully tonight I show a little more skill, a few more pucks to the net and create some more offense,” said Mueller. “I would rather play in most of the [exhibition] games, to be honest with you, and to get in-game-like scenarios and prepare yourself for each and every game. In my position I’m happy that I’m playing tonight and hopefully I can keep trying to impress the people [making decisions].”

The 26-year-old former first-round pick will be in a favorable spot, skating in a possible third-line, right-wing audition with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey. He'll also serve as another established player in a more veteran-laden lineup Wednesday night vs. the Winged Wheels at TD Garden. With Frankie Vatrano out for the next three months, these are the kind of chances Mueller needs to knock out of the park if he wants to fend off younger competition for one of those B’s roster spots up front. 

“It definitely favors the type of game I want to play,” said Mueller, when asked about the chance to skate in a spot with Spooner and Beleskey that he would likely fill whre he to crack the NHL roster. “With two skill guys, hopefully we can create some chemistry and some offense early and obviously that helps with the flow of the game. Hopefully I can just showcase my skills and the work ethic that I’m trying to bring to the team. Overall, hopefully we have a good game tonight.”

Sean Kuraly is also playing in his second straight exhibition, and will move over to the left wing skating with Austin Czarnik and left wing Zachary Senyshyn in what amounts to a kid line for the Bruins. One would expect the same goaltending rotation in this game, with Malcolm Subban getting the first two periods and Daniel Vladar getting the game’s final 20 minutes. Here are the line combos and D-pairings according to the rushes during morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena:
 
Beleskey-Spooner-Mueller
Kuraly-Czarnik-Senyshyn
Gabrielle-Moore-Ferlin
Blidh-Acciari-Hickman
 
Grzelcyk-McQuaid
Lauzon-C. Miller
Arnesson-Casto
 
Subban
Vladar
 

Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

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Bruins' Zboril uses criticism and Twitter hate as motivation

BRIGHTON -- It’s easy to see that Jakub Zboril , one of the Bruins' 2015 first-round pick, has come a long way in a year.

“I feel more comfortable,” said Zboril. “After last year, when all of the people saying something about what they didn’t like about me, it really pushed me forward. I told myself I wanted to be in better shape and so I worked really hard at it.”

The 19-year-old wasn’t in very good shape for last season's training camp after coming back from a knee injury, and that carried over into a junior season for the Saint John Sea Dogs (6 goals and 20 points in 50 games). That was a drop from his 13 goals and 33 points in 44 games prior to hearing his name called by the B’s on draft night.

Zboril was back at peak effectiveness in the playoffs for the Sea Dogs with a couple of goals and 10 points in 17 games, but the chain of events caused some to wonder if the Bruins had drafted something of a bust.

It seems ludicrous, considering Zboril is a 19-year-old talented enough to be selected 13th overall in the entire NHL draft, and even more so now that he’s showing much more in his second camp with Boston. It was some good and some bad for Zboril in his preseason debut against Columbus on Monday with a misplay leading to a goal against, but Zboril also kicked off the transition pass that helped the Bruins score their first goal of game.

“From last year I think he’s made big strides,” said assistant coach Jay Pandolfo. “He’s a young kid that’s only 19 years old, and he’s going to keep getting better. So that’s what you want. The structure in his game and the overall attitude [is better]. He was a little young last year. He’s in better shape. He’s done a lot of things that we got on him for last year, and he’s taken it and listened, he’s working hard. He’s done a good job.”

It’s a long shot for Zboril to crack the B’s roster this fall, so he’s likely headed back to Saint John for another junior hockey season after watching fellow prospect Thomas Chabot get a lot of the No. 1 D-man playing time last season. He quickly shot down any possibilities of playing in Europe rather than going back to the Quebec Major Junior League, and said there could still be plenty to learn in his final junior season.

“Right now where I am, I can just learn from myself and pushing myself,” said Zboril, of going back to junior. “What I can take from last year is that my role on the team changed, and I had to be more of a shutdown D. I had to show my defensive abilities, so I improved a lot from the year before. I think I can be more of a defensive defenseman too, so there’s that.”

Still, the so-so season last year had its impact in a positive fashion with Zboril really stepping up his game. But it’s also had its drawbacks as the Czech-born defenseman was forced to deactivate his Twitter account because of the harsh criticism and messages he was getting from hockey fans. Disappointingly, Zboril said most of it was coming from people in Boston that claim to be Bruins fans, and that it was like “people just spitting on you.”

“It was really pushing me down a lot,” said Zboril. “After some games when you know you weren’t playing really good, then you go on Twitter and you just see . . . people just spitting on you. So I had to delete it.”

Zboril said he’s much happier since getting off social media. But it’s a shame that a bright young prospect’s first impression of his future NHL city was the flaming dumpster of keyboard warriors that should forever be known as “Bruins Hockey Twitter.”