Bruins-Sabres preview: Revenge served cold

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Bruins-Sabres preview: Revenge served cold

BUFFALO Revenge takes many different forms, and for the Bruins it will most likely take the form of two points at the end of Sunday night. If the Sabres mess with them as they did in their first home game in Boston a couple of weeks ago then the Bruins shouldnt show any hesitation in striking back.

But the Sabres are rounding out the bottom of the division despite holding the most games played of any team in the Northeast Division, and they should be coming into the game with a different kind of energy as this is their third game in the last four nights. Meanwhile, the Bruins have regained their defensive groove while allowing just a single goal in the last 120 minutes of hockey against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.

The Bruins simply want to keep that string of quality playing moving while getting strong rebound games from players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, who were scorched by Thomas Vanek for a hat trick the last time these two teams squared off. Vanek leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points scored this season, and has certainly caught the attention of the Bruins players and coaching staff.

We were much better, obviously, said Claude Julien. I think it was a little bit of a breakdown in our system and it happened to be against Buffalo. When you give that kind of team that kind of space and opportunities, theyre going to put the puck in the net.

Theres no doubt were going to focus on being better in our game without the puck tonight against the Sabres. Ryan Miller played well the last time out, but we still scored four goals against him. For us thats usually good enough for a win. We left our goalie hanging on a lot of our breakdowns. We hope to continue the offensive trend against them, but we need to tighten up defensively.

Its expected that Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton will both return to the lineup. What isnt expected is that anybody is going to bother with Sabres enforcer John Scott this time around, though that could change if the 6-foot-8 forward takes liberties with Bruins players as he did the last time.

Instead the focus will be on banking points, and the Bruins will store away the memories of their bitter home loss to the Sabres for payment at a later date with another game in Buffalo scheduled five days from now

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Dougie Hamilton has a single shot on net in his last two games, and the win over the Montreal was the first game this season where the rookie has been shut out without a single shot on net. Hamilton has also dropped to a minus-1 rating on the season in nine games and seems to be taking fewer chances offensively like he did in the first handful of games this season. Its too early to tell if its due to game circumstances or Hamilton is experiencing a simple rookie lull, so keep an eye on the 19-year-old in Sunday nights game against Buffalo.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were aware that they have some great players offensively. Thats what they want: the 2-on-1s and the odd-man rushes. We know their D-men have good skill and move up the ice very well. We just need to be aware of that and just play our game. We didnt do that against them the first time. Patrice Bergeron, among the Bruins defensive players hearing the clarion call to improve their game against the Sabres on Sunday night.

KEY MATCHUP: It all comes down to Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk finding a way to neutralize Thomas Vanek after the Buffalo forward has blown up this season. He leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points in 11 games for the Sabres and torched the Bruins for a hat trick two weeks ago in Boston. Chara finished with a minus-3 and zero registered hits while he was chasing skaters and pucks all over the defensive zone. Vaneks career numbers (28 goals and 54 points in 46 career games) against Boston are off the charts, and Chara needs to prove he can be the Big Eraser against Buffalo on Sunday night.

STAT TO WATCH: 170 . . . That's the number of NHL coaching changes since Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was named head of the Sabres in 1997.

INJURIES: Shawn Thornton (concussion), Dan Paille (eye) and Brad Marchand (shoulder) are all potentially available for the Bruins. Paille and Thornton both looked like they might be returning to the lineup based on morning skate, and Marchand might be sitting for the second straight game. Claude Julien termed all three game-time decisions.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had only 20 saves against the Montreal Canadiens in a win Wednesday night, but his first period performance was the difference between a win and a loss. Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender off the ice for the Bruins during morning after starting one goal in the first three weeks of the season, and Claude Julien said it be either goalie that gets the start. Ryan Miller will get the call for the Sabres after also playing in last nights 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, and has been okay with a 3.07 goals against average and .909 save percentage. It might be challenging for Miller to bounce back while playing his third game in the last four days, but he has won two games in a row.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.