Friday, April 16, 2010
BUFFALO DOWN AND DIRTY
We saw some good signs from the Bruins last night. We also saw some season-long struggles repeated. The Bruins only managed 1 goal, and that's usually not enough to win. Then again, both goals they allowed were quite preventable. Get used to these low scoring games, folks, because that's what this series will be about.
Let me just vent about the officiating, which didn't cost the Bruins a win, didn't impact the game, but was embarrassingly awful. Not only did Buffalo get away with 2 blatant dives, the refs completely missed Blake Wheeler's touch up on an icing call, they let Zdeno Chara leave the penalty box earlier (then realized their mistake and put him back in there), and they blew the Bruins offside before the puck ever crossed the blue line into the offensive zone. It was coincidental that all these errors went against the Bruins, but it was a sad example of refereeing.
I hate playoff officiating anyway. The gray areas of interference and roughing get expanded, while the black and white calls like hooking and delay of game remain exactly the same.
Buffalo's first goal was a product of their fierce counter-attack, which was sprung by several Bruins' shortcomings. Lucic failed to do anything to win a battle in the corner, the puck went up the halfwall and Bergeron lost a battle, then Matt Hunwick couldn't decide whether to play the puck, or step back and prevent a breakaway. The hesitation was enough to allow Derek Roy to escape, then find Vanek to score the game's first goal.
Their second and game winning goal was the result of the Bruins being too aggressive at one point, and too conservative at others. While two Bruin forwards attacked the puck at the blue-line, the other 3 B's collapsed as if they were on the penalty kill. This gave defenseman Craig Rivet acres of space above the faceoff circles, and Rask was unable to find the puck in the cluster of Bruin and Sabre bodies in front of him.
In a game dominated by defensemen and goalies, it's vital to not make mistakes like these two. Hunwick, considering that Roy and Vanek were on the ice, should have been more conservative and skated backwards to prevent an odd man rush.
Rask had a great game, and was the Bruins' best penalty killer. Some of the rebounds he allowed gave me heart attacks, but so long as they're steered away from Buffalo skates and sticks, he'll get away with them.
Zdeno Chara was the best Bruin on the ice, though. He triggered the Bruins' physical play in the 2nd period. He abused Buffalo's forwards, and got into their heads. How funny was it to see Kalete line him up, try to plant him in the boards, then plant himself because Chara juked out of the way? Z also set-up Recchi's goal. Miller had been smothering shots, but when the puck's travelling at 105 MPH, rebounds are inevitable.
Without Mark Recchi, this team is hopelessly deficient on offense.
Johnny Boychuk had a noteworthy game. Both phyiscal in his own zone and the neutral zone, and clever on offense.
Michael Ryder didn't foul up in any significant way. Although he did miss a wide open top corner of the net in the 2nd. He's not a detriment to this team, but he's barely a positive.
Wideman and Krejci by and large had solid games. In my preview, I mentioned how vital these two are. They did their jobs, Wideman didn't screw up, and Krejci provided opportunities for his mates.
Lucic was invisible for most of the game. I'll give him a free pass for this entire season due to the multitude of injuries. He turned it up in the 2nd period, but he seemed more of a factor after the whistle as opposed to before it.
The offense needs to come from somewhere. The defense is solid, if occasionally porous. But the D and the goalie are good enough for the Bruins to be in every single game.
They just need to generate goals. Not easy against Miller, but it's possible.
Game 2 Saturday afternoon at 1 on NBC.