The Bruins have now earned points in five straight games. They've picked up at least one in each of the four games so far in their current road trip, and Saturday night in Buffalo, they scored six goals — their highest offensive output in 13 games and their third highest all season.
So what could there possibly be to not like about their performance against the Sabres? A lot. A whole lot.
While the Bruins managed six goals, they also gave up just as many, then were outscored 3-2 in the shootout to drop a 7-6 decision to Buffalo.
The Bruins never established much of a physical presence or showed the emotional involvement that has fueled their recent success. They were outhit 21-8 in the game, with just five of the 18 skaters dressed registering even a single hit.
They did have things going offensively though, scoring just 1:29 in. They had three goals in the opening 5:36 and twice led by a pair of goals in the first period. But those leads were squandered quickly as Buffalo took a 5-4 lead into the third.
That's when Boston's done its best work though, as the team came in having outscored opponents 43-17 in the third period this year. They held true to form as they outshot the Sabres 10-2 through the first 15 minutes of the third, scoring twice to retake the lead.
But once again, they couldn't hold it, as Drew Stafford completed his second hat trick in as many games against the Bruins when he tied it again with 28 seconds left.
"I think it was just one of those games where neither team seemed to be able to get a hold of it," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "As much as we scored some goals, we were just poor, very poor defensively. We gave up a lot of goals tonight. [That's] very uncharacteristic of our hockey club."
That's partially true — the Bruins do usually play much better defensively. That's been one of the hallmarks of Julien's system throughout his tenure in Boston. But they have also been exasperatingly inconsistent much of this season, struggling to maintain their focus not just game to game, but often within a game.
They have gotten away with being able to flip the switch and pick up wins on the strength of a strong single period numerous times, but that's not a recipe for sustained success, and that came back to haunt the Bruins in this one.
"It definitely was a crazy one," rookie forward Tyler Seguin said. "The first [period], I think it was seven goals, something like that. I don't think we were 100 percent happy with the way we played. There's a lot of things we want to work on, especially in front of our own net. Just boxing out more, coming back to the house. I think we left Timmy [Thomas] out to dry a little bit."
Thomas came on in relief of Tuukka Rask to start the second period. Rask was playing his first game since Dec. 15 and showed a little rust, but he also wasn't getting much help from his teammates in front of him, who were allowing the Sabres odd-man breaks with alarming regularity.
Rather than let Rask work through any issues and give Thomas a much-needed night of rest, Julien used a quick hook on Rask, risking whatever confidence the young netminder had left after not getting the call to start for seven straight games.
"We felt we needed some bigger saves," Julien said of the decision. "He hasn't played in a while, but still, we needed to win this hockey game, so we thought it was important to make that change."
The change didn't pay off. After Rask allowed three goals on 16 shots in the first, Thomas gave up three more on 19 shots in the final 45 minutes, then allowed all three Buffalo shooters to score in the shootout.
Still, it wasn't all gloom and doom. There were some positive signs in the loss. Seguin scored his first goal in 12 games then added an assist on Steven Kampfer's strike for the first multi-point outing in Seguin's career.
"I think it's not just tonight, but I talked to him yesterday and just mentioned to him that I thought he was coming along really well with his game," Julien said. "Now it was just a matter of getting his confidence up and making sure he's got that confidence to make those kind of plays that you saw him do tonight. So it's nice to see a young guy come along."
It's just unfortunate that trying to maintain Rask's confidence in net wasn't an equal concern, as the Bruins are sure to need the talented young netminder to deliver some big performances again before this season is over.