The Boston Bruins are heading into the new year with some momentum.
After slumping through December with a 6-8 record, the B’s earned a second straight win over the Buffalo Sabres in the finale of their home-and-home series Saturday to bring their record for the month to an even .500. The Bruins were dominant in the 3-1 win, bringing some physicality to the matchup that Boston will want to hold onto when the calendar changes to 2017.
Here’s how it all went down.
COLD-BLOODED PENALTY KILLERS
One thing the Bruins had to focus on Saturday was making sure the Sabres couldn’t strike on the power play, and that they did. Buffalo entered the second half of the home-and-home series with a 22.3 power-play percentage, good for sixth in the NHL, but Boston’s stout penalty kill showed up, as the B’s went 4-for-4 on the PK, including a 5-on-3.
VATRANO STEPS UP
With David Backes out, the Bruins bumped Frank Vatrano up to the second line. And, man, did he deliver. With some help from Zdeno Chara, the 22-year-old forward put Boston on the board with a beautiful goal. Vatrano sent an absolute rocket over Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner’s right shoulder for his second goal of the season.
He was pretty excited about it, too.
The Bruins have struggled this season to turn in a full three periods of hockey, but Saturday was as good as it gets. Boston was getting in hard hits against the Sabres and was smart maneuvering the puck to set up some pretty perfect scoring opportunities. Sure, it comes against the 13-15-8 Sabres, but it was a much-needed win to build some momentum after a pretty mediocre December.
HOW SWEEP IT IS
The Bruins swept the Sabres in their season series for the first time in franchise history. Boston outscored Buffalo 13-4, went 93.8 percent on the penalty kill and 27.8 percent on the power play over four games. Not too shabby.
It’s still 2016, which means we couldn’t come out of this game with only good news to report. The Bruins announced during the game that Backes is out indefinitely with a concussion.
The Bruins head to New Jersey to take on the Devils in their first game of 2017. The two teams face off Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images