Offensively challenged in the regular season, the Boston Bruins are facing similar questions after coming up with an all-too-familiar scoring dud in their playoff opener against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.
So, what else is new?
“Same old, same old,” coach Claude Julien said with a shrug of his shoulders after practice on Friday, a day after a 2-1 loss. “We had enough scoring opportunities to win the game. … We just didn’t capitalize on those opportunities.”
The Bruins sure had their chances in a game in which they outshot Buffalo 39-32. And they were particularly dominating during a second-period flourish, during which they peppered Miller with 24 shots only to manage one goal.
“I think it is a lost opportunity,” Julien said, of a team that finished 29th in the league in scoring and playing without star Marc Savard (concussion). “But I don’t think you hammer yourself over the head because of 39 shots. We can certainly do some things better, and hopefully that’ll start tomorrow.”
Julien was referring to preparing for Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series that resumes in Buffalo on Saturday.
It’s a second chance for a still upbeat Bruins team that’s vowing to capitalize on its second-chance opportunities in front of Miller by getting more traffic in front of the Buffalo net.
“There’s no need to panic,” forward Michael Ryder said. “It’s a matter of us now getting to those dirty areas and getting the goals.”
Not so fast, respond the Sabres.
The Northeast Division champs aren’t entirely happy with how they unravelled through the first 14 minutes of the second period, only to be bailed out by Miller and captain Craig Rivet, who scored the decisive goal.
“We gave up how many shots, 24? That’s a little bit too much,” defenceman Henrik Tallinder said. “Yeah, we have to play better.”
Miller’s not too concerned, considering the Sabres found a way to win.
“There’s going to be a lot of times where you don’t feel like you had your best period,” he said. “But we found a way to get a goal, and we found a way to make it hold up in the third period by making some adjustments and playing a much more solid period.”
Miller was the key as the Sabres improved to 31-0-0 when holding a lead entering the third period this year.
Seven minutes into the final frame, Miller stood his ground to foil David Krejci on a partial breakaway. A few minutes later, he punched out his blocker to get a piece of Miroslav Satan’s shot from the right circle.
It was the latest solid outing for Miller, who won a franchise-record 41 games and also led Team USA to a silver medal at the Vancouver Games in February.
One game in, and the series between Northeast Division rivals has so far lived up to its billing as a tightly contested battle between two of the NHL’s top goalies, Miller and Boston rookie Tuukka Rask.
The one-goal margin of victory was nothing new either. The Bruins won the regular-season series 4-2, but four games were decided by a goal, and the other two by two goals.
And there’s even some bad blood developing after a chippy opener that featured a first-period skirmish involving all 10 skaters. It began after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara cross-checked pesky forward Patrick Kaleta from behind.
The Bruins are accusing the Sabres of several cheap shots, including rookie Tyler Myers’ blindside hit to the head of Johnny Boychuk that went unpenalized.
Kaleta, meanwhile, was hammered on several occasions, and has emerged as an unsung hero for the Sabres. Aside from drawing the penalty on Chara, Kaleta was in front providing a perfect screen on Rivet’s goal.
Following practice, Kaleta proudly showed off a swollen left eye and a gash above it that required nine or 10 stitches to close ? “I didn’t count,” he said ? after he was hammered face-first into the boards by Boston’s Steve Begin.
“It comes with the territory,” Kaleta said. “I don’t mind a black eye here and there. A couple of stitches, it just adds to the character.”
NOTES: Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay spent the night in a Buffalo hospital as a precaution after being diagnosed with the flu prior to Game 1. Julien said, Ramsay was at the team’s hotel and will likely be behind the bench on Saturday. … Sabres C Derek Roy was given the day off from practice, but is expected to play in Game 2. … The Bruins scored four or more goals in regulation only 17 times in the regular season.