Everything you need to know from the Bruins’ 6-2 win over the Sabres in quickie form, with BSJ insight and analysis:
At this point in the season, the Bruins just need points — and a four-game slate against two cellar-dwellers in the Sabres and Devils granted the B's with a prime opportunity to both pull away from the Rangers and secure a playoff spot in the East and potentially leapfrog teams like the Islanders in the standings.
Well, midway through this tomato-can stretch, the Bruins are certainly making the most of this breather — as Boston completed their two-game sweep against Buffalo on Saturday afternoon with a convincing 6-2 win at the TD Garden.
Craig Smith led the way with his second career hat trick as Boston closed out its eight-game season series against the Sabres with seven wins and 14 total points. It was about as complete of an offensive performance as one could hope for, with the B's generating even-strength goals from three of their four forward lines off of tallies from Smith, Sean Kuraly, Nick Ritchie and Patrice Bergeron. And even if they didn't score, a revamped fourth line of Jake DeBrusk, Curtis Lazar and Karson Kuhlman hemmed Buffalo in their own zone on multiple occasions — with Boston holding a 9-2 edge in scoring chances when that checking unit was on the ice.
In total, the Bruins outshot the Sabres by a 43-19 margin — including an absurd 34-13 advantage in scoring chances. Jeremy Swayman stopped 17 of the 19 shots that came his way en route to his sixth career win in eight appearances up with Boston.
With the win, the Bruins are getting awfully close to shoring up a playoff spot in the East — with Boston currently moving up to third place in the East Division over the Islanders with 66 points, and another game in hand against New York.
Craig Smith and Boston's second line: Yes, Krejci has been dominant and Taylor Hall has re-energized that line — but Smith has been just as crucial when it comes to turning that second line into an even-strength buzzsaw. With his three-goal salvo on Saturday, Smith stands as the first Bruin outside of the usual suspects (Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and Krejci) to score a hat trick since Jimmy Hayes buried three goals waaaaaay back on Dec. 29, 2015. He wasn't on the ballot (perhaps because of his top-six promotion), but I'd have put Smith as my vote for the 7th Player Award. Once again, it was another dominant showing from that second-line trio — with Krejci adding three helpers to continue his scoring tear since the deadline.