Despite Defeat, Lots to Like in Bruins' Effort at Buffalo

Feb 24, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Derek Roy (9) scores the winning goal against Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) in the shootout at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Bruins 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

It could definitely be worse than this. Sure, the Bruins losing games in which they were the better team is getting to be old hat. Sure, if you're a Bruins fan, you don't like seeing Ryan Miller celebrate at Boston's expense. Sure, you never like to give a point away in the shootout.

But still, it could definitely be worse.

Sure, you take a tie through 65 minutes, but when you're clinging tenuously to a division lead, that extra point is an awfully tough one to give up when you probably earned it. Especially after you've struggled for so long to earn any of them in the past six weeks.

And to drop that point to a Buffalo team that's seemed to have your number since Milan Lucic steamrolled Ryan Miller just three months ago doesn't make it any easier to handle, either.

But there are pluses in this one: for one, the Bruins defense, which heading into tonight's game, had allowed 3.16 goals per game since its last winning streak stopped on January 14th, has allowed just three goals in its past two tilts.

The power play didn't look great, but the Bruins were able to get into the zone thanks to a combination of skill, speed and forcing the Sabres into committing turnovers in their own half of the ice.

The second period, lately a big concern for Boston, was a struggle, but despite Andrej Sekera's vulnerable minute goal at 14:45 of the stanza, the Black and Gold looked better, if not great, in the middle frame. And the third period, in which Boston evened the score, drew two penalties and had a commanding 15-5 shots on goal advantage, looked much more similar to the third periods we'd gotten used to in November and December.

Oh, and there was the part where the Bruins didn't take a single penalty all game and played a solid road game for the second consecutive time in three nights. The road hasn't been a place that Boston's had much trouble in the past few years, but it's encouraging to see that, even though the scoreboard may not display the ideal results, the on-ice product is improving.

Worth noting, too, is that the Bruins didn't need to play a physical game to get to the level they want to be on. That's especially important against a team that's shown a decided lack of willingness to engage them physically.

And Tuukka Rask, who hasn't been himself since Buffalo's 6-0 drubbing of the Bruins in the Queen City just over two weeks earlier, looked good. In fact, if it weren't for a superb shootout slapshot by Thomas Vanek and brilliant backhander by Derek Roy, we'd be talking about the Bruins looking for a three-game winning streak in Ottawa on Saturday night.

But we're not. Boston has just its second points streak since January 12th, and has an opportunity to extend their division lead over the Senators on Saturday at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators are fifth-worst in the league in goals allowed per game. But they're also well-rested, and will get a Bruins team that's tired after a long road trip.

But Boston also knows what's at stake now - that much has been evident in their play over the past 125 minutes.

Whether or not it makes a difference tomorrow night and over the next seven weeks still remains to be seen.

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