Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien is pulling all the right strings, including how he is using his goalie tandem of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez.
In a 3-1 victory over Buffalo on Saturday evening at the Hub of Hockey in Boston, it looked as though Julien once again made the right move early by starting the well-rested Manny Fernandez instead of the red-hot Tim Thomas against the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres.
The Bruins came out in the first period without legs and sluggish. Lucky for them, Fernandez was seeing the puck like a beach ball. Fernandez kept the Bruins in the game by stopping 13 of 14 shots in the first. The Bruins got on the board with 2:24 left in the frame when Stephane Yelle made a great play on the boards to feed Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman, who shot a rocket that got by Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to tie the game up at 1-all.
When the second period began, it was as though the Bruins actually decided to show up. Show up they did, with the powerful Milan Lucic waking his team up by just hitting anyone in front of him. Lucic led all players with eight bone-crunching hits.
Chuck Kobasew, in his first game back from fracturing his leg (ankle), broke down the left side of Ryan Miller and shot a knuckle ball right over the left shoulder of the Sabres goalie. It was a weird shot the Kobasew said after the game that he got "lucky" on, however, put the Bruins in the lead 2-1.
Not much longer after that, Phil Kessel also broke down the left side of Ryan Miller and blasted a shot off of his right pad that left a huge cross ice rebound that found the stick of Bruins Marc Savard for a one timer blast that got through Miller's glove and into the net for a 3-1 lead.
In the third, the Bruins just played a solid defensive game. Their neutral zone play was excellent. Not letting the Sabres get too deep into their zone and causing quick turnovers and odd man rushes into the Sabres end. This kept the Sabres from having any real offensive threats in third for the Bruins to win the game, 3-1.
Fernandez didn't miss a step in this game, making 32 saves...The Bruins (8-3-3, 19 points) have won six of seven and four in a row at home, moving into a first-place tie with Buffalo in the Northeast Division...Phil Kessel played another stellar game for the Bruins...The TD Banknorth Garden was at capacity last night, hosting 17,565 "very excited for hockey to be good again in Boston" fans!
The Bruins have a very busy week ahead. They will play three original-six teams, starting when they head to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Wednesday. They then come home Thursday to the play division-rivals Montreal, then it's back on the road again on Saturday evening to take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
This week will be another great test for this solid Bruins team that is playing very, very well right now.