BOSTON — There is one word to describe the Boston Bruins as they head into Saturday night’s home game against the Buffalo Sabres.
On second thought, better make it two words.
Article continues below ...
The Bruins, who started the season by going just 6-7-4, are on a roll that’s produced just one regulation loss since Dec. 14. An 18-1-4 run in their last 23 games has moved them into contention for the best record in the NHL.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights both won Thursday night. That left Tampa Bay No. 1, a point ahead of the expansion Knights and three in front of Boston for the league’s top spot. But the Bruins have two games in hand on both.
While Boston is gunning for the top, the Sabres … not so much.
They’re buried in last place in the Eastern Conference and have the second-lowest point total in the league with a 15-29-10 record. They ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders Thursday night–the 1,000th home win in franchise history.
The Bruins, who visit the New Jersey Devils Sunday night, have won four in a row and gone 9-1-0 in their last 10. They won at Detroit Tuesday night and then blasted the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Wednesday.
They have allowed five goals in four games and just 16 in the last 10.
Fourteen players posted at least one point in the 6-1 win over the Rangers.
“I think it’s been one of the big reasons we’ve been able to kind of separate from a lot of teams in our division, is because we haven’t had to rely on one line,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Everyone is producing, chipping in. We have our go-to guys, no doubt, but the other guys have done a great job.”
And his goalies are as hot as the rest of the team.
Tuukka Rask, who starts Saturday night — with Anton Khudobin playing in New Jersey Sunday — is on a spectacular roll, going 19-0-2 in his last 21 games and yielding either one or two goals in each of his last seven starts.
The teams have split two games this season, each winning in the other’s building — Khudobin playing both games for Boston and pitching a shutout Dec. 19.
Rask is 13-5-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .934 save percentage against Buffalo in his career.
Robin Lehner, who has played both games against Boston this season, has played the last four games for the Sabres, who blew a 3-0 lead before holding off the Islanders for Thursday’s win.
“To get a win in front of the home crowd is important,” said Jack Eichel, the former Boston University star who has another homecoming Saturday night. “(We’ve) got to keep people coming to games. We’ve got to start winning here, we’ve got to start making this a tougher place to play.”
Lehner, 12-20-7 on the year, is just 4-11-3 with a 2.71 GAA and .922 save percentage lifetime against Boston, while former Bruin Chad Johnson is 2-3-1 with a 2.33 GAA against the Bruins. With a home game against the Colorado Avalanche Sunday, they’ll likely split the weekend.
A couple of stat items to keep an eye on for Saturday night: Buffalo Sam Reinhart has 13 points in his last 10 games, while Zdeno Chara is second in the NHL with a plus-29 while teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were tied for third at plus-28.