BOSTON, MA– For the final time of the 2013-14 NHL campaign, the Boston Bruins were on home-ice for a regular season game at TD Garden this Saturday afternoon. In town for a visit on “Fan Appreciation Night” was newly-promoted head coach Ted Nolan and his last-place Buffalo Sabres squad. Entering the day with the league’s worst record, the Sabres had very little to play for in this one. On the other side of the ice, the Bruins stood to gain — with a victory in either regulation or overtime — their first Presidents’ Trophy title since the 1989-90 season. Fortunately for the sellout crowd of 17, 565 that was on hand for this final regular season contest of the year, the home-standing Bruins were able to emerge with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Sabres.
“It is a nice achievement, that’s for sure, but that wasn’t our goal going into the season,” said center David Krejci, speaking of his team’s Presidents’ Trophy win. “So one thing what’s good about it is as long as we’re in the playoffs we’ll be starting at home, so that’s good, but we’re trying to accomplish something different,” he added, clearly hinting that the B’s are far from finished reaching all of their goals for this season. Boston head coach Claude Julien preached the same message that his players did when speaking of the team’s accomplishment in finishing with the league’s best regular season record, praising them for a year of hard work, but realizing that the ultimate goal has yet to be realized. ”The President’s Trophy identifies a team who’s been good for the regular season. The other thing is, it also guarantees home ice as long as you’re in the playoffs. So, those are two things we’re really proud of, but that’s where it stops. The next step is we still got to do some work here in order to get the trophy that we all really want here,” said Julien.
Kick-starting the game’s scoring for Boston was a fourth line that’s once again been wildly consistent for them all season long. Despite being altered just a bit by usual left winger Daniel Paille‘s temporary (and as we’d later find out, perhaps permanent) absence — due to a promotion to third line duty –, the unit remained productive on Saturday against Buffalo. After winning a puck battle along the offensive boards, much-maligned forward Jordan Caron slipped a pass out front, where it was redirected by center Gregory Campbell and sent through the five-hole of Sabres’ netminder Matt Hackett. The goal was good for No. 11′s eighth tally of the season, and just the second assist in 34 games for Caron, who has been desperately trying to earn a spot in the Boston playoff lineup. Less than ninety seconds later, the B’s would double their lead on a rebound goal off the stick of top-line centerman (and 2013-14 Elizabeth Dufresne Award winner) David Krejci. After Zdeno Chara‘s slapshot went wide and bounced off the end boards, it hopped right back in front of the net where Krejci was there to pounce on it for his 18th marker of the campaign.
Midway through the game’s second period, the Bruins once again added to their lead. After taking a nifty drop pass from linemate Brad Marchand, Boston pivot Patrice Bergeron blasted a one-timer from the top of the right circle past Hackett and into the back of the net. The tally was good for Bergeron’s 30th of the season, a milestone he’s now reached for the second time in his already highly illustrious career. Just more than two minutes later, the visiting Sabres displayed a bit of a heartbeat, finally finding the net and ending Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask’s bid for a shutout. Former Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Cody Hodsgon was victorious in a net-front battle for a loose puck against B’s defender Matt Bartkowski and was eventually able to backhand it home for his 20th marker of the year.
With a two-goal lead already in tow, the game’s third and final period was more or less a final walk-through for the B’s in their last home-ice tilt until the postseason. Midway through the frame, the game would take an unfortunately ugly turn, as a pair of devastating injuries would rock both benches. First, Bruins’ utility man and reliable winger Daniel Paille was laid out by a brutally high hit from Sabres’ rookie Jake McCabe. He would have to receive help off the ice as he appeared to struggle gaining his composure. This was undoubtedly the worst news of the afternoon for Boston, as Paille more than likely has fell victim to his third concussion of the season. Mere minutes later, Buffalo goalie Matt Hackett would have to be carried off on a stretcher after colliding with Torey Krug and teammate Jamie McBain. Replacement netminder Connor Knapp would enter for the final ten minutes of the game, allowing just one goal on a tough bounce off the end boards that winded up hitting his skate and entering the net. As the final seconds slowly expired from the clock, the Bruins were rewarded with a standing ovation from the TD Garden faithful, as their 4-1 victory over the Sabres had propelled the team to its first Presidents’ Trophy title in 24 years. With an incredibly impressive 54-18-9 record entering the final day of the regular season, the Bruins’ 117 points (and counting) will be good for tops in the NHL.
Ben’s Three Stars of the Night:
2) Torey Krug (2 Assists/Plus-1 Rating/3 Shots)
3) Zdeno Chara (1 Assist/Plus-1 Rating/14 PIMs)
Looking Ahead: The Bruins will be on the ice again tomorrow afternoon in New Jersey for their final regular season contest of the year. Puck-drop against the Devils is set for 3:00 PM.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Michigan Fan. Street Hockey Agitator. My work has been featured at the New England and New York Hockey Journals, The Hockey Guys, and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com!