Patrice Bergeron has four goals and seven points in 22 games this season. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrice Bergeron has four goals and seven points in 22 games this season. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrice Bergeron’s fourth goal of the season turned out to be a big one for the Bruins in a 2-1 road victory over the Sabres. That sentence reads odd. Not because Bergeron’s goal was an important one — he’s scored tons of those over his decade-plus with the B’s — but rather the fact that it was just his fourth goal of the season, 22 games into the season.

In fact, with four goals and seven points through 22 games this season, this is a season in which No. 37 is paced for just 26 points this year.

If that pace holds, it would obviously finish the lowest single-season total of his career (excluding the 10-game 2007-08 campaign that was cut short by a devastating Grade-3 concussion that plagued Bergeron’s health for almost — if not over — an entire year).

Compare this year’s totals to date versus where Bergeron was a year ago — which was eight goals and 22 points and 74 shots on goal in 22 games — and you understand the concern. What makes those struggles even more concerning, in a way, is that Bergeron is on a line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, two players that either continued to score (Marchand) or developed into one of the game’s top talents (Pastrnak). The counterpoint to that argument, however, is that there’s still only one puck on the ice at once, so perhaps Bergeron’s dip in production was to be expected with that kind of talent around him.

It’s of course worth noting that Bergeron did miss the first three games of this season with a lower-body injury (an injury some believe it’s still lingering), and skated through yesterday’s game with a sickness that limited Bergeron’s overall game.

“He just sucks it up,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron. “You gotta do a heck of a lot to keep him out of a lineup. He almost has to be strapped down to a bed for him not to come and play. He plays through a lot.”

But even so, Bergeron has made his production count.

Of his four goals this year, two have been third period game-winning goals, including Saturday’s strike in Buffalo. His others include the opening goal of what finished as a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 5, though Bergeron did his part with a goal in the opening 3:44 of the game, and one of the B’s four goals in a blowout win over the Jets Nov. 19. Of his three assists, two came in a massive 4-3 road win over the Lightning, while the other came in last Sunday’s home win over the Bolts.

So at least that part of his game — Bergeron entered this year sixth on the club’s all-time game-winning goals list and just four away from moving into the top five, with 48 — has remained the same for the Black and Gold.

“That’s why he’s not only an unsung hero to our team, but also a great player, nothing stops him,” said Julien.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Hour two of Saturday Skate after a Bruins 2-1 over Buffalo, with Ken Laird and Rear Admiral debating the status of Krejci, Chara, Krug and Bergeron.
The first hour of Saturday Skate starts up against the third period of Bruins - Sabres, so Ken Laird and Rear Admiral give some Red Sox hot stove and Rob Gronkowski thoughts before moving into Bruins - Sabres game reaction

Days like Saturday in Buffalo are the perfect reminder as to just how lost the Bruins would be without goaltender Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins beat the Sabres, 1-0, but lost Matt Beleskey to injury in the process. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins beat the Sabres, 1-0, but lost forward Matt Beleskey to injury in the process. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Days like Saturday in Buffalo are the perfect reminder as to just how lost the Bruins would be without goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Under siege after a mild first period, the 29-year-old Rask came up with 32 stops in the final 40 minutes of the game, including 16 in the third and final frame, in a 2-1 final for the Bruins over the Sabres.

On the board against Sabres netminder Robin Lehner 14:10 into the first period behind a David Krejci tip-in off a Brandon Carlo bomb from the point, the Bruins carried that 1-0 edge into the first intermission while holding the Sabres to just three shots.

In a whiteknuckle start to the third period, the Bruins finally extended their lead out to two when Patrice Bergeron corralled a bouncing puck from one side of the slot all the around other to the other side behind the net, and successfully batted the puck home for his fourth goal of the season, scored at the 7:44 mark of the third.

The goal, with assists to David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, was Bergeron’s first goal in seven games, while the assist gave Pastrnak his 12th point in his last 14 games played, and fifth in six games since returning from his upper-body injury on Nov. 24.

The Sabres finally countered the B’s strikes with Evander Kane’s first goal of the season, however, scored off an Adam McQuaid turnover. With a backwards dump that put the puck on Sam Reinhart’s stick and then thrown back out to Kane, the struggling Kane popped the puck up and over Rask 9:12 into the third period to bring the Blades back within one.

But the Bruins survived, and came up with a big kill with Austin Czarnik in the box with under seven minutes to go in the third.

It helped pace the B’s and put an end to a Sabres comeback shot behind a Marchand-heavy assault on Buffalo skaters.

Behind a season-high 35 stops, Rask improved to 13-4-1 on the year, and his save percentage jumped from .939 to .941.

Just another day at the office.

Here are four other things we learned in a matinee victory

Matt Beleskey exits with undisclosed injury

The Bruins did take a loss in this game with an injury to Matt Beleskey.

Rocked on a collision with the Sabres’ Taylor Fedun at the Buffalo blue line, Beleskey appeared to have a tough time putting much of any weight on his knee area as he made his way down the tunnel. Done after just 5:27 of time on ice, Beleskey was replaced on the B’s third line by Anton Blidh, while the fourth line shuffled around with Tim Schaller taking shifts with Ryan Spooner and Dom Moore.

Beleskey has two goals and five points, along with 62 hits, in 24 games this season. And if Beleskey is out for any extended stretch, Jimmy Hayes, a healthy scratch today, should draw back into action.

Anton Blidh makes NHL debut

As mentioned above, one of the lone gains from Beleskey’s departure? An uptick in ice time and NHL experience for Anton Blidh. Making his NHL debut after just 84 games in the American Hockey League since the start of last year — and called up with five goals and nine points in 19 games for the P-Bruins this year — Blidh began his night with Moore and Spooner but was quickly shifted up to the third line combo with Austin Czarnik and Riley Nash, where his fit was noticeable.

Blidh actually led the B’s in shots on goal through two periods of play, too, with three.

What you like about Blidh is that there’s an attitude to his game. He’s a little bit of an agitator — teammates and coaches alike have noted how Blidh does like to talk a lot out there — and plays a straight ahead game that creates space and opportunities for his linemates. And maybe the full package was not on display with today’s effort (you almost never see that in a player’s NHL debut, just ask Brad Marchand in 2009-10), but you saw a little bit of what can make Blidh an interesting bottom-six option.

Dominant first period a key for B’s in victory

Given how the Sabres turned it on against the Black and Gold in both the second and third period, the B’s should be thanking their lucky stars for their strong start of an opening 20. In a first period in which the Bruins attempted 25 shots on Robin Lehner, and scored the game’s first goal, the Bruins allowed just 13 attempts the other way, and just three of those shots landed on net.

And considering how the Bruins have fared in the first periods of their games this season — the B’s entered play with scoreless first periods in 11 contests on the year and having scored just 15 first period goals through the first 24 games of the season — to find a way to strike first was a big deal for the club in this win. It just absolutely helps take some pressure off your goalie.

Patrice Bergeron plays through apparent illness, still scores

Absent from Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena but a go for today’s game, it would seem likely that Patrice Bergeron is currently battling through something. It’s also been alluded to (by the broadcast team and the team) that that something is a sickness of sorts, as Bergeron did play today, but didn’t necessarily look like Bergeron. (We’ve said that quite a bit this season.)

But Bergeron did come through with a goal at less than 100 percent, credited as the game-winner, and his fourth of the year.

Sick or not, that’s a monkey and a half off his back in a season in which Bergeron is paced for less than 30 points.

The Bruins are back in action with a Monday night head-to-head with the Panthers at TD Garden.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Corey Crawford was a late scratch from Saturday's game against the Flyers. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Corey Crawford was a late scratch from Saturday’s game against the Flyers. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Your friends call you in the morning and ask if you want to play some hockey. Except they’re not your friends and they’re actually the Chicago Blackhawks. (You know, just that time that’s won three Stanley Cups since 2010, that old group, no big deal.) What do you say?

If you’re Eric Semborski, you say yes. 

With Corey Crawford requiring an emergency appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to a Blackhawks-Flyers matinee at Wells Fargo Center, Scott Darling moved into the starter’s role while the club searched and found a backup in the 23-year-old Semborski.

Signed to an amateur tryout contract as an emergency backup goalie for the day, Semborski, a Bloomsburg, Penn., native last played hockey for his club team with Temple University. (Club hockey, while a personal favorite, is not exactly NCAA level, so this is about as close as you can truly get to picking somebody off the street.)

Semborski last played truly competitive hockey in 2010-11, for the Jersey Wildcats of the Empire Junior Hockey League, where he recorded an .884 save percentage and 4.98 goals against average in 29 contests.

On the road without a surplus of extra goalie jerseys, Semborski wore Crawford’s No. 50, just with his name stitched over it.

Fortunately for the cap-strung Blackhawks, Semborski will count for $0 against their salary cap.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Blidh

Anton Blidh

In Buffalo for the first time this season, and for the first of three head-to-heads with the Sabres this month in total, sparkplug forward Anton Blidh will draw into the lineup for the first game of his NHL career.

Recalled from the American Hockey League early Friday morning, the 21-year-old Blidh comes to the B’s with five goals and nine points in 19 games for the P-Bruins this year, including a goal and two assists in his last three AHL contests. A sixth-round draft pick (180th overall) by the Bruins in 2013, Blidh will skate on a fourth line with Ryan Spooner and Dominic Moore.

To make room for Blidh’s debut, Jimmy Hayes will sit as a healthy scratch for the third time this season. Hayes finished Thursday’s shootout win with zero shots on goal in just 7:23 of time on ice, and skated in just three shifts in the third period. The 6-foot-5 Hayes has one goal in 22 games this season.

Patrice Bergeron, absent from Friday’s practice, will be in the lineup.

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. The 29-year-old Rask took a shootout loss behind a 19-of-21 performance against the Flyers Tuesday, and has 10 wins and a .930 save percentage in 18 career games against the Sabres.

The Sabres counter with Robin Lehner. Lehner left his last start after one period with a hip injury.

This will also be the B’s first look at Jack Eichel this season. Eichel has four points in two games since returning from a high ankle sprain, and the Massachusetts native has torched the Bruins in a small sample size with two goals and four points in four games.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are still looking for consistency from their second line. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are still looking for consistency from their second line. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The left side of the Bruins’ second line has been a revolving door, and Thursday night’s one-goal night against the Hurricanes was no exception. After a few games with Tim Schaller to the left of David Krejci and David Backes, Ryan Spooner — for you have to believe the billionth time this season — was plugged back into that spot with Krejci and Backes for the third period of a 2-1 shootout win.

It was not until the clock read just 31.5 seconds and with a 6-on-5 that the Bruins scored, and off the foot of the Hurricanes’ Teuvo Teravainen no less, on ‘Canes netminder Cam Ward to force overtime.

The goal, originally credited to Torey Krug but later changed to Backes (about 13 hours later, actually) for his sixth goal this year, was the lone strike on a night in which the Bruins put 35 goals on net. Two nights before that, too, the Bruins had just two goals on 47 shots, including one from a solid solo finish from Krejci for his third goal of the season.

Tuesday in Philly was a dominant performance from the line — then Schaller-Krejci-Backes — but Thursday was a common effort. Too many nights has the line controlled the puck, but failed to generate prime scoring opportunities. And though a lot of that blame has been thrown the left’s way, what about chemistry between Krejci and Backes, the line’s two veteran presences and talents that combine for $13.25 against the B’s books?

Do they have any chemistry together?

“Well, you hope so,” B’s boss Claude Julien said when asked just that. “I think at times that line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles. The other way guys are a little harder right now and they spend more time in the O-zone. Really trying hard to find the right balance there.

“I think both Davids are very capable of bringing a good game every night as far as creating scoring chances and being some of the better players. So at times, you think that it’s not so much about what’s on our left or what’s not on our left, more that it’s about their game. So the chemistry takes some time and I think they’re starting to get to know each other all the time.”

But forget about the left for just a second. On Backes’ six goals this year, Krejci has come through with the primary assist just once. That would lead you to believe that these two are not a necessarily great fit together, not yet anyways. That’s definitely a little weird, too, as Backes fits the bill of Krejci’s linemates during his prime, like Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla. He’s a big-bodied winger that is good at digging pucks out along the walls and dishing them back to Krejci. Although at the same time, Backes’ shot is not as potent as that of Iginla or even Horton for that matter. He’s a little more grind than glam in that regard.

“I thought our line was really good in Philly and we were on the puck and holding it,” Backes noted of their success Tuesday versus Thursday’s struggles. “Carolina plays a different game where they’re on top of you with really good sticks and poking pucks off of you. It’s not like they’re imposing physically, but they’re in really good position with really good sticks. It’s almost frustrating how they poke it off your stick and you don’t get time to pick your head up and make your next play.

“I thought we were not a great factor in the game, maybe even a negative through the first 40 minutes,” Backes admitted of their play Thursday. “We really found our game in the third, kind of the way the team did. We just need to work on putting more consistent minutes together, that’s myself included. Make the play at the right time and tilt the scales in our favor like we can do.”

That success in the third period came, again, with Spooner back on that line with the two Daves. But with Patrice Bergeron out of Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, Spooner was shifted up to the first line pivot spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak while Schaller returned to the second line wing with Krejci and Backes. And if that holds for tomorrow and Bergeron is unavailable for any reason, it will once again be on the Krejci-Backes combo to find some offensive consistency together.

For the first time this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Blidh

Anton Blidh

The Bruins have rolled with a 12-forward unit (without an extra body on deck) since Sean Kuraly was returned to the American Hockey League on Nov. 24. But with Patrice Bergeron absent from Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with an apparent day off, the Bruins have recalled forward Anton Blidh from the Providence Bruins ahead of tomorrow’s road game against the Sabres.

Blidh’s jump to Boston comes off a start in which he’s recorded five goals and nine points, the fifth-most among any P-Bruins skater, in 19 games played. Blidh had also recorded one goal and three points in his last three AHL contests. A sparkplug, energy forward if there ever was one, Blidh has also tallied 22 minutes in penalties for Kevin Dean’s youthful Providence club this season.

Blidh practiced on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes.

A native of Molnlycke, Swe., Blidh was drafted in the sixth round (180th overall) in 2013.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Zdeno Chara exited the Bruins' lineup six games ago due to a lower-body injury. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)Oh, what Bruins fans would give to say, “Chara just looks slower out there” these days.