Buffalo Sabres vs Boston Bruins 4/23/21 Game Preview

For the third time in four nights, the Buffalo Sabres host the Boston Bruins at KeyBank Center. Fans will be in the stands for tonight’s tilt as the Sabres look to earn their first win against the Bruins this season.

Expected Lines: 

Sabres

Skinner – Reinhart – Olofsson

Asplund – Mittelstadt – Thompson

Bjork – Cozens – Ruotsalainen

Rieder – Sheahan – Caggiula

Samuelsson – Ristolainen

Dahlin – Jokiharju

Bryson – Borgen

Luukkonen

Bruins

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak 

Hall – Krejci – Smith

Ritchie – Coyle – Debrusk

Kuraly – Lazar – Wagner

Grzelcyk – McAvoy

Reilly – Clifton

Lauzon – Campfer

Rask

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s NHL Debut

Once considered the league’s best goaltending prospect, the time has come for Sabres fans to watch “UPL” between the pipes. After his impressive 2018-19 season with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, Luukkonen underwent hip surgery and his numbers to start his pro career have left a bit to be desired.

The good news is goalies often peak later than skaters and UPL is still very young: He just turned 22 in March. His size will always be an asset and his athleticism was on display in juniors and at times in the minors. Like many his teammates from Rochester this season, he is with the Sabres due to injury and the desire to give their young players NHL experience.

It’s very exciting to see a young goalie play his first game. You can see him in the locker room, he’s very excited.

Sabres Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin on Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s NHL Debut

Tonight’s game is not indicative on what kind of goalie Luukkonen can be for the Sabres in the future. This is a first taste and for a young goaltender, no/low expectations are the best policy. Luckily the team ahead of him has shown some signs of life because I shutter to imagine UPL getting a start under Krueger.

Important side note: TCB contributor D.J. Mitchell did some investigating to find the meaning of the names Ukko and Pekka in Finnish. Ukko specifically means “old man” as a direct translation, but the name derives from the word Ukkonen, which means “Thunder”. Pekka derives from the name “Peter”. Thunder-Peter Luukkonen.

Sabres Powerplay vs Bruins Penalty Kill

The Bruins have given the Sabres 11 powerplay opportunity over the past two games, resulting in 0 goals. The Sabres rely on their powerplay for production more than any other team as they sit last in the league in 5v5 goals for% (39.44%, 71 GF – 109GA).*

Buffalo needs Victor Olofsson to get going again. His specialty is the powerplay and while the lack of goals does not fall solely on his shoulders, the powerplay is the part of the game he’s expected to excel. Dry spells happen for every team, but the Sabres lack of scoring on the man advantage has forced their powerplay conversion percentage to trickle below 20%. Now sitting in 18th in PP% and last in 5v5 scoring, the Sabres have the opportunity to use tonight’s game to end the powerplay skid and take a step in the right direction.

Give credit where credit is due, the Bruins are fantastic on the penalty kill. They lead the league in penalty kill percentage (86.7%) and are tied for first in shorthanded goals (8). Bruins penalty killers are aggressive in the defensive zone corners and the offensive zone if the Sabres have not established possession.

Marty Biron and Rob Ray continually said on Thursday’s broadcast the puck needs to move faster on the powerplay. They are right. The Sabres often found themselves standing relatively still when setup in their umbrella formation. Stickhandling when a pass is received slowed down the flow of the powerplay and allowed the Bruins to get setup. More pucks to the net and swarming for rebounds will be the best chance to end the streak if the back and forth between Dahlin and Olofsson is not working.

*According to Natural Stat Trick

Arttu Ruotsolainen Impressing

From an offensive standpoint, Arttu Ruotsolainen has been a breath of fresh air for the Sabres. For context, in 37 games with the Sabres, Taylor Hall scored two goals. In eight games with the Sabres, Ruotsolainen has three goals. That’s a glaring indictment on many levels. It looks bad for Taylor Hall, Ralph Krueger and his system of stifling his own team’s offense and management not calling Ruotsolainen up sooner.

His latest goal was a stellar display of hand eye coordination. Bjork’s pass was a hard saucer pass, not just some puck fluttering in the air after the goalie made a stop.

Other Notes: 

  • David Pastrnak is two goals away from 200 in his NHL career
  • Anders Bjork has four points (1G, 3A) in six games as a Sabre
  • Dylan Cozens has six points (0 G, 6A) in his last seven games
  • Tonight is Fan Appreciation night
  • Fans would most appreciate a win against the Bruins

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