The Bruins completed their gentleman’s sweep of the 2021 season series with the Sabres in dominant fashion Saturday, hammering Buffalo for six goals, including three from Craig Smith in a 6-2 win at TD Garden.
Smith’s hat trick was the second of his career, and the first by a Bruin other than Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, or David Pastrnak since Jimmy Hayes scored three goals in a Dec. 29, 2015 victory.
“I think they appreciate his lunchpail approach,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Smith’s three-goal afternoon. “He’s got a great shot. They’re happy for him. Happy for him, happy for the whole line.”
Craig Smith completes the hat trick.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 1, 2021
A three-assist game for David Krejci as well.
6-2 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/T2eRN3T776
“It felt great,” Smith said. “Krejci told me before the shift, ‘Just get your stick down, I’m gonna try to shoot it at you every shot. It was cool to see the hats fall down. I don’t get to see that very often. It was interesting, it was a good time.”
Smith’s performance continued what’s been a downright ridiculous stretch for the Bruins’ second line, too, with the Hall-Krejci-Smith combo on the ice for 13 of the team’s 38 total goals since the trade deadline, including six in the last week alone.
“I thought we had some good looks, and as a team we built some very good energy down there,” noted Smith. “We’re continuing to build. I think we’re still a work in progress.”
And in addition to the Smith hat trick, the Bruins got goals from Bergeron, Sean Kuraly, and Nick Ritchie in this contest.
The contributions from the new-look third line, with Kuraly between Ritchie and Charlie Coyle, are looking like the start of something that could be a real for the Bruins below the white-hot second line.
“It’s early, but I like the fact that we’ve been trying to build a bigger third line for the majority of the year,” Cassidy noted. “Coyle’s moving to the wing goes against what we’ve tried to do [at center], but you do what you have to do to build the best lineup and chemistry. They do a lot of grunt work down the lineup, but Sean’s seeing more pucks.
“There was a time in the year where we sat down with Sean and said, ‘Listen, don’t lose your identity.’ All of a sudden, a few changes of scenery for everybody, and now you see yourself on a line that may work out well for everybody in the now.”
Kuraly’s goal was his first since Feb. 5.
Sean Kuraly knocks home his first goal since Feb. 5.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 1, 2021
2-1 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/6MW1SesF9r
“My reaction said it all,” Kuraly said.
In net, Jeremy Swayman stopped 17 of 19 shots faced for his sixth victory of the season. A 17-save performance is about as modest as it can get, all things considered, but Swayman’s night did finish on a high note with a strong save on the Sabres with the B’s down a man and with Buffalo trying to make a push after a leaky goal brought them within striking distance.
As noted, the Bruins are finally done with the Sabres this season, and wrapped up their season series with seven wins in eight head-to-heads. Boston doubled them up in the season series scoring, too, 32-to-16.
The Bruins will head to New Jersey for a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back with the Devils. Seemingly haunted by the Devils’ netminders throughout this season series, the B’s are 2-3-1 against the Devils in 2021.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.