BUFFALO – Dan Vladar (38 saves) and Karson Kuhlman (two goals) were standouts in Boston’s 3-1 win over Buffalo in the Prospects Challenge at a jam-packed HarborCenter on Saturday night.
“I thought we skated, is what I really liked,’’ coach Jay Leach said afterward. “I thought we took it to them. They have a lot of skill. There’s two ways to go about it. You can sit back and trust your systems or you can go at them. I even asked the guys in the room, ‘What do you want to do?’ They wanted to go. Our guys can skate and we really showed that tonight.
“We competed on pucks. Gave up some chances, for sure, which you’re going to see in this tournament. Vladdy was there for us. Overall, I really liked our compete and the way we skated.’’
Trent Frederic scored first for the Bruins, shoveling in a rebound after Urho Vaakanainen made a strong drive to the net.
After Vasily Glotov tied the game for Buffalo, Kuhlman ripped home the rebound of a Ryan Fitzgerald shot in the last minute of the first period. He added an empty net goal with 27 seconds left.
Fitzgerald finished with two assists; Vaakanainen, Connor Clifton and Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson had one helper each.
Here’s what I wrote about Karson Kuhlman during development camp in June:
“He may not make the Boston Bruins out of training camp, but I like Karson Kuhlman’s chances of playing NHL games at some point during his upcoming rookie season.”
After Saturday night, I like his chances even more. Simply put, Kuhlman is the kind of player that coaches love.
“I’ve gotta be careful because you can only compliment guys so much, but he’s the real deal,” said Leach.
Kuhlman played two regular season games and one playoff game with Providence in the spring, after captaining Minnesota Duluth to the national championship and being voted Frozen Four MVP.
“By the end of the playoff game he was one of our top guys,” Leach said. “Tonight his speed was exceptional. He was great on the penalty kill. He gets everything out. He gets everything in. He was able to capitalize with a couple of goals.”
Leach compared Kuhlman to Pittsburgh’s Bryan Rust, who he coached with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a few years back.
Kuhlman is “a bulldog. He’s a dog on a bone. Donnie (Sweeney) just said it. He seeks that puck, those blocked shots, all of that stuff,” Leach said.
For his part, Kuhlman is understandably happy to be with the Bruins.
“It’s a great spot to be. The culture here is unbelievable. They know how to win. Those are things that I hold very high. I think it’s a place where I can develop my game and hopefully take it to the next level,” he said.
He turned 21 just a couple of weeks ago, but Vladar is starting his third pro season and his first as a full-timer in Providence.
A good win in front of a capacity crowd was a nice way to kick off his season.
“It kind of reminded me of a small rink in Europe. It was loud. Everyone had fun tonight,” he said.
Talking to the media, he displayed his engaging, fun-loving personality, a quality that makes him popular with his teammates.
Vladar explained that he was a forward when he started playing back home in the Czech Republic. “I wanted to score goals, but after a year or two I was the worst skater on the team, so coach put me in the net and I started liking it. My dad didn’t like it because it was too expensive, but I liked it,” he said.
He added some muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame over the summer, following a weight program put together by the Boston staff.
Leach said that Vladar’s workload in Providence this season remains to be sorted out.
I paid more attention to 2018 second-round pick Andersson than I did on Friday night and liked what I saw, for the most part. He displayed good poise and escapability with the puck on a couple of occasions. He also turned it over a time or two, most notably in the first period, when he danced a Sabres player in open ice, then immediately gave it away to Tage Thompson, who hit the post on a breakaway. You can live with mistakes like that from an 18-year-old defenseman from time to time.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This guy’s the best I’ve seen for a long time because of his skating and the fact that he’s so mature.’’ Scotty Bowman on Rasmus Dahlin.