– Just two games remain for the Bruins in what has been a trying and tiring 48-game schedule across the NHL. But through it all, the B’s find themselves in a tie atop the Northeast Division with the Montreal Canadiens (61 points), and because they hold the tie-breaker with a game in hand, they are in the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
The final two games – Saturday at Washington and Sunday back at TD Garden against Ottawa – are going to be important for the Black & Gold, as they continue to try to build some momentum heading into the playoffs.
The B’s, who have won two of three, are feeling better about their game and hope that facing two current playoff teams will have them playing their best come Game 1 sometime next week.
If the Bruins win both games, they will win the Northeast outright because Montreal has only one game remaining. The B’s, who have already clinched home ice for round one since they are unable to fall lower than fourth, can take home the division tomorrow night with a win and a Canadiens loss.
“There's obviously a lot that can happen in the next 72 hours,” said B’s Head Coach Claude Julien following practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington Friday afternoon. “I guess it will only get resolved day by day. Again, it's always the same cliche: you've got to take care of your own business and that's what we plan on doing.”
“There's no doubt there's a better feeling all around in the dressing room,” Julien added. “Obviously, we're hoping our fans liked our game [against Tampa Bay] a lot better. That's what you need, but you need to build on that. Feeling better gives you a more energetic practice too, our guys seemed to be in the right frame of mind.
“We understand that Washington's been a tough team for us in the past; it's been a tough building for us to play in as well. So we've got a good challenge – I say a good challenge because that's the kind of thing we need right now is a good challenge and we have to respond properly tomorrow.”
B’s alternate captain Patrice Bergeron knows the significance of Saturday night’s game in Washington, a game that with so much on the line can be good preparation for the postseason.
“We're also battling for first in the division, something that is in our hands,” said the center. “We've just got to go out and do it. Tomorrow's a big game, Washington's been playing well, it's those types of games that get you ready for playoffs.
“It's going to be a tough atmosphere. For us, it's going to be a big two points to be in that second spot. I think it's basically a good test for getting ready for playoffs.”
Bergeron’s linemate, Brad Marchand, echoed his comments, saying that the B’s want to finish strong and go hard for that second spot in the East.
“We've got a job to do,” said Marchand. “We want to get that second spot and we want to continue to build on it going into the playoffs. We played well [Thursday] night; except for the Philly game, the last number of games we've been playing pretty well. We want to continue to build on that and hopefully play our best in the playoffs.”
Marchand, when talking about the importance of playing with momentum heading into the playoffs, pointed to the amount of upsets in the Stanley Cup playoffs as an example of why teams must be at their best during this time of the year. The lower seeds, he said, are fighting to get to the postseason and once they get there, they are playing their best hockey, posing danger to the top-ranked teams.
“It's very big,” said Marchand of building confidence into the postseason. “You can't go into the playoffs and flip a switch and start playing your best. Teams are battling to get into a playoff spot right now.
“They're all playing their best hockey and that's why there's so many upsets in the playoffs because the teams in the sixth, seventh, eighth spots are all going into the playoffs already playing playoff hockey.
“Sometimes teams take it for granted, so we've got to make sure we're one of those teams playing playoff hockey right off the bat and try to take advantage of that.”