With a dominant 7-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday, the Bruins ended their final segment with win No. 8 and 18 points in their past 11 games.
The TD Garden crowd appreciated the send-off.
Patrice Bergeron put the night in drive, and the the Bruins took over, never letting up. Aside from the one regulation loss in their recent stretch of success, that's been the case every game.
"Our guys can certainly go in and get that rest," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "They’ve earned it in my mind."
"And I know the group we have here, they’ll be ready to come back and get back to action here."
Bergeron put up a two-goal, three-point game, and seven Bruins recorded at least two points. Chris Kelly, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Carl Soderberg all added goals of their own.
"I was pretty impressed with our whole approach to this game, where there could have been a lot of distractions and everything else," said Julien.
"Our guys just played so well. The puck was moving well, good decisions all around. It was a real solid game for us and a great way to finish."
"It’s something we talked about before the game, that we wanted to end this on a good note and feeling good about ourselves heading into the break," said Bergeron, who certainly sends himself to Sochi on a high note, both personally and with his Black & Gold in the back of his mind. "And I think we’ve done that."
"They were better prepared and better structured, which they are," Senators Head Coach Paul MacLean said postgame. "They’re one of the best teams in the East and we’ve often said that we respect the way they play, and they certainly – we probably owe them a couple of bucks for the clinic they put on."
The Bruins were up 2-0 after the first period, thanks to Bergeron's power-play net-drive, and Kelly's tip off of David Warsofsky's first NHL assist.
Bergeron danced around Sens goalie Craig Anderson for his second goal of the game to make it 3-0 early in the second. Ottawa's Bobby Ryan broke through later in the period, but Iginla wasted no time in getting the Bruins back their three-goal lead, cashing in on David Krejci's patience.
"We showed killer instinct and we put a few more goals in the net," said the always understated Krejci, who assisted on tallies from Iginla and Lucic. "We controlled the whole game."
Lucic , Marchand and Soderberg all added third-period goals, even though the game was likely already out of reach. That was the aura and the swagger that team exuded through the entire 60 minutes.
"The puck was kind of following us around; it was one of those nights where everything was clicking and everybody showed up to play," said defenseman Kevan Miller, who dropped the gloves for his second NHL fight with Ottawa's Zack Smith, earning the takedown in the process.
"So it was just a big game today."
Capping off the segment before the break with a 7-2 win was the Bruins' fourth game with at least six goals during their 8-1-2 stretch. It was another testament to their focus heading into the break.
"I like the way we handled that. Those two losses were either in overtime or a shootout, and St. Louis could’ve easily turned into a win. It’s not like the games we lost we weren’t very good," said Julien.
"Throughout that stretch I thought the consistency we were looking for was there - and more."
"The way that we stick to the game plan and to the system," said Bergeron, on what he liked from the team during the lead-up to the Olympics. "I think we got back to doing that in the last 10 or 11 games."
"That’s how we get our success - when we play to the system, we do the little things right and we take what’s in front of us. I think everyone is chipping in right now and buying in, and that makes a difference."
This team has high expectations - and their strong push is a result of the demand placed on the individuals within the locker room every day.
Even with the expectations, there's room for surprise.
"You expect that with the kind of team and the kind of players you have, you kind of expect it," said Julien, of the team's recent success. "But you’re also impressed by the way they’ve been able to, throughout this whole segment, not to sway away from it or derive from it."
"Everything that could’ve happened - didn’t. No matter what. Zdeno [Chara] left, and our game didn’t change. If anything, we played even better because we knew that we lost a big piece of our team back there. The guys on the back end played so well and responded extremely well under the circumstances."
"I can say I was impressed as well."
Even the players in the Spoked-B were impressed with the effort and composure they displayed.
"I’m impressed - but the last couple of weeks, we have been playing great the whole time and we haven’t stopped playing," said Soderberg, who has been an anchor on the Bruins' third line.
"We have been playing maybe our best hockey of the year the last couple of weeks. So I am impressed with the team."
Now, the Bruins well get to enjoy a much-deserved break from NHL action. While Olympians Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Loui Eriksson will be joining Zdeno Chara in Sochi, Russia (along with Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli) most of the roster will be getting rested and rejuvenated.
Both ends of the spectrum will help the Bruins when they reconvene.
"That’s the approach we need to have. The guys that have a break, rest and make sure they’re ready when we get back. And the guys that are going to Sochi [need] to keep, obviously, playing well," said Bergeron, with no doubt that this team would pick up where it left off come the end of February.
"And things will take care of themselves."