- The Bruins set a simple goal for themselves at the outset of 2013: to finish as high as possible in the standings, winning the Northeast Division along the way.
A regulation loss to the Ottawa Senators, 4-2, at TD Garden on Sunday night in Game No. 48 thwarted their last chance to clinch the division. Rich Peverley scored his first goal in 10 games and Dennis Seidenberg scored just 14 seconds into the third (just 17 seconds after Peverley) to rally the B's back to a 2-2 tie, but the Sens pulled away late and sealed it with an empty-netter.
But, with the regular season now wrapped up and Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs on the horizon, the B's will let it sting for a moment, before quickly moving on to the second season.
"We turned the page. We have to focus on the playoffs. That’s done and over with. Our goal was to win our division, we didn’t, and if we want to drag that into our first game, it’ll be an even bigger disappointment because we won’t be ready to play," said Julien.
Throughout the season, the B's had chances to pull ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. They ended up going 4-5-2 in their last 10 and couldn't find the results in their final push, despite stringing together better efforts. But the beauty of the playoffs in Boston's mind is that you can leave an up-and-down 48-game season behind and hit refresh.
"It’s a brand new season and you’ve got to get excited about it. That’s what I told the guys after the game, we just need to get excited about the opportunity that we have here and that’s what we plan on doing," said Coach.
"I know we’ve made the playoffs for quite a few years here, but there’s a team, for example, in Philadelphia that prides itself big time in hockey and they’re not in the playoffs right now. There’s a lot of teams that are not in the playoffs this year that are extremely disappointed. We’re in it."
"So, let’s be happy about being in it and let’s take advantage of the chance that we’re being given right now. That’s what it should be all about."
"Every team has an equal chance and that includes us."
Improvements for Playoffs
Lately, the Bruins haven't been getting the results they want, mostly due to scoring, an area that they have struggled with all season, despite going the entire season without being shut out (a feat that has now only happened five times in team history, with the most recent coming during the 1982-83 season).
Though, the last stretch has seen the heightened emotion and physicality back in the B's game.
"We are playing with a lot of emotions, which is the most important thing, I think," said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who scored his fourth of the season in the loss. "You got to just focus on working hard and the rest will come."
"I like the jump, I like the intensity, physical-ness," added Captain Zdeno Chara, who put up six shots on goal in 22:52 of ice-time (second on Boston to Seidenberg with 23:07).
The postgame locker room may be a place for quick soundbites, but most focused on hitting the positives Sunday night, despite the loss - a clear switch that has taken place for at least the last three weeks for the B's as they began to shift into a mode for the final push before the postseason.
"You have to be positive on everything. We did lose this game tonight, but we did a lot of good things and we had a lot of good chances, and we were physical. We just have to bear down and get those chances in and we’ll be on the right path," said Rich Peverley, who notched his seventh of the season.
"But we do have those chances, and in playoffs you kind of get a heightened sense, and I feel like our team will do that, and when we have those chances we’re going to bury them, and we won’t be talking about that," added Johnny Boychuk, when asked about the B's playing well, but not getting the wins.
Finding Their Scoring Touch
The Bruins haven't scored more than three goals since April 10 against New Jersey. In seven of those games, they didn't eclipse two goals; a loss to the Islanders on April 11 saw them score only one. They were 2-5-2 in that span.
"I think we’ve got to turn the page here on tonight’s game and what’s happened lately, because of the score. Again, lots of scoring chances, and when you don’t bury them, eventually the other team comes in and scores," said Coach Julien.
"We had lots of good scoring chances and didn’t capitalize. Probably our biggest challenge going into the playoffs is the ability to score some goals. If we can find that, it’ll make a big difference in our team, because five-on-five, for the most part, we’ve been much better lately, and we’ve created a lot of scoring chances."
"But at the end of the day, that’s the main thing that I think is hurting us."
The B's had 36 recorded shots on Robin Lehner Sunday night, had 11 others blocked, and attempted another 16 on top of that number that missed the mark.
"It’s pretty simple. You’ve got to get your nose a little dirtier, and you’ve got to have the confidence to shoot," said Julien.
"Take care of that, and stay out of the penalty box, with some bad decisions or weak penalties, that’ll help our team obviously stabilize itself."
"We know we’re playing a good game right now. I think right now, it’s just about scoring more goals," agreed Tyler Seguin, who hasn't scored since April 20 after putting up four goals in five games. "I think the last few games if we had one more here and there—and even in the first and second period, not just last minute—we’d be good."
Best Time of the Year
Goalie Tuukka Rask is set for the postseason push, and is looking forward to being "the guy" between the pipes.
"It’s going to be great. It’s been a couple of years since I last played in the playoffs, so looking forward to it, should be fun," said the netminder, before adding he's feeling "awesome" in goal.
"Everyone’s excited to get going. It’s a fresh start. It’s a new season. It’s exciting. It’s the best time of the year," said Shawn Thornton, who has reached the pinnacle twice in his career.
The Bruins didn't reach their end-goal, to win the division, but there's a much bigger end-goal at stake now.
"We tried. It’s always a goal for us to finish as high as we can, we don’t take it lightly," said Chara. "We take a lot of pride in that, but at the same time we still have the home ice advantage of the first round. So, we got to get ready for the second part of the season."
"I have full confidence in the team we have."