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Sweeney: 'It's the Best Time of the Year'

Bruins general manager previews postseason as team gears up for Toronto

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

The 2019 Boston Bruins Playoffs are presented by Beth Israel Lahey Health

BOSTON - Nothing about the Bruins' 2018-19 season was easy. It was a campaign filled with adversity with nearly every core piece of the roster missing significant time due to injury at one point or another.

Nevertheless, Boston still managed to bank 107 points, the second-highest total in the National Hockey League, and is entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a serious title contender with most of its key players back in the lineup.

"Best time of the year," said Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who addressed the media in his pre-postseason press conference on Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena. "Obviously, to have qualified and to be one of the 16 is a testament to our group, from top to bottom. Our coaching staff and really the whole organization should be proud of the regular season that we've had. And we get an opportunity. That's what everybody hopes for, which was set out at the start of the year.

"It wasn't without its twists and turns and some adversity along the way. Fortunately, we have home ice, and everything is fresh and both teams are at the same point."

Video: Sweeney looks back on season, ahead to playoffs

Sweeney pointed to the team's depth and resiliency as the major reasons why a team that was without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug - and many others - for significant stretches was able to emerge as one of the league's best teams.

"I think we tested the depth of the organization in all positions, and I think that we set out to have a strong tandem in net and that was validated, so both goaltenders receive a lot of credit for that," said Sweeney, whose club at one point secured at least a point in 19 straight games. "And really the resiliency of the group overall…I have to speak to the coaches because they're a big part of that. To sort of refocus and re-shift the direction of the team at times when you are not, maybe, hitting on all cylinders and finding a way to win is important.

"It was a hell of a stretch that we put together there. To go [12] games at home without being beaten and then gain points in [19] consecutive games says a lot of the group."

But now it's time to turn the page. The Bruins' focus has shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the team's first-round rematch from a season ago.

"They're a difficult opponent, clearly," said Sweeney. "They're an elite team, and we're going to have to have all facets of our game at the top of our capabilities. It's going to start with, right from the drop of the puck, playing the right way, and I think our team knows what our identity is.

"We're going to have to play to our strengths, and we're going to have to minimize the effect that they can, but they're a dangerous club. We have to be very respectful of our opponent, and we should be."

With the Bruins having qualified for their third straight postseason appearance, including last year's trip to the second round, Sweeney believes that the team's young players - like its championship core - are more prepared for the rigors of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Some of the guys are a little more battle tested, but every year is so different," said Sweeney. "I know we're playing the same opponent in the first round, but they made changes in their team. Our team continues to evolve. Hopefully we have players that have gone through experiences that they can benefit from.

"You just have to go out and put your best foot forward. It's up to every individual at this point in time to play their best hockey because that's what it requires. You have to have some fortunate bounces, but you have to make your own luck, and you have to try and be as healthy as possible."

Video: Sweeney goes 1-on-1 to talk upcoming playoffs

Back on the Shelf

Speaking of health, Sweeney said that Kevan Miller will not be ready for the start of the postseason. Miller left last Thursday's win over Minnesota with a lower-body injury and has some "additional swelling" that will keep him sidelined.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy added that Miller is "probably a little longer than [day-to-day], that was the update I got today…he hasn't skated since Minnesota, so I don't anticipate - if he's not out there [Tuesday] or Wednesday - that he'd be a guy we're looking at to start the series."

Miller played just 39 games this season due to various injuries.

Adding Reinforcements

There was some positive injury news on Monday with Sweeney saying that both John Moore (upper body) and Sean Kuraly (hand) are likely to return at some point during the B's first-round series against Toronto. Both players hit the ice in maroon non-contact sweaters before Monday's practice. Kuraly did not use a stick.

Video: Cassidy readies for challenge of Leafs

Lining It Up

Here's how the Bruins lined up during Monday's practice at Warrior Ice Arena:

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Karson Kuhlman
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari - Chris Wagner
David Backes

Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Steven Kampfer/Connor Clifton

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

  • Sweeney indicated that Johansson would in fact start on the left wing alongside Coyle on Boston's third line: "I think the last couple of games Marcus has played his best hockey. It took him a little while coming back from a very significant hit…I think now he's getting his legs under him, and he's developed a little chemistry with Charlie Coyle, which is where he'll start. The skill that he brings to the table, the experience that he brings to the table, we're going benefit from."
  • Sweeney also noted that Kuhlman, who has impressed during his short time in Boston, is in the mix to start the postseason as Krejci's right wing: "He's performed well. He has a history of playing his best hockey at crucial times. He's got leadership qualities. I don't think he changes the way he plays, regardless of the situation, and that's a benefit to him as well…he's played in all different roles and up and down the lineup, but he's handled himself really well. He's earned the opportunity to be here and be in the mix."
  • With Kuhlman likely to be in the lineup and Wagner back from a lower-body injury, it appears that Backes would be the odd man out for Game 1, with Cassidy pointing to Toronto's speed as a factor: "That's one. I suspect they'll want to play that way. Their formula against us would be to out-skate us, out-skill us, get on the power play. We've got to be ready for that Game 1…we found that the best fit for Backs was with Acciari and Nordstrom…there's some duplication there that we have to consider."

Video: Marchand talks to media as playoffs approach

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