WILMINGTON, Mass. -- For the second straight season, the Boston Bruins are in a fight to the finish to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last season ended with the Bruins hanging in the race until the final weekend before coming up two points short and missing the postseason for the first time in eight years. So one might expect they'd be feeling pressure heading into the final week of the regular season this time around.
"This is the first time I heard the word in a long time," center David Krejci said about the Bruins feeling any pressure before they left on their two-game road trip to face the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. "So I don't think this word should be in this room. It's more like 'urgency' more than 'pressure.' "
The Bruins defeated the Blues 6-5 on Friday and will conclude the trip against the Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). Boston needs a victory to regain third place in the Atlantic Division; the Detroit Red Wings passed the Bruins with a 3-2 road win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Before defeating the Blues, the Bruins had won once in their prior seven games (1-6-0) and scored 10 goals. In St. Louis, the Bruins were led by their top four scorers. Krejci had two goals and two assists, Loui Eriksson had one goal and one assist, Patrice Bergeron had a goal and Brad Marchand had four shots on goal. That quartet has scored 110 of the Bruins' 225 goals (48.8 percent) this season.
Video: BOS@STL: Bergeron buries home loose puck for PPG
Although the Bruins rank fourth in the NHL in goals per game (2.88), they haven't received the balanced scoring they had in their heyday under coach Claude Julien, who enjoyed rolling four lines during Boston's run to the 2011 Stanley Cup and 2013 Eastern Conference title.
Instead of placing blame on the complementary scorers, Krejci called for a team-wide improvement prior to the game against the Blues.
"If you want to be successful in the playoffs and in the season, you need all four lines to contribute offensively, at least at one point," said Krejci, who's second on the Bruins with 60 points. "You can't really say that one line's been playing really good hockey the last few games. So we kind of have to pick it up as individuals, as lines and then we will be OK. But we have to start with ourselves here. We can't just look at secondary scoring, we have to pick up, our line, [Bergeron's] line, [defensemen], everyone has to chip in in some way."
The Bruins' top four scorers had been struggling. Prior to his big night against the Blues, Krejci had scored once in 18 games. Eriksson had gone six games without a goal and Bergeron had scored once in 10 games.
Marchand leads the Bruins with a career-high 35 goals, but he has scored once in the past 10 games. Even with the Bruins' other top scorers breaking out of slumps, and with Matt Beleskey chipping in a goal and an assist against the Blues, Boston will need more from Marchand in its final four games.
He's embracing the role as savior for a desperate team.
"There's definitely some pressure there," Marchand said. "The reality is you need guys to score to win the games. I think we're all feeling that extra little bit of pressure. We have to all come up big at the right time. But it's definitely there, the feel of it. But I like that, I like being in that situation and being relied upon. So hopefully, collectively we all come up big and make it happen."
Video: BOS@NJD: Marchand finishes nifty move on the backhand
Krejci might not like that Marchand brought up "pressure," but there's no use arguing over semantics. However you want to describe what the Bruins are facing, the playoffs have, in truth, already begun for them. Maybe that's why Krejci's offensive game perked up against the Blues. Krejci is known for his exploits in the postseason; he led the League in playoff scoring in 2011 (23 points) and 2013 (26).
Playoff experience could pay off for Krejci in his bid to will Boston back into the postseason.
"Sometimes less is more," he said. "So kind of try to keep it simple. When there's a play to be made, then you have to make the play. That's what good players do. And special teams, on power plays, that's big. So I just kind of keep the same mode."
As for pressure, Julien is confident the Bruins will use it to their advantage.
"I keep telling the guys, the only thing we control is our attitude," Julien said. "There's things that happen in life that you can't control, but the one thing you can is your attitude and how you come to the rink and how you prepare and how you look at this situation.
"How are we going to handle this? Are we going to get excited about taking it, or are we going to stress ourselves out and not do the job?
"We should take advantage of it."