“Everybody’s different,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said . “I’m not big on those things. It’s great. I’m not saying anything negative about it, just that it’s a win tonight, and another step towards hopefully clinching the conference.”
Maybe the reason for Julien’s cautious approach is what every hockey coach of a high seed fears at this time of year. The team that gets a hot goalie and rides them to a first-round shocking upset. Oh, say, like the 1993 Buffalo Sabres .
What Bruins fans don’t want to remember about that campaign but can’t forget is how it ended ‘ a shocking first-round four-game sweep at the hands of the Sabres. Done in four after a glorious regular season. But still, that didn’t keep some of the key Bruins from reflecting on how far this team has come after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons in ’05-’06 and ’06-’07.
Julien took over for the 2007-08 season and suddenly things changed on Causeway.
“You’re walking into a situation where it had been a tough year the year before, and there had been a lot of changes made, and our goal was to bring in some young players and give them a chance to blend in and build around the core veterans that we had,” Julien said . “We knew there would be some growing pains, but again, I don’t think anybody probably thought that we would be in this position this quickly, but we’ll certainly take it.”
Now a loss by Washington on Friday night or simply a win by the Bruins at home over the Rangers on Saturday and the top seed in the East is theirs.
‘It’s the philosophy in this locker room, you take care of what you can control and so we’re going to look at Saturday’s game and look at winning the game,” Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward said . “That more or less mathematically seals it. You have to be guarded. That’s where the experience and maturity of the older guys has to step in and get it clear through the locker room, from top to bottom, in no way shape or form can we take the step off the gas pedal. There has to be that maintained effort that flows into the playoffs.’
And the 50 wins?
‘I don’t know if wins are more significant that place in the standings,” Ward said . “I think you always finish it out and be the top dog in the conference because you never know when the commencement of a playoff series really helps you starting off at home.’
‘It’s a huge feat,” Savard said . “We’re always so hard on ourselves because we had a tough stretch and now we’re heading in the right direction again and I think it’ll be more enjoyable tomorrow when we go to the rink for practice, smiles will be on the boys. It’s a great accomplishment for us. Coming into this year, we felt great as a team. Fifty wins, I wouldn’t have predicted it right away and I don’t think any of you did either. I think it’s a special feat.”
Say this much, at least they won’t be playing the Sabres in the first round. They will be facing one of three teams, the New York Rangers , currently eighth, Montreal, currently seventh after a win on Thursday or the Florida Panthers .