Only big games left for Bruins
|04.01.10 at 12:56 pm ET|
At this point in the season there are no more trap games, no wake up games, no small games or revenge games.
They are just big games.
“A win is a win or a loss is a loss, no matter who you play,” coach Claude Julien said after Thursday’s morning skate. “Whether you are playing a top team in the league, it is going to be a tough competition, just like it was last game or whether you play a team that is out of the playoffs and is loose and they want to be spoilers. If you look at it, we just can’t afford to lose a game.”
With four teams bunched within two points for the final three playoff spots, the team that can get the hottest right now will be able to separate itself from the pack. If Boston wants to be that team, it has a even chance in front of it. Of the Bruins final six games, three come against also-rans (tonight against Florida, Saturday against the Leafs and April 10 against the Hurricanes) and three comes against the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, including two different trips to D.C. to visit the Capitals.
The Bruins have been playing to the level of their competition all year. For every dramatic 1-0 victory over the Devils there have been 5-3 disappointments against the Lightning. Looking back on the season, it has definitely been a roller coaster for fans of hockey in the Hub.
“You have to take advantage of the opportunities and you have to be ready to play,” Julien said. “We’ve got to be better, got to find ways to win and find some consistency.”
Florida has been in a funk of late as losers of their last four including a 6-2 in Buffalo on Wednesday where they were outshot 41-15 by the surging Sabres. Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was a member of the Panthers the last time the Bruins played them (a 3-2 Bruins shootout win on in Sunrise, Fla on Feb. 13, the last game before the Olympic break). He is adjusting well to his new team and has started to contribute offensively with four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-four rating in his last five games.
“Every time you play against your old team, it is different,” Seidenberg said. “You know all the guys you play against. But, in this case, you have to put it in the back of your mind and just concentrate on getting the points.”
Yes, the points are crucial and Boston does have a real opportunity to move up a couple of spots in the standings with a win on Thursday, but there are other franchise considerations at play around the league that are hard to not note.
For instance, there is a peculiar conundrum for the Bruins as a organization (though not for the players and coaches) in gaining two points at the expense of the Panthers. Florida currently sits three points ahead of the Maple Leafs (tied with the Islanders) for the third worst spot in the NHL. The significance, of course, is that Boston owns the Leafs first round pick this June and would love to see it be the No. 2 overall. The best way to ensure that would be to lose to the Panthers tonight and then beat the Leafs on Saturday. Nobody on the team would ever dare mention it as a course of action but the fans are well aware of where the Leafs are in the standings. If the playoffs are not in the near future for the Bruins they can still take solace in a lottery pick.
— Ference Watch: Day 7
A fair amount of Julien’s pregame presser centered around the healthy, and potential availability, of oft-injured defenseman Andrew Ference. The blue liner does need offseason surgery for a tear in his abductor muscle in his groin as well as a hernia, but that does not mean he is completely unavailable to the Bruins for the rest of the season. Julien said that the plan at the start of this week was to shut Ference down for the week and then take it day-by-day from there. Ference can play with the injury as there is no further health risk of what he can do to the injured area but that does not mean he would be in anyway effective on the ice. Even if Boston is able to bring him back next week, there is no telling how long he will last. Julien acknowledged this point.
“Exactly, I think that’s the situation. There is no guarantee. There is a guarantee that he will be back and he will be okay,” Julien said. “Now, how long he will last, that’s a gamble. When I say a gamble, there is no health risk to it, but it is a gamble we are willing to take. At least if one of our ‘D’s go down, at least there is someone with experience to step in. You look at Providence right now, [Adam] McQuaid is still out of the lineup, so you need some depth along the way and for him to at least give us that insurance is good for us.”
All other healthy skaters were present and accounted for at the morning skate.