Bruins hope they're back in first for good

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Bruins hope they're back in first for good

BOSTON -- The Bruins are back in their rightful place among the Eastern Conference teams.

After falling out of the No. 2 spot in the East for the first time since Nov. 30 when Ottawa won on Friday night, the Bruins reclaimed their place atop the Northeast Division with a 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at TD Garden on Saturday.

The Bruins are ahead of Ottawa by a single point, but they also currently have the tie-breaker by virtue of their two games in hand on the Senators. The Senators gained no ground on Boston when they dropped a 3-1 decision to the lowly Maple Leafs on Saturday night, and are running out of chances to unseat the reigning Cup champs.

It appears the divisional title could come down to the final regular-season matchup between the Bruins and Senators in April, but Boston seems much more concerned with putting out a consistent all-around effort in each of their remaining 11 games.

I think we know that time is running out here, said coach Claude Julien."With 11 games left, its important that we bring that kind of an effort, that kind of a game, night in, night out right now.

"We all know, first of all, that we want to be part of the playoff scene. Second of all, we want to be in the best position possible. And thirdly, you want to make sure you play your best hockey once the playoffs start. You have to build toward that and weve got a lot of building to do.

The Bruins took an early lead for the first time in eight games against the Flyers on Saturday, they allowed less than three goals for only the second time in 11 games during the month of March as Tim Thomas finally got his game back on track. But the bottom line is still pretty similar: The Bruins and the Senators sit in the standings with the same number of points, and Boston needs to keep winning if it hopes to retain home ice in the postseason.

Its hard to envision a defending Stanley Cup champion completely collapsing under the weight of pressure to simply qualify for the postseason, but injuries and a lot of hockey over the last two years are taking their toll. Its up to the Bruins to completely ignore all those nagging issues and simply focus on taking care of the business at hand.

It was great. I think everyone was focused, said Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins' effort on Saturday. We put that road trip in the past and tried to learn from it. We have 11 games left. Weve got to make a statement for us as a team. I think we did that against the Flyers with a great effort overall. We found a way. Yes, it wasnt easy, but still we found a way.

Its never easy for the Bruins, but theyre finding a way to hang on to their playoff pole position despite a list of hockey clubs vying to take it away from them.

Felger: Bruins have no choice but to overpay for defenseman

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Felger: Bruins have no choice but to overpay for defenseman

Yes, four first-round picks for Jacob Trouba is crazy.

Yes, two firsts and David Pastrnak for Kevin Shattenkirk is stupid.

And, of course, Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson is ridiculous. (Remember Bruins fans: As bad as it's been, it could be worse. Peter Chiarelli could still be here.)

No one is disputing that the asking price for good, young defensemen across the NHL has gone haywire. If you're acquiring one of those players, you are likely going to lose the deal, and that's no way to run a franchise.

But here's the question for the Bruins: What's the alternative? Do the Bruins want to try and win in the Patrice Bergeron window or not?

That's what it comes down to for the B's. Bergeron will turn 31 in three weeks, and while he may have plenty of seasons left, his time as one of the best two-way players in the NHL is certainly more finite. He will likely be out of that elite status by the time anyone currently in the B's system develops into the type of No. 1 defenseman the team so desperately needs -- if there's even anyone who fits that description in the first place.

In other words, if the B's want a top-pairing defenseman anytime soon, they're going to have to pay for it. Or overpay for it. Draft picks. Players. Offer sheets. Whatever. Something unappealing is going to have to go out the door.

If there's another way, I'd like to know what it is. There's virtually nothing to choose from in the unrestricted pool. And everyone on the current depth chart is either too old, too young or too crappy.

So four first-rounders and a $7 million annual cap hit for Trouba? That's an impossible price to wrap your head around, until you consider the alternatives.

Ideally, the B's are using that Jets offer sheet threat as a leverage play, an attempt to create options in hopes the Blues lower their ask on Shattenkirk, or the Ducks lower their price on Cam Fowler. Maybe the B's have been trying to work a trade with the Jets for Trouba himself and are just bringing a hammer to the table. Lower your demands or we'll offer sheet him. Perhaps that offer sheet isn't even a realistic consideration and is nothing more than noise.

I have no idea. The only thing I know is that the B's still stink on D.

The players they have drafted the last few years may not be any good, and if they are it will be a half-decade before they're capable of playing the kind of playoff minutes necessary to contend for a Cup. The Bruins keep saying they want to contend now, which is pretty much impossible given the personnel on the blue line.

So what do they want? To wait for the kids and blow the rest of Bergeron's prime? Or give up an exorbitant price in a deal they'll very likely lose?

I'd probably lean towards the later, but there's really no right answer. It's called Bruins.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz daily from 2-6 p.m. The simulcast runs on CSN.

OFFSEASON

Report: Durant will be meeting with Celtics on Saturday

Report: Durant will be meeting with Celtics on Saturday

Kevin Durant’s weekend of free agent visits has come into focus on the final day of June.

According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, the Boston Celtics will be meeting with the free agent superstar on Saturday.

After meeting with Durant on Saturday, the Celtics should have a better idea if they will need to waive Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko before Sunday's July 3 deadline. Waiving the duo would create additional salary cap space to potentially sign Durant and another near max-salaried player.