TORONTO -- With the Atlantic Division title wrapped up and an eight-point lead in the race for best record in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins really have very little play for these days.
Their last two opponents, however, were fighting for their postseason lives. So after a disappointing late loss in Detroit on Tuesday, it was a good sign that the B's played as hard as they did here Thursday, fighting back from a 3-1 third-period deficit and salvaging a point before finally losing to the Maple Leafs, 4-3, in overtime.
After a month of dominant hockey, in which they were simply blowing teams out of the water and stringing together win after win, it was inevitable they'd hit a rougher patch of ice. But facing desperate teams like the Red Wings and Maple Leafs wasn’t the worst thing in the world this week, as it helped sharpen Boston’s focus for the looming playoff run.
“It’s good for us to be playing teams that are really desperate, and that are trying to improve their position in the standings,” said Zdeno Chara. “[It's good] to feed off that situation and be ready for the playoffs."
The Bruins hadn't lost back-to-back games since falling to Buffalo and Washington in late February in the first two outings after the Olympic break. But the third-period comeback made Thursday's loss a little easier to swallow.
“These are the kinds of teams that we’re going to face in the playoffs, and we need to realize that,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We talked about it during the [second intermission] that we had to keep pushing. We found a way. We got the two goals that we needed. We just needed to find a way to get the extra point.
“We definitely need to be better. There [were] too many ups-and-downs with our game tonight, and you don’t win games if you don’t play 60 [minutes] in this league.”
The Bruins didn't play 60 in either game this week, though it wasn't as bad as it might seem. They controlled play for about 50 minutes of the one-goal loss in Detroit on Wednesday, and dominated the third period and overtime on Thursday night.
Which, considering their opponents had everything to play for and they had nothing, isn't bad.
"It’s never easy to play games (when there's nothing at stake)," said Chara, "but facing some adversity and facing some challenges is also good [as a preparation for] the playoffs.”