WASHINGTON, DC – The Bruins are looking at this weekend’s back-to-back road games against the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as a challenge to keep them sharp, and they got off to a good start with Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Caps at the Verizon Center.
It was a solid statement should the Bruins face Washington as their first round playoff opponent, a realistic scenario, and Boston will get tested against a Flyers team that’s been among the hottest teams in the NHL over the last month. The weekend games are perhaps the best environment to make some deep evaluations on players for the playoff lineup, and Claude Julien changed things up on Saturday.
“A lot of it will depend on who we play, but right now we have seven D’s that I can use that are healthy. Corey [Potter] has been our eighth D, and that has been pretty obvious,” said Julien. “I think all seven defensemen have played well, so right now we’re keeping them on their toes, and keeping them sharp.
“If somebody is struggling, I’d have no problem moving guys or pulling guys out, but I’m still [eight] games away from worrying about that. When the time comes I’ll have to think about it.”
He scratched Matt Bartkowski, and replaced him in the lineup with Andrej Meszaros while also pulling Reilly Smith off the second power play unit to make room for Meszaros as well. The B’s bench boss said he hasn’t made any decisions on which six defensemen will start for Boston on April 16 when the playoffs begin, but the team will start resting players once they get back from Philly.
That could involve simply sitting players, moving players around into different line combinations and pairings, and making those final fine tune moves prior to an expected long playoff run.
“We’re going to just keep playing, and maintaining the game at the level that we want to play at,” said Claude Julien. “There will be some things happening here, not necessarily this weekend, but after that where we’ll start looking at scenarios moving down the road here with seven games left. I don’t want to wait until the last game.
“It revolves around discussions with management and players, and you have to have a feel for it before you start making decisions like that.”
That should involve players like Zdeno Chara sitting out a game or two among the final seven games, and other Olympians like Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and Tuukka Rask getting extended rest as well. Julien wouldn’t get into specifics, but the Bruins have enough of a cushion in the conference to do whatever serves them best while continuing to win hockey games.