BOSTON – The Boston Bruins literally have nothing else to play for in the NHL regular season with one game remaining.
They clinched their division weeks ago, secured the best record in the Eastern Conference games ago and clinched the franchise’s second President’s Trophy since its inception in 1986-87 with a 4-1 handling of the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. The 117 points for this year’s edition of the Bruins is the most since the 1971-72 B’s team that won the Cup during the Bobby Orr Era, and was the first Bruins team to go the entire season without more than a two game losing streak since 1977-78.
“I think that’s what it’s all about. The President’s Trophy identifies a team who’s been good for the [entire] regular season. The other thing is, it also guarantees home ice as long as you’re in the playoffs,” said Claude Julien. “Those are two things we’re really proud of, but that’s where it stops. The next step is we still got to do some work here in order to get the trophy that we all really want here.”
That trophy for the hockey challenged, is the Stanley Cup.
The first President’s Trophy under Julien means the B’s will have home ice advantage throughout their entire playoff run, and any Game 7’s will be played in their home building. For a team that seemingly loves to play nail-biting Game 7 scenarios during the playoffs, that is not insignificant.
That’s clearly a nice reward for the NHL’s best team from beginning to end, but the Bruins are also savvy and experienced enough to know that none of it matters when the “real season” gets going next week.
“I think that after tomorrow everyone is going to start from zero. [The President’s Trophy] is something that we certainly are proud of, if you want to say that. We worked really hard this season and we wanted to play as best as we could. I think we accomplished that,” said Zdeno Chara. “But after tomorrow, it’s going to go back to square one and no matter what you do in the regular season you still have to play a certain way to be successful.
“It’s something that, for sure, you want to follow up on, but you can’t be thinking now that you are going to get more room, or more respect. It’s going to be, I think, even tougher.”
One thing it also doesn’t guarantee is a Stanley Cup championship. Only nine President’s Trophy winners have hoisted the Cup in the 27 years the hardware has been in existence, but one of those nine teams is last year’s edition of the Chicago Blackhawks.
As memory serves for most of those normally around the Bruins, things worked out pretty well for the Blackhawks in the playoffs after they set the bar as the NHL’s best team during the regular season.