The Bruins are saying all the right things with the end of the regular season upon them.There are plenty of politically correct sound bytes about finishing things up strong with Game No. 82 still waiting for them Saturday afternoon against a Buffalo Sabres thats held a few grudges against the Black and Gold this season.
The chances of Ryan Miller and Milan Lucic exchanging Christmas cards this year is pretty much out the door, but thats a minor little Saturday afternoon sidelight before both teams go their separate paths during the postseason.
Boston will be jumping into a first round playoff series theyre expected to win, and Buffalo will be counting their regrets after missing the playoffs in a season many pundits including this one chose the Sabres as the Northeast Division favorite. With that in mindClaude Julien didnt believe for an instant that nothing-to-lose Buffalo was going to attempt to punish the Bruins for any perceived slights this season, but that possibility exists until the 60 minutes are up.
I expect a good game. When teams like Buffalo get eliminated you assume theyre throwing in the towel, but the one thing they can do in that last game is leave with a win. Thats as positive as it can get right now, said Claude Julien. They always play us well and strong, and I expect it to be a good game.
Youve got to give that coaching staff and that management plenty of credit. Theyre classy enough to keep from sending messages and going after a team simply because theyre out of the playoffs.
But the underlyinglack of focus on the Buffalo game comes freely for one particular reason: The Bruins have bigger fish to fry while waiting to learn their first round playoff opponent. Its between Washington and Ottawa with one final game for everybody on Saturday to decide their ultimate fate within the postseason.
Its a strange hockey limbo for the Bs players waiting to see who theyll be bringing on the hate against. For most players anyway: Rich Peverley said he could use another regular season tilt to fine tune his timing and readiness when the bodies start flying during the playoffs.
I havent been nearly as good as I can be. Maybe some other guys are getting anxious for the playoffs because it was a tough March for a lot of guys, said Peverley. But for me I can simply be much better.But most of the B's roster is battle-hardened and as ready as they're ever going to be for the playoffs -- they're like high school seniors just counting down the regular schooldays until graduation comes.
If the Senators take a single point from their game with New Jersey on Saturday afternoon then they lock up the No. 7 spot and a playoff date with the Bruins. That would be music to the ears of everybody around the Black and Gold.
If the Senators lose and the Capitals win then the Bruins will host Washington next week in the first round of the playoffs.
Its as simple as that with the Bruins hoping for the Senators after taking five-out-of-six against Ottawa this season including a snoozer of a hockey game Thursday night that ended in Boston victorywithout Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron dressing against the Senators.
The end of the regular season is so close and the Bruins have accomplished everything theyre going to prior to the playoffs, so Bostons players simply want to get on with the postseason. Of course the leaders within the Bruins dressing roomare staying on message, and talking about worrying about their executing their own game plan against whoever they play.
Were going to go out and play hard. Thats the most important thing for us: staying sharp and getting ready for Day one, said Brian Rolston. Were all excited to start the playoffs, but were also all excited about the way things are going."
But the quote was said with the robotic delivery and monotone voice of hockey players waiting for the best part of their seasons to begin. Make no mistake about it, the Bruins are scoreboard watching while waiting to see who shows up to play at the Garden Thursday night. The Bruins managed to pile up 100 points during the regular season and finish No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, but the entire regular season campaign has felt like a giant preamble to the Stanley Cup playoffs that awaits them next week.
In the playoffs you have to expect the unexpected. It doesnt matter what team youre playing against: whether its seventh or eighth place it doesnt matter, said Brad Marchand. You have to put your best foot forward.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas will all be back in the lineup against the Sabres for the Saturday afternoon finale, and it will be the Boston rosters final chance to get in some game action prior to the anticipated April 12 postseason opening for the Bostons home playoff games.
There are still plenty of chances for Boston to put their best foot forward, but it will be a whole lot easieronce they know who they'll be stepping on.