UNIONDALE, NY With a playoff spot secured and a Northeast Division title imminent with Ottawas next loss, the Bruins can finally begin making primps and preparations for the upcoming playoff run.
Sure there remains one more statement game on Sunday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden between two Eastern Conference heavyweights looking to land one last roundhouse punch before a potential conference final match. Theres also one last trip to Ottawa against a Senators team that looks like theyre on a crash course to be Bostons first round foe.
But for all intents and purposes the Bruins can start resting players, easing their own minds about their regular season fate after some stressful moments and start making mental preparation for a postseason that appears it will be even more challenging than last year.
Were coming off a really long year, so to clinch now and be able to manage ice time and be able to manage your players a little better, said Claude Julien. But were also playing some teams down the stretch that we could be playing later on in the playoffs. There are a lot of things to think about. We need to think about how we want to handle it moving forward.
The Bs rest period started Saturday afternoon with Claude Julien opting for Marty Turco between the pipes against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, and Turco rewarded his coach with 19 saves and a second-straight win. The 36-year-old wasnt mind-blowingly stellar between the pipes the P.A. Parenteau shot that beat him high glove side comes to mind -- but he didnt have to be while providing Boston with an adequate goaltender not named Thomas.
Turco seemed to realize he was potentially playing his last game in a very short stint for the Bruins, but the performance on Long Island allowed him to go out on a winning note if thats the case.
The win feels good. That was huge, said Turco. The guys were very good in front of me tonight. They have the luxury of confidence this year. This game when it comes down to it with the parity around the league is attitude, confidence and commitment to each other every night. This team possesses all of that.
You can tell it from the outside, but you can really see it when youre a part of it and you hear the choice words that they have as the game continues. Its a good feeling. Whether they need a goal or they need to hold on to a lead, they have all the tools.
Playing Turco has allowed Thomas two key days off over the last week, and there may be more of that coming in the final four regular season games with Anton Khudobin likely to get his number called in Boston very soon.
With Rask just starting to get out on the ice next week, Khudobin is the backup if Tuukka runs into any issues during his groin rehab.
Likewise big minute players like Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will get a rest over the next 10 days, and Dennis Seidenberg is already enjoying one while sitting out with an infected cut on his left leg. Bergeron and Chris Kelly are the only two Bs players that have skated in all 78 games for the Bruins this season, and theres no need to make them play a full 82.
Theres also a pretty good chance everyone will also get to see the prized college free agent signed out of Michigan State, Torey Krug, now that the Bruins have all their postseason ducks in a row.
Essentially the Bruins are hitting the snooze button on the regular season, and setting things up for an anticipated long playoff run with everything close to clinched. One more win should secure them in the No. 2 spot as Florida has hit a rough patch in late March.
Things got a little hairy for Boston in the early days of the month when they were allowing six goals to each of the Florida teams.
But theyve stabilized over the last two weeks and Saturday was the first time in eight games theyve allowed more than three goals but the defense still only allowed 22 shots to the New York Islanders.
Its a far cry from the early Bs teams of the Claude Julien era which needed to hang in until the final couple of days of the regular season before getting their playoff ticket stamped. Now the challenge becomes convincing some of his heartiest players that a rest or two might do them before good before the playoffs begin.
We need to make sure were going in with a good attitude and the right frame of mind as we head into the playoffs, said Bergeron when asked if he needed a rest in the regular season. The more you keep playing the better you get. Its a good thing we clinched. Its why we play the 82 games, but we also want to keep playing hard.
Thats the kind of coaching challenge that Julien will take every day of the week, and twice on Stanley Cup Sunday.