BOSTON – The Boston Bruins could have clinched the division with a win against the Ottawa Senators in the last regular season game; instead the black and gold fell to the Sens and settled themselves in the fourth seeded spot.
“We tried,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s always a goal for us to finish as high as we can, we don’t take it lightly. We take a lot of pride in that, but at the same time we still have the home ice advantage of the first round. So, we got to get ready for the second part of the season.”
In the lone Original Six matchup of the opening round of the playoffs, the Bruins will face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
“It’s always fun, it’s two of the biggest hockey markets going at it,” said Shawn Thornton. “Maybe not as classic a rivalry as a Montreal-Boston, or Toronto-Montreal I guess, but I think whenever you have two original six teams going at it and they haven’t been in it for a while, so I know they’re going to be pretty jacked up, up there.”
This season, the Bruins have been largely successful winning three out of the four games that they have have played against the Leafs this season, including it’s most recent game against them, a 3-2 victory back in March.
The Bruins had started off the season very strong, losing only 12 games in the month of January, February, and March. As of late the Bruins offense and the rest of the team have contributed to having lost eight of their last 14 games in the month of April. A large part of the problem is the Bruins’ inability to get the puck to the net.
“It’s pretty simple,” said head coach Claude Julien. “You’ve got to get your nose a little dirtier, and you’ve got to have the confidence to shoot. Even just last night, we had five scoring chances off-net. If you don’t hit the net, you don’t score. We have to hit the net.”
Even though they failed to beat the Senators, plenty of good came out of the win. Despite the Bruins being notoriously bad on the power play, Rich Peverley got the offense that is ranked 26th in the league in the power play moving with a goal on the man advantage in the second period.
Also on the offensive side of things for the Bruins, Milan Lucic, who has had his struggles this season, looked much better on the ice during Sunday’s matchup. The Bruins’ bruiser started to put things together bringing the physical toughness and energy that had been lacking through much is his play this far.
Lucic got into a fight with Ottawa’s Chris Neil with a little less than three minutes to go in the first period. For the first time in quite a while, he brought the Garden crowd to its feet, cheering his name in unison. He topped off his performance with his 20th assist of the season 19 seconds into the final period. Lucic also had 17 minutes on ice, which has been the most he has had since the Bruins played the Buffalo Sabers on April 17.
The Bruins’ minds seemed to be focused on the upcoming playoffs, and moving past the loss. The Bruins are no stranger to the postseason, having won the cup only two years ago, but don’t expect them to rest on their laurels.
“Just because we accomplished something two years ago doesn’t mean it’s going to be automatic,” said Thornton. “We should have that anger and hunger that we haven’t been as good as we were, so I’m more focused on trying to prove it again.”
Awards and Recognition:
A few Bruins also received some hardware for the end of the season awards prior to the game against Ottawa. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron received the most awards, picking up the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy for his outstanding performance during home games at the Garden, the Eddie Shore Award for hustle and determination, and the second star award for the season.
Bruins forward Gregory Campbell received the John P. Bucyk Award for his work with charity. Tuukka Rask, who ranks third in the league in save percentage (.929) and first in the league in shutouts with five, received the first star of the season. Tyler Seguin received the third star of the season.