BOSTON, Ma. - On Sunday night, the Boston Bruins clinched the Northeast Division by knocking off the New York Rangers with a final score of 2-1. They have now won the division crown in four of the last five years.
The victory was also significant because they avoided the season sweep. Coming into the game, the Rangers had defeated the Bruins in the first three meetings. A victory on Sunday was crucial in building momentum heading into a potential Eastern Conference Finals match-up with that very same team.
With only one week remaining in the regular season, Boston has three games left on the table. Their schedule will not be an easy one as all three games will be against teams who are either in the playoffs or on the bubble. Boston will host Pittsburgh on Tuesday, travel to Ottawa on Thursday, followed by a home finale against Buffalo on Saturday.
The Bruins have clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference, meaning even if they lose out, they can finish no worse than second. With that being said, most teams would like to rest players during this stretch of games, but when you are playing teams who also have something to prove in the final week, it becomes difficult to be a pushover team.
Bruins’ head coach Claude Julien will have some decisions to make. Captain Zdeno Chara took a game off at this point last season. He has played in all but two games this season and has recorded eight points in the last five games. It might be hard to sit him.
There is some depth at the defenseman position for the Black and Gold. Joe Corvo and Mike Mottau are veteran guys who can be productive if called upon. Also, rookie blueliner Torey Krug is eligible to play in the final regular season games. He will most likely get some ice time with everything already locked up for Boston.
Up front, forwards Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly have played in every game for the Bruins so far this season. It would be in the best interest of the team if one, or both, of these players got a game off. The Bruins have the depth on their roster to rest any player that they wish. Knowing the competitive nature of the team, it might be a long shot.
As of Monday night, the Bruins have recalled goaltender Anton Khudobin from Providence. He will join the team for their morning skate on Tuesday morning and will be eligible to play in Tuesday night’s game against the Penguins.
Khudobin had 44 starts for the Providence Bruins this season, recording a 21-19-3 record with a 2.61 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.
He will likely receive up to two of the next three starts in goal since he will likely become the backup goaltender for at least the first round of the playoffs. This will give Tim Thomas a much-needed rest heading into the postseason.
Tuukka Rask, the backup netminder for Tim Thomas for much of the season, is progressing from his abdominal injury, but still has no timetable for his return. Marty Turco will not be eligible to play in the postseason because he joined the team after the trade deadline.
This should be an interesting final week of the season for the Bruins.