No team that wants to be playing until June wants to peak in March and April.
But it doesn’t hurt to set a winning tone as the regular season comes to a close if you’re a club that has dreams of playing for the Stanley Cup. With the Boston Bruins excused from game action for the entirety of this week — and having wrapped up a playoff spot and division title over last week — a sort of line has been drawn between the rest of the regular season and the team’s last nine “tune-up” games.
Recent history, and the results of successful teams current Bruins players skated for, shows that finishing strong has been a boon. But it’s not important to play like world beaters.
Of the last three Cup winners, only Detroit dominated it’s last nine games — going 7-1-1 before its Cup run. Anaheim closed the ’07 season 5-2-2, while Carolina finished up ’06 at 4-3-2. The ’04 Calgary team — which four current Bruins player competed with — reached the finals and was one game shy of capturing Lord Stanley’s trophy, but went just 5-4-0 before the postseason got underway.
However, center Stephane Yelle think the Bruins need to finish the season off on a high note.
“I think it’s key. You have to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourself and feeling good about your team play,” he said after the Bruins practiced in Wilmington, Mass., this morning. “We have nine games. That gives us just enough games to get on track here.”
Yelle’s two Cup-winning teams — the ’96 and ’01 Colorado Avalanche clubs — finished up 6-3-0 and 5-3-1, respectively. Defenseman Steve Montador was a teammate of Yelle’s on that nearly victorious Calgary team. He stressed that the Bruins have to go into the playoffs with the right mindset and realize that it won’t be easy to just “flip a switch” if they’re slumping.
“It’s certainly not a switch you can turn on, having it off regular season, to playing great in the playoffs. … I think it’s important; we want to work for it,” he said. “I don’t think by any stretch that if you don’t play great the last part of the season (that means) you’re not going to have success. But obviously you want to get better every day and that’s the intention.”
The Bruins finish with nine games in 16 days, including five on the road. And their five-point lead on New Jersey for No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and their three-team race with San Jose and Detroit for the President’s Trophy should be enough to keep them motivated until all the chips are on the table after the April 12 season finale at the New York Islanders.