The sprint known as the 2013 NHL shortened season is nearly over.
The Bruins have just four games remaining — two at home, two on the road. And they have two against teams in a playoff fight and two that are skating toward their early offseason tee times.
Boston plays the first of those games against also-rans Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, who are one of the bigger disappointments in the NHL this season. Then comes another game against a lottery-bound team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then things will get difficult for the Bruins, both in terms of playing the games and making out a lineup card.
Just a week ago, it looked like the Washington Capitals would have the Southeast Division wrapped up and the Ottawa Senators would have a playoff berth clinched and just maybe playing for a better seed or maybe even home-ice heading into Sunday’s makeup game at TD Garden. Instead, both the Captials, who the Bruins visit Saturday, and the Senators are fighting for their lives.
Of course, there’s still a lot to be determined for the Bruins, who can finish as high as second and hold pole position against the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division title with the two teams tied in points but with Boston holding a game in hand.
Coach Claude Julien is just taking things day by day in terms of determining how hard to win some of these games.
“Your goal is to finish as high as you can,” Julien said. “At the same time, you want to rest your players. So again, I think a lot of this stuff, we’ll see as the schedule progresses. There’s not just us, there’s other teams playing. And wherever those teams will end up as far as wins and losses will help us make some decisions. Again, I can’t answer that right now at this moment because it depends on a lot of different things.”
We know that the Bruins will not have Nathan Horton against the Flyers because he was left home. Adam McQuaid could get back in after sitting out last Sunday. There are other players, like every season, dealing with different bumps and bruises. Milan Lucic would like to have at least one thing positive happen to him before he starts the playoffs. He played better Sunday after he sat out Saturday. There are other Bruins players that need to find their games too before the playoffs open.
“I think we need a strong push to end the season. We’re trying to build to find consistency throughout the lineup; every line bringing it every game,” Lucic said. “Because that’s what we had when we won a championship and we know how important that is going in, and feeling good about ourselves before the playoffs start here. As of right now, I think for ourselves we’re not too worried about the matchups of who we’re going to play. We’re more worried about our game and what we need to do to get it where it needs to be in order to have a successful playoffs. So, I think that’s the right mindset to have and we want to do everything we can to finish in that second spot and win the division.”