Despite the tear the Bruins have been on since the trade deadline, their position in the standings hasn’t budged.
They’re still sitting in fourth place in the East Division after winning nine of their last 11. But with six games remaining, only 3 points separate them from the Washington Capitals for second place in the division.
Before Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy could think about whether to keep jockeying for playoff position or giving players a chance to rest before the postseason, he said he would focus on simply securing a spot. The Bruins can clinch with a win tomorrow against the Devils.
“We want to clinch first,” Cassidy said. “Hopefully, we take care of business tomorrow night, and then we’ll start addressing that.
“You always want to finish as well as you can, as high up in the standings as you can. But I think this year, more than any other year, I don’t know how much it’s going to matter. It just seems like you got four really good teams that sort of jockeyed all year.”
As it stands, the Bruins would start the playoffs on the road as the fourth seed against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They would have to travel in the second round as well. But if they could push past Washington over the final stretch, they could play at least one series with home-ice advantage.
With arenas still at limited capacity due to COVID protocols, it remains to be seen how much of an edge would come with home ice.
“I would think a little bit less,” Cassidy said. “You don’t have the same amount of fans. But I think if you ask every team, they’d rather have it simply for the comforts of home ... People talk about the COVID restrictions. You’re on the road, can’t really leave the hotel. You’re at home, you have a little more ability to move around. So that could be good for you mentally.
“But I think once the playoffs start, it’s not a bubble situation where you know you’re going in there for could be two months. You’re going on the road for two games, right? So you’re in and out and in three or four days. You’re there to focus on the task at hand anyway. So I don’t necessarily buy into that part of it. But I think just the comforts of playing [in] your own rink, sleeping in your own bed still matter. So I think if you asked our guys, they’d rather have it.”
Like any other season, Cassidy said, home ice will likely matter most in a Game 7 situation.
“Usually you want it for the game seven,” Cassidy said. “Earlier on in this series, teams don’t really care where they’re playing, but it is important for the last game. So that’s when it really comes into play, I think, more than any other time. So no different than any other year in that regard.”
A plan is in place
Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo will each play during the next two games once Cassidy gets the OK from the medical staff. Miller will likely play Monday and Carlo will return Tuesday.
“I’ve got to confirm that with the medical staff because they have a plan in place for both those players, what’s the best way for them to come out of it the best for Thursday,” Cassidy said. “So I will double-check on that, but they’ll each play a game and it won’t be the same night.” ... Tuukka Rask will be in net Monday … Chris Wagner skated Sunday and will be available for Monday’s game.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.