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Did clinching a playoff spot so early cause Bruins to relax too much?

"Adversity’s always good," asserted Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. "It makes you stronger as a team, individually as well."Paul Sancya/Associated Press

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — This 2022-23 Bruins team arrived suddenly, like a nor’easter, piling up wins and standings points with a frenzy even those with the longest memories couldn’t recall.

And yet the Blizzard of ‘23 could melt away in the span of a week this spring.

It will be talked about for decades in this region, how it gained a sudden jolt last summer and quickly became a full-fledged storm, how few in its path escaped damage. But what if the wrong winds blow and the atmosphere shifts, and it all fizzles out? A short stay in the postseason means this will be a memorable storm, but short of a truly life-changing event.


Nothing in the forecast the next five weeks will alter its path. This is a Category-X storm, as in, “X-Bruins.” They have clinched a playoff spot earlier than anyone else this year. They reached the 50-win mark faster than anyone ever.

So before puck drop against the Jets on Thursday, and after, they sounded realistic about their standing.

“We were dialed,” Charlie McAvoy said after a tidy, 3-0 win. “It’s so hard — if you don’t respect teams in this league, you get humbled. But there’s also the human nature aspect of it” — how many wins do they have, again? — “and back on the road for another one …

“The good teams are able to stop that,” added McAvoy, who blocked seven shots in 24:33. “That’s what our focus was today in video, in pregame skate. We know we’ve got to put our foot down tonight. We can’t let this go any further.”

Charlie McAvoy, battling for position with Winnipeg's Morgan Barron in the second period, knew the Bruins had to stop their skid Thursday night against the Jets.JOHN WOODS/Associated Press

Before that, they spent a plane ride from Chicago to Winnipeg discussing their lot. The coaches huddled. Later, Jim Montgomery met with the captains.

“I think we just had some honest communication yesterday,” Montgomery said before puck drop. “We addressed the group today and got a lot of feedback from them. Where are we at? What’s causing this malaise that seems to be permutating through what we’ve been going through? It’s been four games. It’s not just the last two.”


The feedback from the group: Once they clinched a playoff spot last Saturday against Detroit, they sagged.

“We’ve never been in this situation,” Montgomery said, relaying the players’ words. “[Eighteen] games left and we’ve clinched a playoff spot. It is human nature a little bit to take your foot off the gas pedal. That’s what’s happened to us. We’re trying to find the right message, all together, to put our foot back on the gas. We don’t want bad habits and details to creep into our game where then all of a sudden we lose confidence.”

They are still confident, he added.

“It’s realizing that we have to be in the moment, something we’ve done all year,” captain Patrice Bergeron said before puck drop. “Adversity’s always good. It makes you stronger as a team, individually as well. Results fall in place when you take care of your process and your details, and we’re maybe a little too result-oriented instead of staying present.”

Early in the season, as this winter storm became a monster, Montgomery got ahead of the eventual lull. He called other coaches who have been in similar situations: Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks opened the shortened 2013 season 24-0-6; Mike Babcock, whose 2005-06 Red Wings earned 124 points (58-16-8); and Scotty Bowman, whose late-’70s Canadiens averaged 129 points over a three-year period.


All of them offered a similar message.

“They said this would happen at some point,” Montgomery said. “There’s going to come a time where you’re going to have to address the malaise that’s come over our team. You understand it, but that’s a good time to get their attention back.”

Lauko impresses

Speedy rookie Jakub Lauko, playing his second game in the last four weeks, has brought a spark in both.

On Thursday, he played a team-low 6:29 — all at five on five — but no one was credited with more scoring chances (five, per Natural Stat Trick). He drew two of the team’s three penalties, both in his first 2:42 of ice time.

Lauko didn't see much ice time Thursday, but he made the most of his opportunity.Nick Wass/Associated Press

“A major thing,” Montgomery said. “He goes to hard areas. His first shift of the second, after we killed off a couple penalties, he had three scoring chances on that shift. It’s good energy.”

In his previous game, a March 2 rout of Buffalo, Lauko had his first career two-goal game, including the winner, and logged 11:53.

Forbort injured

With Derek Forbort hobbled by a shot block off the right leg, Connor Clifton seems like the obvious choice to return to the lineup Saturday in Minnesota. The mothballed Jakub Zboril could get a look Sunday in Buffalo … A.J. Greer was the scratch among forwards . . . The Bruins offered no update on Taylor Hall or Nick Foligno (knee injuries, both) . . . The Jets were missing rugged center Pierre-Luc Dubois (upper body) for the fifth game in a row, but top defenseman Josh Morrissey (lower body) returned after a two-game absence. Morrissey entered Thursday ranked second in the league in scoring by defensemen (15-52—67), behind the phenomenal Erik Karlsson (20-65—85).


Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him @mattyports.