Bruins ready to turn their attention toward Toronto
After Sunday’s disappointing ending to an exciting year, the Bruins are ready to erase what occurred in the 2017-18 regular season and shift their attention to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins were left licking their wounds Sunday night thanks to their lackluster 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. Instead of clinching the top seed and facing the New Jersey Devils in Round 1, the Bruins have a much more difficult opponent ahead come Thursday night.
With the sting of their missed opportunity still fresh, the new immediate focus was on getting better and getting ready for a young and talented Maple Leafs squad.
The Bruins will spend the next two days preparing for the Leafs before Thursday’s Game 1 at TD Garden. Just minutes after Sunday’s disappointing loss, head coach Bruce Cassidy already had his plan in place for the three days between their regular season finale and playoff opener.
“Well, they need to rest, first of all, both mentally and physically. We’ll see what we’re going to do on the ice Tuesday. I think Wednesday needs to be a good, crisp, address areas of concern,” Cassidy said. “But, again, some of it, I think, it’s not a switch, but some of it is the guys understanding where we’re getting beat and starting.”
Allowing the game’s first goal was the Bruins biggest on-ice issue this season. The Bruins were a respectable 21-18-6 when allowing the first goal of the game, but a very impressive 29-2-6 when scoring first. The Bruins will look to “start on time” and make things even more difficult for the Maple Leafs by scoring the all-important first goal.
“It’s not ideal by any means [giving up the first goal]. I don’t know what the stat is, but we’ve given up a lot of first goals in games and I don’t know what we need; if we need to set alarms earlier or what. But if we start on time and we score the first goal, it’s tough to beat us, really tough to beat us,” forward David Backes said.
“At the same time, giving up the first goal hasn’t meant death for us either. We’ve been able to collect ourselves and get to our game. But in the playoffs where goals are at a premium and it’s that much tougher, guys are committed to defense and blocking shots.”
Although they’re filled with youth, Toronto plays like a team with grizzled veterans from top to bottom. The Maple Leafs tied the Metro Division winning Washington Capitals for third in the East with 105 points. They have no issues lighting the lamp, scoring 3.29 goals per game, fourth best in all of the National Hockey League.
“A very tough team,” Brad Marchand said about the Bruins’ rivals from up north.
“They play very fast, a lot of skilled players, very high tempo and they never quit. You watch the way they play all year, they battle last second and they’ve won a lot of games in the last minute, so they’re competitive and they don’t shy away from anything, so it’s going to be a good series. They’re one of the toughest teams that I think we’ve played against all year and it will be a good battle.”
The Bruins and Maple Leafs have had some good battles this season, with Toronto taking three-of-four from Boston. The Maple Leafs’ speed has given the Bruins some trouble in the past.
Both the Bruins and Maple Leafs made a return to the playoffs last season, where they were bounced after six games. Cassidy is excited about the matchup of two Original Six teams and knows that last season’s short playoff runs was a lesson learned for both teams.
“I’m looking forward to it, two Original Six teams. They’re young. We feel – they’ve got some veteran guys – [Patrick] Marleau, [James] van Riemsdyk, certain guys that they expect to lean on. [Nazem] Kadri’s kind of in between,” Cassidy stated. “We have some younger guys; we have some guys we’re going to lean on. We both exited in the first round last year, probably learned some lessons. They’ve got a great coach that I’ve always looked up to and tried to learn from.”
The Bruins won’t be entering the playoffs as hot as they would have liked. With losses in four of their last five and five of their last ten, a tough March schedule and a handful of injuries finally caught up to them. The Bruins will benefit from a few days of rest. The Black and Gold also should benefit from injured players returning from injury.
Rick Nash and Sean Kuraly skated multiple times over the weekend, while Riley Nash returned to the ice Monday morning, marking his first time on the ice since taking a puck to the side of the head on March 31st. Rick Nash and Kuraly joined the team for practice on Tuesday while Riley Nash did not lace up the skates.
Meeting the media at Warrior Ice Arena Monday afternoon, general manager Don Sweeney sounded confident that some of, if not all three would be back in the lineup in Game 1 Thursday night.
“Well, they’re all working that way. You know, we’ve got a couple days to practice and see where they all, kind of, get to,” Sweeney said. “Hopefully they’ll all be available. Well, we know Brandon [Carlo] is not.”
Whether you’ve been there or you haven’t, everyone inside the Bruins dressing room knows how different the playoffs are compared to the regular season.
“Yeah, intensity and physicality goes up obviously. Every play kind of matters and mistakes play a big role,” goalie Tuukka Rask noted. “If you make a mistake, most likely you’re going to pay for it. I think the intensity level and the speed is the biggest difference.”
Mistakes will be made throughout the series. The Bruins hope their mistakes are minimal and their intensity level is high. Those are two of many ingredients that will be a recipe for playoff success.