Through the next few weeks, the Boston Bruins won’t have many idle dates on their calendar.
Beginning with Thursday’s matchup against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, the Bruins will embark on a 16-game-in-27-day stretch.
With that in mind, Jim Montgomery will have a balancing act ahead. He wants to keep his team sharp during this record-breaking pace while also scheduling maintenance days for some of his battle-tested core players.
In the first instance of “load management”, the two elder Bruins, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, didn’t take to the Warrior Ice Arena sheet for Monday’s practice.
“Senior citizen discount,” Montgomery joked. “They get a free bowl of soup with the day off.”
Bergeron and Krejci won’t be the only Bruins slurping at the bit of taking whatever time off they can get. Brad Marchand, the other holdover from the 2011 Stanley Cup squad, will also likely receive some scheduled rest days.
Given the back-to-back weekends scheduled until the final week of the regular season, Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will continue altering starts barring injury. Dmitry Orlov’s hot start since arriving from Washington will continue to provide a healthy rotation for the back end.
While Montgomery likely won’t alter his top-six much, he’ll continue to supply unique looks with his four lines. He’ll likely begin the mixing and matching early next week when they hit the road again for a five-game trip.
“We’re starting to look into days off in communication with not only [Bergeron and Krejci], but other players who might have some aches and bruises about scheduling not only days off for them, but decrease the volume when they’re on the ice,” Montgomery said. “We’re probably not looking at starting at that this weekend, but that road trip.”
Frankly, the league-leading Bruins can afford such a luxury. Winners of 10 in a row, they entered Monday carrying a whopping 13-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes. They remain on pace to surpass the single-season league record for wins (62 set by the 2018-19 Lightning and 1995-96 Red Wings) and points (132 set by the legendary 1976-77 Canadiens).
The battle-tested group won’t need much adjusting to playoff hockey, no matter if they surpass the two records. But their distance between the rest of the pack — at this point of the season — marks relatively new territory.
No matter the case, the Bruins remain in the moment.
“I don’t think we change what our outlook has been,” Montgomery said. “We continue to talk about areas that we need to get better at…we can go 5-15, and probably finish first.”
The Bruins would end their season with 113 points if they went 5-15 in their last 20. While they’d likely remain atop the league leaderboard if they wound up mired in a year-end slump, they hardly want to enter that territory ahead of the postseason grind.
But even if they drop off a tad and wind up short of the record books, the Bruins don’t expect to embark on a steep decline. Instead, they’ll use this time to fine-tune whatever deficiencies that remain while managing their minutes over this busy stretch.
“It’s not going to go perfect, and we can’t win every game,” forward Charlie Coyle said. “We can’t look at the big picture. I know there’s a lot of hype and all that. Everyone is excited, which is a good thing, and we’ve played good hockey. But that doesn’t get you anywhere. So we want to be always in the moment. We always talk about that, no matter what we’re doing…It’s been fun, but we have a lot of work to do.”
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