Will Schneekloth/Icon SMI)
For the second year in a row, the Boston Bruins have clinched the Northeast division title. The Bruins secured the title after a tight 2-1 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
The win over the Rangers also guaranteed the Bruins the second seed in the East. As of Tuesday, the Bruins are positioned to face the Ottawa Senators in round one of the playoffs.
"We’re not playing for position in the conference, but we are playing for our own momentum and our confidence," goaltender Tim Thomas said to Bruins.com. "It’s good, but it’s not the banner we want. We want something else to go along with it."
Thomas, of course, is referring to the Stanley Cup Championship. While the Rangers sit atop the conference standings, the Bruins will be defending their championship title this post-season and are seen as one of the teams (if not the team) to beat in the East.
“I think this was a big win for us for a couple different reasons,” Thomas told Boston.com. “First, it allowed us to seal up that second spot. That’s off our mind. On top of that, playing against the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference this year, I don’t think we had great success with them earlier this year. We really wanted to come out with a win, just in case we get matched up with these guys in the playoffs.’’
The road to the post season hasn’t been easy for the club. The Bruins have had to deal with injuries to key players and have battled inconsistency over the months of February and March where the club went 14-14-2 over that stretch.
Consistency over the final stretch of games will bode well for the club entering the first round. The Bruins are 5-1 in their last six games, outscoring the opposition 20-12.
“It’s great to have it happen,” Julien also told Boston.com, “but there’s no celebration. We’re moving on. Our focus is not on that, more than it is on playing better as we move forward here. Playoffs is a whole other story. This is a nice accomplishment. At the same time, I think we’re expecting more of ourselves.’’
The Bruins will play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight, and will have two more games remaining on the regular season schedule.
Northeast Division Notes
Boston Bruins – Captain Zdeno Chara was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week ending April 1st. He recorded seven assists in four games. The club recalled goaltender Anton Khudobin from Providence (AHL) on Monday.
Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres will look for revenge as they host the Maple Leafs tonight; the Sabres dropped Saturday’s contest 4-3. Ryan Miller was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month. Marcus Foligno was named NHL Rookie of the Month. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. Mike Weber could be available for tonight’s game after missing Saturday’s game with an injury.
Montreal Canadiens – Star goaltender Carey Price may miss the final week of the season with headaches. The injury reportedly happened during practise last week. Injured forwards Travis Moen, Scott Gomez, and Mathieu Darche all practised with the Canadiens on Monday. Ryan White missed Monday’s practise with the flu.
Ottawa Senators – The Senators are at home tonight to face the Carolina Hurricanes. Erik Karlsson, a favourite for the Norris Trophy (top defenseman), has 19 goals, and 58 assists for 77 points in 78 games. Milan Michalek has hit the 60-point mark for the second time in his career. He has 35 goals and 25 assists in 74 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Back at it tonight, the Maple Leafs will look to close out the season series with another win over the Sabres in Buffalo. Joe Colborne was recalled from Toronto (AHL) in place of the injured Mikhail Grabovski (who’s considered day-to-day with a leg laceration). David Steckle’s status remains day-to-day also with a lower body injury. Both Grabovski and Steckle could return by week’s end for Saturday’s game against Montreal. Goaltender James Reimer is experiencing headaches and is unlikely to return this season.