Still Much to Play For Before Postseason
The Bruins aren't looking ahead just yet, as they battle for top of Northeast and No. 2 seed in the East
PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Bruins will be appearing in their sixth straight postseason this year.
But still, there is a lot to play for, with four games left in their regular season, the top spot in the Northeast Division up for grabs, along with the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, the Bruins face the Philadelphia Flyers for the third and final time this season, in what has always been a contested match-up between the two teams. Though, the Flyers are facing some foreign territory, having already been eliminated from the playoffs - something that hasn't happened around this town since 2006-07.
With Montreal also playing tonight, against the New Jersey Devils, a win by the B's would further solidify their first-place status atop of the division, with one game in hand on the Canadiens.
"It's always great when you're playing for something, especially so late in the season," said Bruins' veteran center Chris Kelly. "We want to be first in the division, second in the conference, kind of setting ourselves up for the postseason."
"We're just trying to control the games that we can play, obviously we want to try and win as many as we can," said Daniel Paille.
In every Bruins' game against Montreal this season, the two teams have been battling for the top of the Northeast, and once the season series ended, the same has been true.
"It's a situation where regardless of who it is, we want to win our division and get a chance at that second seed," said defenseman Adam McQuaid, who is a possibility to be back in the lineup tonight against the Flyers, after sitting out Sunday's game with a lower-body injury.
McQuaid was hesitant to say the B's are drawing too much on the rivalry with Montreal to give them motivation in the race for first in the division down the stretch, but admitted it'd be nice to be sitting above them.
"I think, if anything, it's been a back and forth battle all year," he said of Boston-Montreal. "It's been a good one, and it's one, at the end of the day, we'd like to win."
"I don't scoreboard watch too much because those are things I can't control," said Coach Julien, on if he'd be following the score of the Montreal game closely tonight.
"We'll play our game, certainly won't be worried about Montreal while we're playing. After the game, we'll look at the scoreboard like everybody else, but certainly not - we can't rely on other teams to do our job. All we have to do is do ours from here on in, and if we do ours we've got a chance to be in the team spot."
They may not have the capacity to follow along during the game, but heading into the match-up with Philly, the chance to stay ahead of Montreal still permeates through the group.
"It's obviously in the back of our minds, just trying to get that second seed," added McQuaid, on the other important position the B's are playing for. "But at the same time, making sure that we're playing well, that we're feeling good about ourselves. I think it's important to feel good about where your game is at as an individual and as a team, feel like we're doing the right things."
"We've been doing that lately, we've been doing the right things, we're playing the way we want to, we just have to continue to build on it."
The B's will look to build off their recent stretch of three games, after a tough week off the ice in Boston, and get into a rhythm through the next four games in six days, starting with Philly tonight, and moving on to Tampa Bay, Washington and Ottawa.
"We have a couple games to make up, so I think we definitely have to focus more on Washington and Ottawa, the last two games of the year and how difficult that will be," said Paille. "Philly and Tampa, obviously, the same situation with them. It's going to be a tough week, but it's going to be great heading into the postseason with the amount of games that we have, having the confidence going."
Flyers With Nothing to Lose
Philadelphia may be eliminated from the postseason, but they're coming off a 5-3 win over Carolina and have won three of their past four games, making them yet another team the B's have encountered down the final stretch that really has nothing to lose, and could only benefit from a strong end to the season.
"With them being eliminated from the playoffs right now, I think they're just looking to finish off the season well," said Paille. "For us, it's important to continue to do what we're doing well as of late. It's Philly, so it's always a challenge against them, they play hard, they play physical, so for us, we need to be motivated and ready."
"You look at their lineup and they still have a lot of really good players, especially a lot of skilled guys up front that can make you pay," added McQuaid, likely to be on the back end tonight, alongside Andrew Ference, as initial pairings in morning skate showed.
"I don't think we approach the game much different than any other, just making sure that we're playing hard on their guys and limiting their chances."
Vet Chris Kelly also knows how to keep his team on the right track against Philly and heading into the final four games.
"Well, we know they're a highly offensive team, if you let your guard down for even a minute, they're going to capitalize. They're not in the postseason, but those teams are often the most dangerous, the ones you need to be prepared for the most," he said.
"We're focusing on ourselves, we need to work on certain aspects of our game moving into the playoffs."
Kelly and the Bruins may have already clinched a spot in the postseason dance, but they're not looking ahead just yet.
"Playoffs are four games away, that's a long time away. We want to continue to get better as a team and feeling good about ourselves."