After clinching a spot, the Boston Bruins hope to fine-tune their game for the playoffs

Fri, Mar 29, 2024
NHL News (AP)

After clinching a spot, the Boston Bruins hope to fine-tune their game for the playoffs

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - Kevin Shattenkirk arrived in Boston months after the Bruins lost in the first round of the playoffs as the Stanley Cup favorites following a record-setting season, and then he watched Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci skate off into retirement.

What he saw floored him. The standard of winning and professional culture he and his teammates were trying to build across the country in Anaheim was in place, even with Bergeron, Krejci and Zdeno Chara no longer around.

"It's very refreshing to see that groundwork has been laid," Shattenkirk said.

But the Bruins hope the best is yet to come. With eight games left in the regular season before they can avenge the disappointing defeat that came after setting NHL records for the most wins and most points, they've clinched a playoff spot and are now focused on fine-tuning their play for when that challenge comes next and hope they're better prepared this time around.

"With the adversity that we went through and the amount of changeover that we had and the players that we lost, I thought we did a great job coming together and accomplishing what we needed to to get to the playoffs," captain Brad Marchand said Friday. "It is a big deal, but once the playoffs start, it all starts again and there's much bigger things at stake."

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Internally, the expectation is the franchise's first championship since 2011, but the status of being the team to beat isn't there. Boston is 11-1 to win the Cup on FanDuel Sportsbook, the seventh-highest odds behind Florida, Colorado, Carolina, Edmonton, Dallas and the New York Rangers.

All that despite being just three points back of the Rangers for the best record in the league and the Presidents' Trophy - not the one anyone wants to win, but the home-ice advantage throughout the postseason that comes with it doesn't hurt.

Coach Jim Montgomery isn't expecting to rest Marchand, who's 35, or other top players because he doesn't think they're being taxed that much as is. Plus, there's a purpose to finishing strong before the playoffs start April 20.

"To be honest, we knew we were going to be in the playoffs for a while, probably since All-Star break," Montgomery said. "For us, it's more about battling for positioning right now and getting into the playoffs, most importantly, playing the right way."

There's a certain way the Bruins need to play, a structured way, that Montgomery believes when that happens, they can match up well with any opponent. That has wavered a bit with three losses in the past four games, though perhaps hitting a rough patch could pay dividends when the pressure rachets up in the playoffs.

"It's about preparing the same way each night," Marchand said. "Come playoff time, you can't just flip a switch. You need to be ready, and there's a lot of teams that are fighting for their lives right now and playing really well and if you don't have that same mindset, you can get caught off guard come playoff time. So, it's about making sure that each night you come prepared to play and you don't get complacent at all."

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STEPHEN WHYNO DC-based hockey writer covering NHL, Capitals and Commanders twitter mailto "
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