Just a year ago, clinching a division title would be cause for three-day bender for more than a few of the more rowdy Bruins. But in year one after The Cup, it has become a ho-hum practice.
The Bruins clinched the Northeast division Sunday night with a much-needed win over Rangers at Madison Square Garden. More important than the division crown itself, however, was the fact that the B’s beat New York for the first time this season.
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference seem destined to meet at some point in a seven-game series this spring. After losing five straight to the boys in blue dating back to last season, the Bruins gained much needed confidence against their old, turned-new rivals.
“It was an important win for a number of reasons,” B’s netminder Tim Thomas told ESPN. “One of those was to show them we’re not a pushover team just in case we get matched up in the playoffs.”
The Bruins have little to play for the rest of the regular season, which wraps up Saturday at home against Buffalo.
It will be intriguing to see how head coach Claude Julien manages things tonight (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) as the Bruins face another potential playoff foe in Pittsburgh.
Gaining confidence against the Penguins would certainly be beneficial given that the Bruins are 1-2 against the Pens this season. Both losses have come in the past two months. The lone win for the B’s over Pittsburgh came on Dec. 5, a 3-1 victory.
Ottawa, which spent much of the season chasing the B’s for the Northeast crown, clinched a playoff berth Sunday and are likely to be slotted into the seventh seed in the East. That would set-up a first round matchup between the Senators and Bruins.
The NHL playoffs are set to begin on Wednesday, April 11.