For the 13th time in franchise history, the Bruins will finish the regular season with the best record in the NHL. Saturday afternoon’s 4-1 victory over Buffalo at TD Garden (regular season finale at home) also clinched the franchise's second Presidents’ Trophy (1989-90 was the last time) since its inception in the 1986-87 season. Boston (54-18-9) is the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference and the trophy ensures that that they would have home ice if they reach the Stanley Cup Final against whatever opponent. It did come at a price though as Daniel Paille left early in the third period with what looked like a concussion (keep in mind that he had two earlier this season).
“The Presidents’ Trophy identifies a team who’s been good for the regular season,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “The other thing is it also guarantees home ice as long as you’re in the playoffs. So those are two things that we’re really proud of but that’s where it stops. The next step is we still have to do some work here in order to get the trophy that we all really want.”
The Sabres (21-51-9) are by far the worst team in the NHL so they predictably didn’t put up much of a fight as they were down 3-0 in the second period before they scored their lone goal. Boston’s first two goals were both at the end of the first period as Gregory Campbell tipped in a pass from Jordan Caron and David Krejci put in a rebound that bounced off the end boards following Zdeno Chara’s shot. Patrice Bergeron’s goal in the second period was a milestone for him-his 30th of the season (only the second time he’s done that before).
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Cody Hodgson’s backhander accounted for Buffalo’s only goal. Things started to go off the rails in the third as Paille got hurt on a hard hit by rookie Jake McCabe then Sabres rookie goaltender Matt Hackett left on a stretcher with what looked like a major knee injury. Bergeron didn’t return in the third period but Julien said it was “very minor.” Boston’s last goal was credited to Krejci when his shot bounced in off backup goaltender Connor Knapp’s skate.
Paille’s teammates were thinking about him and hoping that he’d be back soon.
“It’s tough, we feel for Paille but you have to stay sharp mentally while you’re still playing the game,” noted Torey Krug. “You want everyone available for the playoffs.”
Boston closes out the regular season on Sunday (3 p.m., NESN) in New Jersey against the Devils (34-29-18), who are missing out on the postseason as well.
What they'll be saying: Before the game, the Bruins handed out their annual end of the regular season awards: Brad Marchand won the Eddie Shore Award (exceptional hustle), Krejci earned the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy (outstanding performance during home games), Tuukka Rask received the John P. Bucyk Award (off-ice charitable events) and the Three Stars were Rask, Krejci and Bergeron.
Before Paille got hurt, this was the likely lineup that the Bruins will have in Game 1 (probably on Thursday vs. TBA) of the first round. One change would be Chris Kelly (back spasms) on the third line with Jordan Caron a healthy scratch. If Paille’s injury is as serious as it looked, that means that Boston will be stuck with Caron having to play at least for a few games.
Expect a preseason type lineup in New Jersey as the Bruins will want to rest their stars one final time before the postseason begins.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer on Twitter: @RichSlate