A part of me likes the way the Bruins will have to earn a playoff spot this year. It is the type of hockey we all love to watch—fast and physical, playing every shift like it is the last.
To sum it up in their own words: playing every game like it is a Game Seven. And we all know how entertaining that can be.
Last season, for the last 10 games the Bruins were simply trying to stay healthy and stay fresh for the start of the playoffs. The final stretch was a mere tune-up for the postseason.
They were on cruise control. Hell, they were on cruise control from the beginning of February.
The 2009-10 season was a far different story. For all the ups and downs, the Bruins are surprisingly in good shape to qualify for the playoffs. They control their own fate and could feasibly rise as high as sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins will have some tough games to finish out the schedule as they have to travel to New Jersey next week and Washington twice in the final week. Aside from that, though, six of their last 10 are at home, with four of those six being against non-playoff teams.
Bruins fans have to like the chances of this team qualifying for the playoffs, but they may have a different outlook once the pairings for the first round are set.
Should they qualify, the Bruins will more than likely be up against the Capitals, Devils, or Penguins in the first round. Not the greatest of matchups for the black and gold, but each has its own little special perk to it.
The Bruins could knock out the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, the best goalie in NHL history in Martin Broduer, or the best player and perennial MVP candidate Alex Ovechkin.
I am getting ahead of myself. Regardless of seeding, matchups, or outcome, I think any true Bruins fan needs to look at the bigger picture this team has painted this year. They have the core players in place to be a contender for a long time, and they have a winning coach who knows how to get the best from every skater on the bench.
That aspect shined this year as Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci all missed significant time due to injuries. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas was far from his award-winning form and lost his starting job to youngster Tuukka Rask.
And let us not forget the longest losing streak in franchise history, at 10 games, back in January.
To even think this team could potentially be playing a playoff series in April is incredible. Everything was thrown at them this year, and while not always looking like the Bruins of old, they stuck together and are looking to finish strong.
For the team to be able to endure all this and still be in control of earning the chance to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup is a true measure of where this franchise stands. If the Bruins qualify for the playoffs, it would be the third consecutive season they have done so.
And the way the past decade has gone for hockey fans in Boston, that is a true blessing.