Following a two-year absence the Boston Bruins are headed back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The only thing left to determine is where they will finish in the standings and who they will end up playing in the first round. They could finish as high as second in the Atlantic Division and get home ice in the first round, or finish as low the second wild card spot and end up getting their opponent on Saturday, the Washington Capitals, in the first round.
Puck drop on Saturday is 3 p.m. ET and you can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream.
If the Bruins want to avoid the Capitals in round one (and they almost certainly would like to avoid that) a win on Saturday would accomplish that because it would give them a four-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs. At that point the Maple Leafs would only be able to tie Boston in the standings, while the Bruins would own the tiebreaker. That would lock Boston into a first-round matchup against either the Maple Leafs or Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins are starting to hit their stride at the right time of the season, owning an 18-9-1 record since Feb. 1 heading into Saturday’s game. They are currently riding a seven-game point streak (6-0-1).
After a miserable start to the season from a goal scoring perspective, it has actually been the Bruins offense that has been the driving force behind that late-season surge.
Brad Marchand, one of the players most responsible for that offensive spike, will not be in the lineup on Saturday afternoon as he serves the second game of his two-game suspension for spearing. It will cost him a chance at his first ever 40-goal season as he will end the regular season with 39 goals. With Marchand out, it will fall on David Patrnak and Patrice Bergeron to continue to help carry the load offensively.
The other issue for the Bruins on Saturday is that Torey Krug will also miss Saturday’s game as he is considered day-to-day with a lower body injury. Krug is by far the Bruins’ top-scoring defenseman with 51 points (eight goals, 43 assists) on the season. Zdeno Chara is second among the team’s defensemen with only 29 points on the season.
The Capitals, meanwhile, have already wrapped up everything there is to wrap up in the regular season, having clinched the Metropolitan Division, the top seed in the Eastern Conference and their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy (and third in the past eight years).
With nothing of consequence to play for this weekend, coach Barry Trotz had a simple message for his team on Friday: “Be on the plane, let’s make sure we play right and let’s finish strong.”
Finishing strong is already something the Capitals have been doing, carrying a 9-1-1 mark in their past 11 games into Saturday.
If the Capitals win their two games this weekend (against Boston on Saturday then on Sunday against the Florida Panthers) they will match their record and point total from a year ago.