BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are sternly sticking to playing them one game at a time right now, as the old cliché dictates for them.
But the B's are in a good place and are very clearly going to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third consecutive season, so they also have to hold the long view in mind for the postseason. So that means the Black and Gold have something to play for right now besides clinching their playoff spot, and that's securing home ice in at least the first round of the postseason.
It served them well last season when they hosted the Maple Leafs for Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs, and ended up running away with things in the third period of that decisive game after a pretty even series. With it again looking like the Leafs will be their first round opponent and plenty of TD Garden ghosts looming in Toronto's recent playoff past, the Bruins aren't going to play dumb and pretend like it doesn't matter.
"No matter who you're playing and no matter who your opponent is, you're always playing for [home ice]. You want to be as high of a position as you can be and right now [the second seed in the Atlantic] is what's there for us," said Patrice Bergeron. "There are 16 games left and that's the opportunity we have as we keep working and building toward the playoffs. The goal is to get home ice, obviously."
They know that home ice is important against the Leafs, even if it's just for once again hosting a Game 7 at TD Garden that's sure to give Toronto nightmares about both 2018 and 2013. They also know they won three of four at home in last spring's playoff series and haven't lost on home ice to the Leafs in the regular season since Nov. 11, 2017, so it's definitely something to play for.
"In general every night we're trying to win and we'd like to have home ice advantage simply because it's not called home ice disadvantage. That's why, right? There is an advantage, so we want it," said Bruce Cassidy. "It looks like Toronto, but who the heck knows what's going to happen. We've played them well here [at home], so that becomes even more of a factor. You want Game 7 at home.
"At the end of the day it's more about your own team playing the right way at the right time of year, so if we play really good hockey and Toronto passes us by playing even better hockey, then it's hard to get upset when you're playing well. We're playing well and so are they. At the end of the day it's about your team playing well, but yes we'd like to have [home ice advantage] in a nutshell. Are we going to throw everything out the window to get it? I don't think so. We need to be mindful of our health going into the playoffs as well."
Clearly top priority will be making sure their top players are rested and healthy for the long haul expected in the postseason, but make no mistake about it. The Bruins are putting a lot of importance on securing that second spot in the Atlantic Division, and making sure they have the home cooking they want if it again comes down to a Game 7.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.