Bruins reveal their main focus before playoffs as standings become non-factor originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
BOSTON -- It would be easy for the Bruins to coast through the remaining 20 games of the regular season.
The Bruins extended their win streak to 10 by beating an improved New York Rangers squad 4-2 at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon. Boston has an absurd 19-point lead for first place in the Atlantic Division and a 15-point advantage over the Carolina Hurricanes for the Presidents' Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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With the standings basically a non-factor at this point, what's the challenge for this team over the final six weeks of the regular season?
"It's fine-tuning our game, and getting better at what we think we have to get better at, because there are areas of our game that have to improve in order to be better in the playoffs," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after his team defeated the Rangers. "You can get away with a lot of turnovers, you can get away with giving up odd-man rushes when you're playing non-playoff teams, but when you're playing playoff teams, you can't get away with that."
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What are some of the areas the Bruins could improve before the first round of the postseason?
The power play, and the first unit in particular, could definitely be better. The Bruins were 0-of-3 with the man advantage versus the Rangers. They were 0-of-5 against the Edmonton Oilers last week. The B's have scored just three goals on their last 18 power-play opportunities. That's a success rate of 16.6 percent. The Montreal Canadiens rank 30th on the power play for the whole season at 16.5 percent.
"That's going to be put in a think-tank blender because we have to get better," Montgomery said of potentially tinkering with his first power-play unit. "We're not creating enough scoring chances. That's something we're going to look at."
The Bruins' lineup, due to injuries and the new players who have entered the mix, also is in flux. Montgomery needs to figure out which lines and pairings work well and generate the best chemistry.
Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno are on LTIR and IR, respectively, and it's unknown exactly when they will be back. Three new players were acquired before the trade deadline in defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forwards Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi. Orlov has played on every pairing and with several different partners through his first five games. Orlov and Charlie McAvoy dominated the Rangers and helped limit New York's star trio of Mika Zibanejad, Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane to zero goals and just two shots combined. Will the B's keep that Orlov-McAvoy duo intact?
So whether it's the power play, maintaining good habits, lineup configurations, etc. -- there are still plenty of things for the Bruins to focus on over the next month, even if their place in the standings is pretty much secure.
It's great to go into the playoffs as the top seed. But if you enter that four-round gauntlet not playing well and lacking the required sharpness needed to execute at a high level, trouble can arise in a hurry. The Bruins are going to play a quality opponent in Round 1. There will be no easy matchups in the East, especially after many of the conference's top contenders upgraded with moves made before the trade deadline.
"There's nothing to be taken for granted," Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark said. "You want to come into the playoffs feeling good about your game. You can't just lay down and expect things to happen. We know there are hard-working teams we're going to play against these last games as well, everyone wants to get into the playoffs. We want to be where we are right now and keep doing our thing."
Some of the league's cherished regular season records, such as the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens' 132 points, as well as the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings' and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning's 62 wins also are within the Bruins' sights.
Breaking these records is another thing the Bruins could draw motivation from before the regular season finale. But it's clear this group doesn't care about regular season achievements.
It's championship or bust.
"For us, it's the Stanley Cup," Ullmark said. "That's the only thing. Records are meant to be broken, but once you have the hardware, they can never be taken away from you."