The final two regular season games for the Boston Bruins took place on Thursday night when they hosted the Ottawa Senators and Saturday afternoon when the Washington Capitals came to Boston. The Bruins, who clinched their playoff spot this past Tuesday, will end up playing one of these two teams in the first round of the playoffs.
They sit in the second Wild Card position going into the final day of the regular season. While the Bruins don’t play, they must wait and see what happens between the Toronto Maple Leafs as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday evening. If Toronto earns at least a point out of Sunday’s game then the Bruins will remain in the second Wild Card spot and will play the Washington Capitals in the first round—with the Capitals having home ice advantage. If the Maple Leafs fail to garner a point against the Blue Jackets, then the Bruins will move into the number three slot in the Atlantic Division by virtue of their tie-breaking ROW (Regulation or Overtime Wins) being higher than the Leafs. If that is the case, then the Bruins will travel to Ottawa for the first two games of the playoffs against the Senators.
Of the two games, the Senators game was closer—it wasn’t solved in regulation or overtime, having to go to the shootout. Both games though the Bruins were a bit lacking in their play, just somehow not having the energy that they have played with for the most part since interim coach Bruce Cassidy took over. The team was also without Brad Marchand, who had been suspended two games for his spearing of Jake Dotchin when the Bruins played the Lightning this past Tuesday. And unfortunately, due to injuries, the team found themselves reduced to just five defensemen for much of both games. During the game against Ottawa, it was Torey Krug who left the game and did not return. He’s been listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury and there was no major hit or play that could be pointed to as having caused the injury.
Saturday’s game against the Capitals the loss was rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo who was hit from behind by Alex Ovechkin during the first period. Carlo went down and it was clear he was hurt. The trainer came out to attend to him and then Carlo was assisted off the ice by a teammate. He and the trainer went down the tunnel and it was later announced that Carlo had an upper body injury and wouldn’t be back.
“I didn’t like it. I mean, I don’t think it was intentional, you know, to hit a guy from behind,” Cassidy told the media after the game. “It looks like [Ovechkin] held up but he still grabbed him and he was in a vulnerable spot and he went head first into the glass and generally there’s a call on that. Sometimes two, sometimes five, but to have no call at all I thought was wrong, incorrect. But I don’t think there was an intent to injure, the way I saw it.”
Also on the injury list for the Bruins on Saturday was Noel Acciari. This opened up a spot for Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson who recently signed his entry level contract after playing for two years with the Boston University Terriers.
When asked about playing in his first NHL game, the 20-year-old Stockholm, Sweden native agreed that it was different.
“It’s a little faster out there, and it’s nice to get out there and get the first game out of the way,” Forsbacka Karlsson said after the game. “I felt better and better as the game went on. It’s a lot faster. You have less time with the puck. Guys are stronger, faster.”
It’s never easy to decide to put a new player into an end-of-season game, whether the team is out of the playoffs, clinched the playoffs or still fighting for their spot. However, given the injuries the team had and the fact that they had clinched a spot, it certainly wasn’t a bad call to give him a game.
“It’s not ideal no matter when, coming in this time of year in meaningful games. There are teaching moments no matter what, but that’s kind of where we’re at and it’s a good thing,” Cassidy said. “But really the only thing we talked to him about was, ‘Listen, you’re playing against men. They’re going to be hard on pucks, hard around the pucks.’ I think he probably found that out today because, you know, he was positionally solid and he didn’t hurt us.”
In the end the loss of Saturday’s game was an overall lack of investment. They were playing the first-place team in the entire league and yet their passes were off and there were a lot of situations where they just didn’t seem to have it together.
The Bruins get a few days to rest, which is good news for those who have injuries right now. And Marchand has now served his two games and can get back into things with the team when they get back out on the ice for practice.
“We’ve done what we could through 82 games. You can’t change anything now. We’ll know who we’re playing by [Sunday] night and when we’re playing and we can move forward,” David Backes shared. “Whether you get those guys back [from injuries] … that’s part of the beautiful think about playoffs is you’re going to need extra bodies and when you get different guys filling in, they’ll need to bring their A-game. I think we know what kind of game benefits us when we’re playing it and if we can do that, giving ourselves a chance every night, taking it one at a time and again, they’ll tell us when we’re playing a new team, they’ll tell us when our season is over. But we’re going to play every game like it’s our last.”
“But we’re going to play every game like it’s our last.” — David Backes