The panic level for Bruins fans entering this week’s playoff round after an admittedly limp performance in the round-robin games is bordering on the absurd.
There’s no doubting the B’s put pretty much zero import into the results during the three round-robin games against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals, but instead focused on two things:
A) Building their game over the two weeks leading into the real Stanley Cup Playoffs.
B) Staying healthy headed into the games that actually matter after watching Victor Hedman potentially go down with an injury for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins averaged a paltry 1.33 goals per game in the round robins and went a putrid 0-for-9 power play, and the Perfection Line managed just a single point between Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in the three round-robin games. But they accomplished the two main goals they had in round-robin games they comically viewed as “preseason games” rather than playoff games that count as such in the NHL record books.
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Brad Marchand said as much when asked about the round-robin games following Monday’s practice in the Toronto bubble.
“Collectively, we just have to improve with each game. With the way it was set up, it’s not like it was the playoffs and it was do-or-die. Obviously, each game [moving forward] means a lot more. The pride and the willingness to do the extra things that maybe we weren’t doing during preseason [will be there],” said Marchand.
“What we’ve gone through the last four games doesn’t mean anything. Those were preseason games. Let’s call it what it is, those [round robin] games were exhibition games for the playoffs. We were in the same position as other teams and it was hard to have the same mentality as a playoff series.”
Full disclosure, this humble hockey writer is getting a kick out of panicked fans going all Chicken Little about the Bruins pretty much sucking in the round robin. They may feel pretty silly once the President’s Trophy-winning B’s show up for the real playoffs starting Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.
The bottom line: Absolutely nobody is going to be talking about the round-robin results a couple of weeks from now in a scenario where seeding doesn’t even really matter.
The B's clearly didn’t care about the round-robin games and said as much publicly and privately as a veteran hockey club that knows they had nothing to prove aside from getting ready for what’s next. The Blues did the same thing in the West, so it’s pretty instructive the two teams that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last summer had absolutely no use for these glorified exhibition games.
Conversely, it makes sense that a team like the young, eager Flyers dominated the round robin. They have something to prove after getting back into the postseason this year, and their young, skilled group will ultimately be tested in the real playoff games.
Now the Bruins have a path in the Eastern Conference where they’ll face Carolina in the first round, potentially see the Flyers in the second round and might put off a difficult playoff series with Washington or Tampa until the Eastern Conference Finals based on being the No. 4 seed.
That’s actually as good as it could have worked out for the Black and Gold.
They stayed healthy, worked on what they needed to in practice and steadily improved their play as they went along. Their best performance was the Sunday loss to the Capitals in the round-robin finale where Braden Holtby stood on his head. That was their goal.
Getting mad about them treating round-robin games like the preseason is kind of missing the point when they’ve got much bigger fish to fry with a Stanley Cup window that’s quickly closing.
The other absurd fallacy is that a team like the Bruins can’t “flip a switch” and just turn it on once the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
How about just last season when the B's lost four of their last seven games, got whacked by the Lightning twice and the Perfection Line was playing awful hockey at the very end of the regular season?
Everybody assumed the Bruins were doomed to lose to the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs and instead they pushed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It certainly felt like they “flipped the switch” with a veteran group when it was put up or shut up time in the postseason, didn’t it?
The Bruins might even struggle a bit in the first period of Game 1 on Tuesday night as they acclimatize to the win-or-go-home intensity Carolina played with in the qualifying round series against the Rangers. There was no way to replicate that in the round robin.
But anybody who thinks the real Bruins aren’t going to show up in the real playoffs after coasting through the round robin hasn’t really watched how this proven, grizzled Bruins team operates over the last 10 years. It’s too bad because you’re missing a pretty good hockey team that’s got a full tank of gas headed into another Stanley Cup playoff run.