After a thrilling and unexpected shootout win over Washington on Sunday afternoon, the Bruins are riding some momentum heading into their first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They had a tumultuous regular season, but they still managed to secure the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, and they just so happen to be playing arguably their best hockey when they need it most.
The Bruins enjoyed a much needed day off on Monday, and then it was back to work on Tuesday morning, getting some quality time on the ice in before they face off in Buffalo against the Sabres on Thursday night.
Captain Zdeno Chara knows his team is ready to go, but he is also no stranger to the challenge that lies ahead.
"There is always room to improve, always things we can get better at," he said Tuesday. "I thought the last few weeks we really responded well, especially after the Olympic break. We had some games where we should've won, but that's the way it was. We find a way to win those important ones — that's where it counts."
The "important ones" Chara is speaking of begin on Thursday night. And while the Bruins look to have a solid chance against the higher-ranked Sabres based on regular season numbers, Buffalo is equipped with a world-class netminder in Ryan Miller and a division title to boot.
"They finished top of the Northeast Division here, so they deserve it," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. "We know it's going to be a tough fight, a tough battle till the end."
Nothing has come easily for the Bruins this season, and they'll be the first ones to tell you that. But the enthusiasm coming from the B's locker room on Tuesday morning and the loud excitement generated by the players' voices is an element that head coach Claude Julien said he hasn't heard often this season.
"I think everybody's excited about it. They're excited because we're there, where we wanted to be in the playoff pictures. At the same time, I think we feel good about the way we finished the season. I think our team got better and better towards the end and I think we played with a lot more energy, a lot more focus, and hopefully that serves us well going forward."
Experience in the playoffs is key, and with this year being the franchise's third straight appearance in the postseason, even the young players in the Bruins lineup have already been there, done that.
"We've been waiting 82 games for that and we found a way to get in and anything can happen," said Patrice Bergeron. "You know Buffalo is a great team — they have given us some trouble all year — but we just need to make sure we're ready for Game 1 and take it from there."
The series opener is Thursday night. Right now, it's a one-series season, playoff hockey at its finest. It will be yet another test for this Bruins team that has played with a playoff-style urgency in each of its last 10-plus games.