BOSTON — TD Garden workers, toward the end of a frantic day that saw two games — one basketball and one hockey — at the busy arena, worked tirelessly Sunday night on the Garden ice. There, just an hour after the Bruins wrapped up their regular season, the arena workers put down the giant “Stanley Cup Playoffs” decal on the ice.
It serves as a literal and figurative reminder of how quick things move on from the regular season to the playoffs. Just a little more than an hour earlier, the Bruins were getting booed off their home ice after dropping a 4-2 decision to Ottawa, and in the process, handing the division title to Montreal. As the siren sounded at the Garden, it was settled that the Bruins would play Toronto — not Ottawa or the New York Islanders — in the first round.
The Garden workers weren’t alone in turning the page in a heartbeat. The Bruins said that they wanted to win the division and lock up the No. 2 seed, but there was little talk of that in the dressing room after their latest setback. That’s probably because the Bruins are playing their worst hockey of the season at the worst possible time. The B’s limp into the playoffs riding a 2-4-2 record in their last eight games, and they look to be a far cry from the team that was setting franchise records with the hottest start to the season for any team not calling Chicago home.
So it should come as no surprise that the Bruins are eager to put the regular season behind them and get into the playoffs. Any Bruins player who didn’t utter the words “turn the page” or “it’s a new season” would be in the minority Sunday night.
One even used both clichés.
“It’s a new season, so you turn the page and get ready for the fun part of the year,” Shawn Thornton, no stranger to playoff hockey, said. “This is what we play the 48 games this year for to get to this position. Now the fun starts.”
“I think everybody is really looking forward to it, especially with how we have played in the last few weeks,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “We are ready to turn the page and start from zero. I think everybody is looking forward to it, and like everyone else, we haven’t played our best hockey in the past so we’re ready to start fresh and start strong.”
The players weren’t alone in that way of thinking, either. B’s head coach Claude Julien sounds as ready as anyone for the regular season to be in the rearview about to jump on the on-ramp for the playoffs.
“Well, that’s the biggest thing, you turn the page, it’s a brand new season and you’ve got to get excited about it,” Julien said. “That’s what I told the guys after the game, we just need to get excited about the opportunity that we have here and that’s what we plan on doing.”
OK, so it’s a new season. Where do the Bruins go from here, and how do they improve on what was, let’s face it, a very disappointing end to the season?
It’s going to start with the offense, as it has all season. Julien has said over and over and over again that the Bruins’ biggest issue has been the inability to bury chances when they present themselves. The B’s had chances aplenty Sunday night, outshooting Ottawa 36-22 but only having two goals to show for it. That led to the Bruins once again being victimized by a late goal, a back-breaking tally that very well might make the club’s run toward the Stanley Cup even more difficult.
“Obviously we’d like to score more goals, but we’ve just got to stay positive,” said David Krejci, who has just one goal in his last 12 games. “I think we’ve been doing some good things the last three games. We haven’t put the puck in the net too often, so as long as we’re getting chances, that’s a pretty good sign, so just take the positive things out of the last three games and move on.”
Boston has been trying to take positives out of losses for a few weeks now. It’s not a huge surprise, as that’s something you have to do in sports. But that only lasts so long. When the playoffs begin Wednesday against Toronto, the only thing that matters will be wins and losses. Simply “doing some good things” won’t be good enough.
The Bruins can use all of the clichés they want, but when the playoffs open, so does that new season. If they don’t get their act together on this second season quickly, it will end much like the first one did.