Certainly, a team would hope things went better after losing three straight games.
The Boston Bruins are no exception, but they also don’t appear overly put off by how they fared in the last three contests.
Boston’s round-robin slate concluded Sunday with a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. As a result, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team will be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round.
After Sunday’s game, players who spoke willingly acknowledged there were plenty of things that needed to be better. But at the same time, they downplayed what the last week means to their playoff hopes.
“It’s definitely nice to go into the playoffs. You just start preparing for (one) team,” second-line center David Krejci said on a Zoom press conference. “This round-robin, obviously, it was kind of like playoff hockey but it’s not that same. It wasn’t best-of-seven, it’s just not the same. So I’m looking forward to the first round.”
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask shared a similar sentiment.
“These first round-robin games or whatever they were, you just kind of try to shake the rust off and get your team game in a place you want it to be,” the goalie said. “I think we’ve kind of improved over these three games, obviously we worked very hard for our goals, we just seemed not to get rewarded. I’m sure that’s going to come if we keep plugging away. But I think it doesn’t matter what seed you’re in, you’ve got to beat every team anyways if you want to advance, so I think we’re gonna feel good.”
Then, Rask added this.
“So it’s over now, and we start real hockey.”
Here are some other notes from Sunday’s Bruins-Capitals game:
— Jake DeBrusk wasn’t letting the goal he scored in the third period cause him to alter how he viewed his play Sunday.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t feel good about my game,” DeBrusk started. “It’s one of those things where it’s kind of hard to judge. For me, it’s battles and winning board battles as well, so I didn’t really love it. I’ve been kind of moved around, I guess, and just trying to feel more comfortable with each game.”
It’s been tough sledding for DeBrusk, who has bounced around the middle six since the NHL restart training camp. Of course, some of that is his own doing, as he’s struggled to get going.
It’s worth noting though that the second line — which featured DeBrusk, Krejci and Ondrej Kase — looked better Sunday than any of the previous three games since arriving in Toronto, so maybe that will be a way to give DeBrusk the nudge he needs.
— Connor Clifton saw his first game action since arriving in Toronto, and he handled it well.
Cassidy gave Matt Grzelcyk a “maintenance game,” in large part so that Clifton could get into a game — much like other spare guys John Moore, Par Lindholm and Karson Kuhlman had been able to do.
Clifton delivered a performance you’d expect from him, playing agitator by getting under the skin of Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, while also freely joining the rush. Ultimately, he logged 15:39 ice time.
“Yeah I felt pretty good. Obviously wasn’t expecting it to be perfect,” Clifton said. “I wanted to play physical and bring some energy and compete on pucks, that’s what I was worried about.”
— Before the game Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said the fourth line had been one of the team’s best units during the round-robin.
That wasn’t so against the Caps.
Joakim Nordstrom (7:27), Chris Wagner (7:37), and Sean Kuraly (8:01) had a team-low in ice-time, and in the limited time they skated, they had their share of trouble. Two of their 11 shifts started in the defensive zone (the rest were on the fly), and both Nordstrom and Kuraly were on the ice for each Washington goal.
In the 5:01 the trio actually was on the ice together, they had a Corsi For of four and Corsi Against of six.
“Not a lot of puck possession in the O-zone to get them some life. When they did, it sort of ended quick,” Cassidy said. “Sean wasn’t great in the face-off circle. They’re starting without the puck and they’re typically out there against good players. That probably had a little something to do with it.”