Bruins ready for Leafs, but not looking at it as playoff preview

File photo

Bruins ready for Leafs, but not looking at it as playoff preview

BRIGHTON, Mass – After struggling in a home-and-home series against the Maple Leafs a couple of months ago, the Bruins get another crack tonight at the team they’re most likely to meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“We know they are a fast team and they play hard with a good team structure, but I think it’s about us, how we have to play and how we have to go out there and execute,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who has had his share of challenges against the young, speedy Maple Leafs attack over the last couple of seasons. “Right now we’re playing the regular season, so we take care of the game tonight and then whatever happens three months from now then that’s what we’ll have to do then.”

Certainly, the Bruins might be able to catch the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning given that they’re just five points behind with two games in hand, but it sure feels like the Bruins and Leafs are going to be the second- and third-place teams in the division. That’s what happens when both teams, coming out of the NHL All-Star break, have at least a 15-point cushion on the rest of a humdrum pack in the division.

That would mean they would see each other in the first round and that the remaining 30-plus games this season will be about both teams vying for home ice in the first round. The Bruins weren’t going there knowing they still have 33 games to go and three games against Tampa Bay with a decent chance of overtaking them, but they were quick to admit some positive results would be ideal vs. a Toronto team that’s beaten them in each of their past seven meetings, including each of the past four B’s/Leafs games at TD Garden.

“I wouldn’t look at this game and say this is a preview for three months [down the line] because a lot of things can happen,” said Bruce Cassidy. “But the fact that they’re right besides, yes we want to stay ahead of them. I’m sure they want to catch us because we’re next in line for them. So in that regard, it’s important, and because of the fact that we haven’t had much success against them, it’s important.

“I think at some point you want to show you can beat any team in this league, and until we do it we’ve got to prove it. Those are the reasons why it becomes more important [as one game] than more so what might happen down the line.”  

No matter what the outcome of Saturday night’s game at TD Garden, the Bruins will have one more date with Toronto in their building on Feb. 24 while potentially send that lasting message prior to any theoretical playoff meetings.


Morning Skate: Poignant pregame moment in Florida from Luongo

USA TODAY Sports photo

Morning Skate: Poignant pregame moment in Florida from Luongo

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while the Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament has been turned upside down.

*Good on Roberto Luongo for this moving, powerful speech about the Parkland, Florida tragedy ahead of last night’s Florida Panthers game.

*Former Bruins goaltending farmhand Michael Hutchinson is looking for a change of scenery from the Winnipeg Jets.

*The tide seems to be turning when it comes to whether or not Erik Karlsson will be traded, and perhaps it will happen sooner than people think as the Senators are in a tough, tough spot.

*Interesting piece about the confidence and the work that has gone into Mathew Barzal being an NHL success story as a rookie.

*For something completely different: Quincy Jones is sorry, everybody, after his daughters had an “intervention” with him.


Haggerty: If Iginla returns to B's, it's because they struck out elsewhere

Haggerty: If Iginla returns to B's, it's because they struck out elsewhere

Future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla has been skating with the Providence Bruins this week as he thinks about an NHL comeback at 40. Iginla looked like he was pretty close to the end (just 14 goals in 80 games and a minus-30 rating) while playing for the Colorado Avalanche and L.A. Kings last season and it’s clear at this point he’s probably not even the player he was in his one-year stint with the Bruins in 2013-14.

The official word from Don Sweeney is that the Bruins are doing Iginla a solid by letting him work out with the P-Bruins this week and Iginla would need to sign with a team by Monday in order to be eligible for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Could Iginla be an option for the Bruins even though it doesn’t seem likely?

In a word, maybe...but it would only mean that Don Sweeney struck out on everything available going into the Monday afternoon trade deadline.

Michael Grabner is off the board after being traded from the New York Rangers to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a prospect and a second-round pick and that sets a pretty strong market for sellers in the rental winger market this weekend. Still, the Bruins are interested in Rick Nash, Thomas Vanek and Patrick Maroon at the top of their trade wish list, but realistically are probably only going to be willing to pay the price for Vanek or Maroon.

Rangers GM Jeff Gorton is looking for two prospects, including one “A” prospect, and a first-round pick in exchange for Nash, who is clearly the top hired gun on the winger market. Even beyond those names, there is Evander Kane and Mike Hoffman and a host of others that should be moved ahead of Monday afternoon.

There’s also this with Iginla: If the Bruins were a second round-and-out playoff team when Iginla was much closer to his prime four years ago, what would the 40-year-old really be able to bring them this time around? It would be something of a cool rallying cry for the playoffs to “Win One for Iggy”, but this is about players that can actually help the Bruins in this spring’s playoff run. With all due respect to Iginla, he ranks fairly low on that list right now but could be a “safety school” option for the Bruins if they come away empty-handed with trades.