Thanks to a fantastic surge post-new year and a near-perfect February, the Bruins are in great position for the postseason; 2nd in the Atlantic, A near-100% chance of making the playoffs, less than 20 games left on their schedule, and the only real challenge now is keeping that 2nd place spot so that they can go to the dance with the Toronto Maple Leafs...and keeping their stars at 100%.
Naturally, in a season that’s been defined by how many injuries we’ve seen over the past few months, there’s always some doubt as to how healthy the team will be by April, and Bruce Cassidy spoke at practice on Monday about being quite interested on giving his name-brand talent some lighter work before the playoffs:
“I think it’s on us as a staff to use everybody so you don’t run into those problems in April because [Patrice Bergeron’s] played 20 minutes for three straight weeks,” said Cassidy. “Hopefully we can get them in a good place, healthy, playing the way they need to play going into April. That’s the goal. But we’ve got a tough schedule in front of us.”
To this end, he’s planning to streamline the practice schedule, or at least the amount of intensity in each practice to keep the strain down, as well as divvying out minutes a lot more evenly than he did previously.
But to the tough schedule comment, he isn’t wrong. March is one of the most packed months on the schedule for Boston, and interspersed between teams that have had nothing to play for since December (or decided to punt on the entire season at the Deadline), the B’s do have some nasty speed bumps coming for the rest of the way, namely in Winnipeg, The Islanders (kinda), Pittsburgh (also kinda) and Tampa...twice. All of them awkwardly jammed into the remnants of the season series between Detroit, Columbus, New Jersey, and Florida.
So, if the B’s are serious about trying to lighten the load, and could possibly be looking to drastically cut his stars’ TOI numbers, if not out-right make some healthy scratches for maintenance, are there some stretches where Boston could do this without seriously sacrificing points?
Yes, actually. A couple. Maybe they could start with...
The rest of this week! (Mar. 7th to Mar. 10th):
The annoying part of this is the weekend back-to-back in which Boston goes from taking on the very bad Senators to taking on the flawed-but-still-very-much-in-charge-of-Crosby Penguins, but the positives are that the B’s draw at least two teams with little chance of screwing things up for them long-term. Giving extended minutes to the depth lines here shouldn’t hurt too much. Especially since there’s the saturday/sunday split.
The very last week or two of the season (starting Mar. 27th to Apr. 6th):
Frankly, I’m way more interested in this stretch for what Bruce plans to do.
Immediately following their last away game in Tampa, Boston has a fairly light schedule of games to go through before their final meeting against the Lightning. A lot of this is predicated on Columbus going out in a blaze of glory, as it appears they have decided to go, so if they figure themselves out, that might end up being a pretty ugly game on accident, but otherwise there are games against:
- The Rangers, who are bad on purpose.
- The Red Wings, who are bad as part of a fun experiment on cap neglect.
- The Panthers again, whose goaltending kinda sucks and you should already have collected a point or two the Saturday before.
- The Wild, who decided to give up and punt on the season, and thanks to the West’s malaise, will probably fart their way into the playoffs and their inevitable first round demise.
Given the quality of competition here, there’s plenty of room for the B’s to start rolling back some ice-time for the stars since there’s a pretty good chance they’ll have locked up playoff position by at least this time. The stakes will be pretty low, as most of these teams will be focusing on draft day, or maybe the world championships, and this is especially important time-wise for at least one Bruin.
Because in this week or two, we are going towards the most dangerous time of the year to be Brandon Carlo, who has been injured near the end of nearly every season he’s been a regular in Boston. If nobody else, Carlo should absolutely never see the ice during any of these games and especially during the last week of the season. EVER. Call up Wiley Sherman or whatever.
Rest is important for these final few weeks of the season; you’re definitely not gonna get much of it once the playoffs start, so the B’s should be trying to maximize as much of it as they can before they have to put their season on the line. There is time. You can find it...it’s just all about finding the right spots in a pretty hectic final month to do it.