The Boston Bruins may have fallen short in their bid for the Presidents’ Trophy, but the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the franchise’s highest point total in 37 years should help ease that disappointment.
In their final tune-up before postseason play, the Bruins look to avoid back-to-back losses Sunday afternoon when they visit the league-worst New York Islanders.
Boston (52-19-10) headed into its final two regular-season games with a shot at its first Presidents’ Trophy since 1989-90, but Buffalo scored four first-period goals en route to a 6-1 home victory Saturday, ending any chance the Bruins had at finishing with the league’s best record.
“We didn’t have our heads into it,” coach Claude Julien said. “It would’ve been nice, but we’re not going to cry over spilled milk.”
More important than the results in Boston’s final two games is keeping its players healthy and in top condition with the playoffs just days away. Julien rested several regulars Saturday, including captain Zdeno Chara and starting goalie Tim Thomas. Phil Kessel, who leads the team with 33 goals, also didn’t play because of the flu.
Julien also didn’t rule out resting more players on Sunday with nothing at stake.
Thomas could be back in net Sunday looking to extend a personal five-game win streak during which he has a 1.78 goals-against average. He has won four straight starts against the Islanders (26-46-9), allowing one goal in each game.
The rest of the Bruins have also fared very well versus New York lately, winning all three meetings this season and limiting the Islanders to six total goals during five consecutive wins in the series.
With 114 points, Boston already has its highest total since the 1971-72 team had 119. That season resulted in the Bruins’ most recent Stanley Cup.
The Bruins will face arch-rival Montreal in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. Boston has lost to the Canadiens in the opening round in three straight postseason meetings.
This season is mercifully coming to a close for the Islanders, who will finish with the league’s worst record for the first time since 2000-01.
Since a 6-2-1 run from Feb. 28-March 15, New York has struggled to a 2-8-1 mark in its last 11 games. Included in that stretch was a 9-0 loss at Carolina on Tuesday and 6-1 defeat in Pittsburgh two days later.
The Islanders were more competitive in Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Philadelphia but still lost their third straight.
A weak offense has been the biggest problem for the Islanders, who could fail to have a 20-goal scorer for the first time in franchise history. Rookie Kyle Okposo leads the team with 18 goals.
New York also needs one goal in its final game to reach 200 for the season.
Assured of picking either first or second in the June draft, the Islanders are expected to land either star Canadian forward John Tavares or 6-foot-5 Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.
“There’s a lot of talk about these two players,” forward Sean Bergenheim said. “They’ll bring a lot to this team.”