How intense will the round-robin games be? The Bruins have some ideas

Joe Haggerty
NBC Sports Boston

So exactly how intensely are the Bruins going to come out for Sunday's round-robin opener against the Philadelphia Flyers?

One would certainly hope there's a heightened level of Bruins intensity and urgency from what they showed in a thoroughly unimpressive 4-1 exhibition loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week. But it still might not quite reach the level of the hard-hitting, nasty qualifying round opener between the Rangers and Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon that featured a fight in the opening minutes and punishing hits all over the ice.

It will certainly look, feel and entertain like only postseason hockey can, but it may be a bit of a ramping up period through the round-robin games against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals over the next week. There's no shame in admitting just that with nothing do-or-die about the round robin.

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"You can't hide the fact that a team could lose all three of these [round-robin] games and still be in the playoffs. That's a fact. My guess is that it wouldn't be as intense as a play-in game because there isn't as much at stake. There's still a lot [at stake] because it's about getting your game in order and ramping up to play playoff hockey and seeding, but that would just be a guess," said Bruce Cassidy. "I expect our guys to play a lot harder than they did against Columbus on Thursday night. To what degree Philly will do that, I can't tell you. But I expect us to be a lot more competitive than we were the other night.

"To think that a team can get to their highest level in this short of a period of time is wishful thinking. It's going to be a fluid process and maybe you start to ramp up as you go through all these round-robin games. We'll see [this afternoon]."

The Bruins will do some things differently than they might during actual do-or-die playoff games, including getting a start for backup Jaroslav Halak at some point over the next three games to make certain he has game action under his belt headed into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As it turns out that will be Sunday against the Flyers with Tuukka Rask not quite ready to play.

And it will be human nature to ease into the round-robin games knowing that their playoff lives aren't on the line for at least another week of postseason action. Still, the Bruins players expected Sunday afternoon to be a fast and intense affair while playing their first actual game that counts for the first time in five months.

"All we can control is our room and what we expect from these games, and that is to play hard every shift," said Charlie McAvoy. "I know these games are not only incredibly important for finding our stride, but they are also meaningful to put ourselves in the best position possible.

"These are going to be hard-fought points in these games. We're not expecting these games to be played like they don't matter as much as the [qualifying round] games because they do. They will be played as such."

It may not play out this way on Sunday against the Flyers, but the remaining two round-robin games next week against the Lightning and Capitals will be particularly fascinating for the Black and Gold. The Lightning have been Boston's biggest divisional rival and impediment in the last few seasons, and the Capitals have owned the B's for the better part of a decade.

Both the Lightning and the Capitals stand right now as the biggest roadblocks between the Bruins and getting back to the Stanley Cup Final as they did a little over a year ago.

There will be question marks as to whether any kind of statements will be made from either side in those games between the top-3 Eastern Conference teams just a few weeks before they might be meeting in a playoff series with so much more on the line. Nobody will really know until the puck is dropped on Sunday and the B's and Flyers finally get going, however, so many eyes will be watching on NBC Sports on Sunday afternoon to see just that.

How intense will the round-robin games be? The Bruins have some ideas originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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