The Bruins are already in, the Senators with one more point in their last three games will make the playoffs as well. So what’s the big deal?
Avoiding President’s Trophy winner Washington in the first round is the big deal. With 116 points, the Capitals have run away with the often star-crossed prize. But even though they are playing out the string until the playoffs begin, Washington has won 9 of its last 10 games and so seem like they’ve already clicked into their playoff gear.
For Boston and Ottawa to avoid the Caps in the first round, they must finish ahead of the second wild card team, which almost certainly will be Toronto. Should they manage that, they will oppose each other in the first round, since the no. 2 and 3 teams in each division must meet.
So the second thing they’re fighting for besides staying ahead of the Leafs is to finish ahead of each other, to capture home ice in a best-of-seven matchup.
The Bruins have actually been slightly more successful on the road than at TD Garden. But the Senators have lost just 11 times at home this year, so home ice is clearly an advantage for them.
Boston will be without Brad Marchand, the league’s second-leading goal scorer for their remaining two games, because of his two-game suspension handed down earlier today. And Ottawa has another advantage — they’ve still got three games to play.
Minus Marchand, the Bruins will be missing the league’s most versatile scorer. He’s among the top 10 in the league in a staggering 22 different categories, including the leadership in goals scored within the goal mouth (20), from the side of the crease (7), on the backhand (10), while on a delayed penalty (3), into an empty net (4), and finally, unassisted (7).
Mike Hoffman of the Senators has a chance to track down Aretemi Panarin for the league lead in one-timers, trailing 14-13. He also can match Sidney Crosby as the league’s premier sharpshooter, trailing him 5-4, as do three other players. The Bruins had best attend to players in front of their net, as both Hoffman and Kyle Turris share the league lead with Ryan Ellis and Brent Burns for most goals scored through screens (10).