The Boston Bruins officially know their playoff opponent. They will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Pesky star Brad Marchand managed to reach the 100-point mark — the first player in a Boston uniform to do that since Joe Thornton in the 2002-03 campaign — during his team’s 6-2 drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, so that item is off the collective to-do list.
Now the Bruins (48-23-9, 105 points), who have clinched second place in the Atlantic Division, have one task at hand: getting ready for the second season.
Thursday’s road clash at the Minnesota Wild the next tuneup, combining with an opportunity to rest some key veteran players such as Patrice Bergeron.
The Bruins beat the Leafs in a seven-game opening-round series last year, and they believe their performance against Columbus, which snapped a two-game losing skid, is proof they’re pretty much ready to go.
“We’re a good hockey club,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We don’t usually lose a lot of games in a row, and we kind of try to take care of the business at hand and correct the things of why we lost.”
Minnesota (37-34-9, 83 points) was officially eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday, even while beating the Winnipeg Jets 5-1, ending the franchise’s run of six consecutive playoff trips.
“If you miss it, you just get madder next year,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “And you know what it feels like and that you don’t want that feeling again.”
The Wild were in faint-hope territory, but things were positive when they were dominating the Jets and saw the Edmonton Oilers ahead of the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 early in that affair.
“And then next thing you look up it’s 4-2 (for Colorado), which is kind of demoralizing,” Wild forward Zach Parise said.
Colorado’s 6-2 victory sealed Minnesota’s fate on a night the Wild may have played their best game of the season, sweeping the five-game season series from the Jets.
“Too little, too late in the season in general,” forward Marcus Foligno said. “We had a lot of chances at home to play like this, and it catches up to you obviously. It’s such a hard league, and you never want your fate to be in someone else’s hands or some other team’s hands.”
Minnesota ends the season at Dallas on Saturday.
So, with both teams knowing what they’ll be doing beyond their regular-season finales, one of the few storylines is whether Marchand can add to his 100-point season.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” said Cassidy, who was an assistant coach in Providence when Marchand was in the minors before making it to the NHL. “He takes a lot of pride now knowing how good he can be offensively. When he’s on the ice, he’s deadly.”
“It’s a pretty good feeling, but I think it just shows how good of a team we have, the success that we’ve had as a group the whole year,” Marchand said. “It’s a cool personal stat, but at the end of the day — I’ve said this before — it all goes towards the same goal, which is getting to the playoffs, and we’re right there.”
Boston, which summoned Trent Frederic and Zach Senyshyn from the minors on Wednesday, will play host to the regular-season-champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday to finish the regular season, a possible second-round playoff preview.
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