The Bruins stumbled down the stretch of the regular season, slogging through a 1-3-1 record in their final five games. And both Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney made it clear that they’re unsatisfied with the team’s effort entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Boston faces an opening-round series against the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs, which starts on Thursday at TD Garden. Speaking to reporters after the Bruins’ 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in the regular season finale, Cassidy bluntly addressed the Bruins’ clear need to improve upon their most recent stretch in order to get past their division rival.
In his typically candid style, Cassidy said he believes the issue with the Bruins right now is more psychological than physical. But while the head coach is disappointed that the Bruins didn’t play their best hockey with a chance to clinch home-ice in the Eastern Conference playoffs, he’s also confident those problems will be fixed by Thursday.
“I feel we’ll be a lot better [in Game 1 against Toronto] than we were tonight,” said Cassidy. “We better be, or we’re in big trouble. I just felt that, coming down the stretch here, you could start to see us mentally get tired. You know, physically, I think every team goes through it, the schedule. Every team has difficult parts of it, and at the end of the year, you’re a little heavy-legged, but mentally, looked like we were losing some of our passion, and that showed in the first period.
“We’re not going to allow one game to define us, yet we understand the meaning. We let one get away, an opportunity lost to have home-ice advantage, and we’ll see if that haunts us down the road. I think it’s too early to tell that right now.”
Sweeney wasn’t quite as frank about his concerns for the way the Bruins have played recently. He downplayed the small sample size of the past five games as compared to their “body of work” with their 50 regular season wins. But the GM also realizes that every remaining team is 0-0 right now, and that the Bruins have areas where they need to be better on Thursday than they have in recent days.
“It’s a successful regular season but now we’ll be judged on how we do going forward and hopefully the players will – it’s not about a reset, it’s really about tightening up what they do and the coaches will address some of the areas that probably haven’t been as tight as they would like to be going in,” Sweeney said on Monday. “You have to be playing your best hockey. You don’t win if you’re not playing your best hockey this time of year. Every team that is here deserves to be here and they want to win. If you’re not playing your best you’re not going to win.”
The Bruins went on a hot streak as recently as a 4-0-1 stretch from March 23-31. Cassidy and Sweeney know as well as anyone that they’re capable of getting back to that level of play, and they’ll certainly need to against the Leafs.