To the average late-season standings watcher, a Saturday afternoon tilt between the Bruins and Lightning at TD Garden didn’t mean much of anything.
The Bruins’ clinching of the Atlantic Division, which became official by way of their 2-1 victory, was a mere inevitability and had been for some time now. The Lightning, meanwhile, have been locked into a first-round showdown with the Maple Leafs for close to three months now thanks to this nonsensical playoff format, and their recent slide by all means locked them into the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic bracket.
So for these teams — one the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference kings and the other on a historic run and perhaps the greatest threat to Tampa’s crown — this was a game that was always and only going to be about statements and sent messages.
And it didn’t take long for the Bruins’ recently acquired message senders to answer the bell.