By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12
With the Bruins’ 6-3 loss at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night, all eyes turn to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their matchup against the New York Islanders on Monday night. While the Bruins have officially held a playoff spot for a little over a week now, Boston is yet to secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs with the Leafs still looming a few points behind the Bruins in the playoff picture. Here’s how things currently stand in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as of Monday afternoon:
- p – Tampa Bay Lightning – 122 points
- x – Boston Bruins – 103 points
- Toronto Maple Leafs – 97 points
- x – Washington Capitals – 102 points
- x – New York Islanders – 99 points
- Pittsburgh Penguins – 97 points
- Columbus Blue Jackets – 94 points
- Carolina Hurricanes – 93 points
(x = clinched playoff spot; p = Presidents’ Trophy)
For what it’s worth, the Montreal Canadiens sit just outside the last wild card spot with 92 points of their own. Right now the Leafs, have a game in hand on the Bruins, with four remaining on their schedule before playing the Islanders on Monday night; the Bruins play their third-to-last game tomorrow night versus the Blue Jackets.
Had the Bruins won on Sunday night in Detroit, all that would have needed to happen for the Bruins to lock up home ice advantage in the first round would have been a Leafs’ loss to the Islanders in any fashion (regulation, overtime, or shootout). Now, for the Bruins to clinch home ice as soon as tomorrow night, the Leafs need to lose to the Islanders on Monday in any fashion, and the Bruins need to beat the Blue Jackets in any manner tomorrow night. However, if the Leafs simply lose in regulation to the Isles, then the Bruins have a little more wiggle room, meaning they can clinch home ice Tuesday night in Columbus either through a win, an overtime loss, or a shootout loss.
While what was an extremely disappointing and frustrating weekend on the ice for the Bruins certainly didn’t simplify the scenarios in which Boston can clinch home ice, the Bruins still have plenty of opportunities to do so in the final games of the regular season, considering the Leafs have a gauntlet of a schedule to close their season–games versus the rolling Islanders, the league-best Lightning, and matchups against the Habs and the Hurricanes, who are desperately fighting for playoff berths.
In any world, the Bruce Cassidy, Don Sweeney, and every playing member of the Bruins should absolutely want and crave home-ice advantage for any playoff matchup that comes their way; in this instance, the Bruins are in control of where their first-round series goes through–Boston or Toronto (a meeting with the Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is a foregone conclusion at this point in the season, barring any miracles for the Canadiens). TD Garden’s energy in the playoffs is unmatched, and the Bruins have shown in recent playoff appearances that they are able to use their home ice to their advantage, feeding off the raucous energy of the Garden faithful.