Sens to rest goalie, Bruins leave stars at home
Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Forget the playoff preview for the Senators.
If anybody thought they were going to set the tone for a first-round playoff series by sending a message against the Boston Bruins in the regular-season finale at Scotiabank Place Thursday night, you can dispel that myth right now.
Not only is coach Paul MacLean going to give backup Ben Bishop the start, the Bruins aren’t even bringing big guns Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Senators killer Tim Thomas to what’s viewed as a meaningless game.
“It’s fine. Every team probably says the same thing: You want to have healthy and fresh bodies going into the playoffs,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “If that means guys rest, especially if it’s a road game, they will.
“It’s not a big surprise.”
Since the No. 7-ranked Senators are still being pursued by the eighth-place Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference playoff race, there were conspiracy theories among media types Wednesday that the second-seeded Bruins were the ones sending a message — that they want to ensure an opening-round matchup with Ottawa.
Wave the white towel and hand over the two points. If the Capitals lose or only earn one point, then all Ottawa needs is one more point to finish No. 7.
Chances of the Senators finishing eighth and facing the New York Rangers are slim.
The Senators don’t view the Bruins’ decision to sit their best forward, defenceman and goalie as a gift of victory.
“I don’t really care and I don’t really know (what the strategy is),” said centre Jason Spezza. “You don’t want to start trying to read into what they’re saying. If they want to play us, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great.
“We’re just worried about ourselves. We’ve played well against the good teams all year. We know that we’re going to be playing a good team in the first round.”
Boston coach Claude Julien is simply expanding his strategy of resting key players for the playoffs. With the second seed locked up, Thomas didn’t play against Pittsburgh Tuesday. The result was a 5-3 loss.
Spezza said the Bruins can do whatever they want, and that it’s of no concern to the Senators.
“They are the Stanley Cup champions. They want to prepare how they want to prepare,” said Spezza. “We don’t really care who they’re bringing and who they’re not bringing.
“We’re just going to try to make sure that we’re playing our best game and we’re ready.”
The Bruins roster will resemble something you’d see during the pre-season. They’ve already been hit hard by injuries; taking out three key pieces makes it look even slimmer. This strategy makes sense for Boston.
Thomas has a 4-1-0 record against the Senators this year with a 2.41 GAA and .932 save percentage. He’s in the head of Ottawa players and has won nine straight at Scotiabank Place, including two shutouts, dating to Nov. 3, 2007.
Why risk that in a game that means nothing? The Senators aren’t going to lose any sleep over it.
“We can’t control what they want to do,” said coach Paul MacLean. “We’re going to approach the game like we approach all the games: We’re going to play hard and give ourselves a chance to win.”