When Charlie McAvoy’s doorstep shot found the back of the net to lift the Boston Bruins to their 47th win in 60 tries on Tuesday, NESN analyst Andy Brickley channeled much of New England with his reaction.

He let out a belly laugh.

It was a natural response to not only how that game was won, but how it was won within the context of this unexpectedly joyous season. The Bruins have prevailed in just about every way possible. They’ve dominated opponents. They’ve worn teams down with their depth. They’ve gutted out tough challenges in tight games. They’ve come from behind.

But as fun as Tuesday’s win was, how the Bruins arrived at their 4-3 overtime win had to raise an eyebrow within the club’s managerial and coaching staffs. Playing the third game in four nights and the second of a back-to-back, it was expected that they’d have only so much juice. But to look as visibly gassed as they did has to be a bit concerning.

That’s not to take anything away from the spectacular, record-setting 54-save performance by Linus Ullmark. If the Vezina Trophy wasn’t already his – and it should have been – it is now. And the fortitude that the Bruins showed should not be taken for granted. The hit that Jake DeBrusk took to start the game-tying play, the play-to-the-final-horn intensity shown by McAvoy, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, the 23 blocked shots are all examples of why the Bruins are where they are.

But load management is an idea whose time is coming – and it should be coming sooner than it usually does.


Make no mistake, the notion of resting top players is something we don’t embrace lightly. In many hockey cities, fans pay upward of $200 just for their seat, never mind the jacked-up cost of concessions. The people should get what they pay for, and hockey is still a gate-driven sport. The integrity of playoff races also needs to be protected.

On top of all that, sitting out games simply goes against the hockey player’s ethos. Usually, the Bruins have convinced their top players to sit out the final game of the season if they’re locked into a playoff spot, but rarely before then.

This, however, is a different kind of season. As it has been for nearly 20 years, it’s all about the playoffs, but this year even more so. From the start of training camp, the “one last run” vibe has hung in the air. Bergeron is 37. David Krejci is 36. They are on team-friendly, one-year deals. No one knows if they’ll be back next season.

While the Bruins found a way to pull out yet another win in Calgary, the fatigue – both mental and physical – was obvious at times. Races and puck battles were lost all over the ice. The rare times the Bruins did possess the puck, bad decisions were made more often than not. And it wasn’t just the elder statesmen in the group. The younger legs of David Pastrnak and McAvoy seemed to be missing some spring at times. Marchand is predictably riding the roller coaster as he battles his way back from double hip surgery.

We are close to the time some guys should be taking nights off. Not just yet. They are home for the next four games, starting with Buffalo on Thursday and a marquee matchup against the Rangers on Saturday. Then they have four days off, their last extended break of the season before hosting Edmonton and Detroit.

But then they play back-to-back on the final five weekends of the season, with the second half all coming on the road. Those games should be designated for breathers for at least one of their top players who need it the most. Because of the salary cap and roster limits, they can’t make wholesale changes every night. But they can afford to sit one in each of those games. With eight defensemen, the Bruins could also play some games with seven D and 11 forwards. It could also present an opportunity to see Pavel Zacha at center for a game or two.

In the Saddledome locker room after the dramatic win over the Flames, McAvoy said “we can feel really good about this one.” And he’s right. The B’s showed some championship mettle that should not be glossed over.

But here’s hoping the Bruins take the necessary measures so they don’t have win any more games like that again.

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