The visiting Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins meet on Saturday afternoon in what ultimately could become an Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup
If that is how things turn out, the series would start in Boston. The Bruins (58-12-5, 121 points) clinched the Presidents' Trophy with their 2-1 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, giving Boston home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs
But there are seven more games on their regular-season schedule, starting with Saturday's contest against the Penguins (37-28-10, 84 points)
"It's an honor to win that," Bruins winger Tyler Bertuzzi said of the Presidents' Trophy, "and it just proves how good we have been all year
"We've just got to keep going forward. We have (seven) games left, and then the real thing starts."
Boston captain Patrice Bergeron also indicated the team already has its sights set on a long playoff run.
"It's a lot of games, a lot of hard work, and I'm proud of the way we've done it by sticking to our process and growing as a team and learning and really playing for each other," Bergeron said.
"That being said, it's nice (to clinch the best record), but obviously you have your eyes set on (something) bigger."
Boston has earned the right to simply hone its game, gear up for the playoffs and perhaps hit a few round numbers.
David Pastrnak, who scored 41 seconds into overtime on Thursday, is a point away from 100 -- something only two other Bruins have done over the past 20 years. Brad Marchand reached 100 points in 2018-19, and Joe Thornton finished with 101 in 2002-03
The Penguins, meanwhile, still are trying to lock up a playoff spot
They currently hold a one-point edge on the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Should Pittsburgh finish there, it would set up that first-round series against Boston.
Pittsburgh hasn't made it easy on itself, including a four-game losing streak from March 14-20. Since then, the team has posted a 3-2-0 record.
That includes a 2-0 win against visiting Nashville on Thursday, a game that provided a blueprint for the way the Penguins want to play
Pittsburgh has developed a knack for failing to hold leads, but that didn't happen Thursday.
"Even when we were up, I felt like we kept pushing," said winger Jason Zucker, who scored in the second period.
Goaltender Tristan Jarry not only returned after failing to play for three games, but he also recorded 28 saves to notch his 13th career shutout.
"Anytime you can get away from it a little bit, it takes a little bit of stress off of you," Jarry said.
Jarry sat out one game because of his third injury of the season, was well enough to back up Casey DeSmith, then backed up again on Tuesday. DeSmith yielded six goals on 24 shots in a 7-4 setback to the Detroit Red Wings.
So the pendulum swings back to Jarry, who likely will start against the Bruins
--Field Level Media