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B's blank Hawks, focus on end game

BOSTON -- The Presidents' Trophy means absolutely nothing to the Boston Bruins.

Finishing with the most points at the conclusion of the NHL's regular season doesn't matter to them because they have a much more important goal in mind -- the Stanley Cup.

With Boston's 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins now have 106 points, one point ahead of Western Conference leaders the St. Louis Blues. After Thursday's games, only two other teams -- the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks -- have reached the 100-point plateau.

The Presidents' Trophy has been officially awarded to the NHL's regular-season points leader since the 1985-86 season. In that time, eight teams have won both the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season. The Blackhawks accomplished the feat last season, but it's not something that translates into a Cup championship with any regularity.

The Bruins last won the Presidents' Trophy during the 1989-90 season, and then they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Cup finals. The present Bruins team isn't worried about regular-season bragging rights.

"Our goal is to play our game every game until the end of the season and being strong," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "When we do that, obviously, the business will take care of itself, but it's not on our minds that we want to go for that. If we play well, play good enough, then it will happen. At this point we're trying to focus on our game on the ice."

The Bruins are in the midst of their best hockey this season, maybe even in the past few years, including when they won the Cup in 2011. Boston is 13-0-1 in its past 14 games, and with Thursday's win, the Bruins have reached 50 wins in a season for only the ninth time in franchise history.

With a playoff berth secure and only nine games remaining in the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien's challenge is to provide periodic rest for his players while keeping the team sharp and in tune for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A major topic of discussion since the Bruins clinched a playoff berth is whether or not Julien should rest certain players, Chara in particular. During the finals last spring, Boston's captain was averaging close to 30 minutes per game even though his body was banged up.

Given his work ethic and dedication to his craft, Chara wants to be the best player on the ice every game. He takes care of his body the best he can, but even at age 37 it can be a challenge to keep his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame in sound, injury-free condition.

But Chara says he's feeling good and believes Julien has worked in enough off days, especially this month, to strike the balance of keeping players both rested and sharp.

"If there's anything extra on top of that, then it's obviously got to be coaching or management's decision," Chara said. "At this point, I'm trying to really take care of my body and always be ready to play and do my best."

It certainly wouldn't hurt to keep the captain home during one of the team's upcoming road trips, possibly when Boston travels to Minnesota and Winnipeg on April 8 and 10, respectively. Maybe even add Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to that list, too, and call up some of the prospects from Providence to fill the void.

After the Bruins' morning skate Thursday, Julien admitted he wants the team to finish as high as it can in the standings, but he doesn't want to jeopardize the health of players who do need some rest. The coach said he's not ready to start that process right now. Instead, he would like to ease certain players into it.

Surprisingly, the players agree with that mentality. The Bruins have reached the Cup finals twice in a three-year span, so the players realize it's not worth fighting Julien's decision to provide strategic rest for them.

"When you play well and get that lead in the standings, you can maybe afford to rest some guys, but at the same time you don't want to be relaxed or send the message, 'Hey, we're OK and we should take it easy now.' I think that would be a big mistake, and I don't think that's going to happen on this team," Chara said. "We've got to always keep it intense and sharp, and emotionally we always have to be in that hunt as we would be in a push for the playoffs. As players, as leaders on this team, we have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Plain and simple: The Bruins are playing extremely well right now. From top to bottom they are arguably the best team in the league. Boston is playing to its structure and its systems play is solid. All four lines are contributing, and the defensive game remains in the process of solidifying itself.

Julien is pleased with what he sees.

"We're good. We're in the right position right now, as far as where you want to be at this time of the year," he said. "Almost every game-day morning, we spend time looking at an area we feel might've slipped a little bit, so we're staying on top of things, too. Satisfied is not a word that exists in our dressing room. Happy is one thing, but you continue to strive to get better. There are always parts of your game, including tonight, that you want to get better at, so as a coaching staff we just want to stay on top of those things and make sure we keep our guys sharp."

From a defensive standpoint, the Bruins are pleased with their game, too. As a result, the Bruins have allowed only nine goals in the past nine games, which is something that pleases goaltender Tuukka Rask -- and that's not easy to do.

"Yeah, that was our best one in a while, I think, for 60 minutes," Rask said after posting his league-leading seventh shutout of the season with a 28-save performance. "From my standpoint, I don't think [Chicago] got too many chances. What they got, the guys collected the rebound or I saw the shot. It was great effort from everybody."