BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins achieved one on their first goals of the season on Monday night, officially clinching a spot in the NHL playoffs with a 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils. It’s the first thing they set out to do when the puck drops on every season.

“It’s always the goal during the regular season, to get your ticket and get in and go from there,” captain Patrice Bergeron said following Monday’s win. “Obviously, we know we’re a great team. I like where we’re at. I know we can keep improving. We talked about using those last few games to work on our game and make sure that we’re ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.”

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“It’s a great accomplishment. It’s definitely not easy,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who shut down the Devils on Monday with 20 saves. “You look at our division, it’s pretty tough. It’s tight. There’s no room to have slumps, really. You’ve got to be able to keep up with other teams.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think lately we’ve kind of found our game and our identity,” added Rask. “We stuck to it. But every year you make the playoffs, you can check that box off and it’s a great accomplishment in this league. We have, obviously, bigger goals in mind.”

While the focus of the Bruins is always on winning a Stanley Cup, the short-term objective can shift a little bit over the final five games of the regular season. Boston can improve their spot in the East Division, currently sitting just three points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Both sit atop the standings with 71 points, but Boston has games in hand on both of those clubs.

But there is a main goal over that span that Boston will set its sights on, and it is not getting their playoff beards ready. The Bruins will be locked into improving the team’s chemistry before the real season begins.

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“I think we’re starting to play some really good hockey now,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy, who has led Boston to the playoffs in each of his five seasons on the bench. “I know the last few games are against teams that are eliminated, but for us, I watch our game, how we’re winning, how we’re playing. We’re playing the right way.

“I think guys are preparing themselves for how you need to play – normally I’d say April to May, but I guess it’ll be May and June and hopefully July,” added Cassidy.

The head coach is pleased with his top lines, but would really like to see Boston’s bottom six get into a groove over the next two weeks.

“I think we need a few more games out of the bottom two lines because they haven’t been together a lot. Sorting out who is our best sort of fourth line – who best fits with [Curtis] Lazar? Is it [Karson] Kuhlman, [Chris] Wagner, [Trent] Frederic? How does it all shake out? There’s a little bit to go there, so those are some things we want to sort through. … I’m not talking about positioning or anything like that, I’m talking about as our team and our group and chemistry.”

And don’t worry. Sometime soon, the Bruins will get started on those playoff beards.

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“It starts with our last game of the regular season,” said Bergeron.

CBSBoston.com Staff