Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery reveals his message to team at All-Star break

Jim Montgomery reveals his message to team at All-Star break originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins went through their toughest stretch of the season last week and lost three consecutive games for the first time, highlighted by a disappointing 4-1 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes on the road Sunday night.

The B's responded in impressive fashion Wednesday night against the rival Maple Leafs in Toronto. It was the Bruins' final game before the All-Star break, and they defeated the Leafs 5-2 with two goals from Pavel Zacha and one each from A.J. Greer, Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort. Starting goalie Linus Ullmark gave another stellar performance with 33 saves on 35 shots.

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The victory improved the Bruins' record to an NHL-leading 39-7-5, giving them a seven-point lead over the Hurricanes in the Presidents' Trophy race. Boston's 39 wins are two fewer than the all-time record before the All-Star break.

What did Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery tell his team as it gets ready for a much-needed nine-day break?

"I said, 'Congrats on a great first half, it's been fun,'" Montgomery told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday night. "I said, 'But we have to get better,' and I know we will get better because of the professionalism and the work ethic that's in that locker room. I said, 'enjoy the break, because after that it's a sprint.'"

The Bruins will have 31 regular season games left after the All-Star break. Their next game is Feb. 11 versus the Washington Capitals at TD Garden.

Even though the B's have a nice cushion over the Hurricanes for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, seven points is by no means an insurmountable advantage.

The Hurricanes are a very good team and could bolster their roster with an upgrade or two before the March 3 trade deadline. It's important for the Bruins to finish ahead of the 'Canes in the final standings and secure home ice advantage if these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Final. Why is that home ice advantage so important? The B's do not play well at PNC Arena in Raleigh and have lost six consecutive games in that building.

Boston had a strong first 51 games, but plenty of work remains.