|04.09.16 at 7:13 pm ET|
The “Should Claude Julien be fired” talk had already begun even before Saturday, but with the Bruins missing the playoffs for a second straight year and getting absolutely embarrassed on home ice in their season finale, it’s only going to pick up.
Most Bruins players weren’t willing to make any sort of comment on the possibility of Julien being fired after Saturday’s 6-1 loss to the Senators given that, at the time, the B’s still had an outside shot of making the playoffs (the Flyers’ win over the Penguins later Saturday officially sealed their fate). But the team’s best and most important player came to the defense of Julien.
“I’ve said a million times that Claude has been the best coach I’ve had,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s definitely not on him. It should be on us. His system is there, the game plan is there. It’s about us executing, and we didn’t do that. So it should fall back on the players.”
In the case of Saturday and other games down the stretch that saw the Bruins lose to non-playoff teams, Bergeron is right that the players deserve a good chunk of the blame. There’s no excuse for making the kinds of defensive mistakes that led to Ottawa’s goals on Saturday. There’s no excuse for a top-five offense struggling to score against three non-playoff teams over the last two weeks of the season. Regardless of who the coach is or whether his message is getting through, those are things for which the players need to take responsibility.
But there is plenty of blame to go around, and yes, Julien deserves some of it. A coach should be able to do more to ensure that his team isn’t making as many mistakes as the Bruins made Saturday, whether it was getting beat wide, leaving guys uncovered in front or making bad breakout passes that were easily intercepted. Those things are coachable, and the fact that they happened this late in the season doesn’t reflect well on the coach.
The group that deserves the most blame, however, is the front office. Don Sweeney and company are the ones who built a team that had one legitimate top-four defenseman — and that one, Zdeno Chara, is 39 years old. It’s fitting that defense was the Bruins’ biggest issue on their disastrous last day, because it was their biggest issue all season, and it will remain their biggest issue going forward unless they bring in multiple defensemen who are significant upgrades over what they have now.
|04.09.16 at 6:26 pm ET|
What seemed likely early Saturday afternoon became official just a few short hours later: The NHL playoffs will not include the Boston Bruins.
With a 3-1 win over the Penguins on Saturday, the Flyers secured the second wild card spot and punched their ticket to a first-round matchup with the Capitals. Finishing as a wild card team was the Bruins’ only hope after their 6-1 loss to the Senators on Saturday ruled out getting in as an Atlantic Division team.
Painfully, the Bruins actually would have finished with the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic had they beaten the Senators. Playing at the same time as the Bruins, the Red Wings lost to the Rangers but still ended up getting in thanks to Boston’s loss.
|04.09.16 at 4:10 pm ET|
Following a disastrous 6-1 loss to the Senators in their regular-season finale, Bruins coach Claude Julien would not elaborate on the status of goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was unavailable to the Bruins due to illness.
Julien said the Bruins “scrambled” to get Jeremy Smith to Boston after recalling him from Providence on an emergency basis. Rask was on the ice for warmups but moved very little and didn’t face shots until after line rushes.
Rask did not ultimately dress for the game, as Smith made it to the bench for the 12:30 p.m.
Jonas Gustavsson stopped 30 of the 34 shots he faced Saturday. Julien said the Bruins should have been able to overcome not having their starter in goal.
“It shouldn’t have been an issue,” Julien said. “He is a great goaltender, but our team could have easily played much better and allowed Gus to be the winning goalie today. I think some of the goals they scored today were tips and a lot of goals, we didn’t give him much help. If anything, he gave us a lot of help there in that first period. [Goaltending] was certainly not the reason for [the loss]. Excuses are out the window.”
|04.09.16 at 3:16 pm ET|
The Bruins got the help they needed Saturday, as the Rangers beat the Red Wings. All the B’s needed was a point out of Saturday’s regular-season finale to get into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division.
You probably know where this is going.
After starting the day without the services of an ill Tuukka Rask, the Bruins fell apart throughout what ended up being a 6-1 loss to the Senators at TD Garden. Boston gave up a 1-0 lead and allowed four straight as out-of-contention Senators feasted on Jonas Gustavsson and Boston’s defense.
Later in the afternoon, the Flyers defeated the Penguins to secure the second wild card spot and officially eliminate the Bruins from reaching the postseason. The B’s have now missed the playoffs in two straight seasons.
Furthermore, Boston’s 93 points on the season made for their lowest point total in an 82-game campaign since the 2009-10 season.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
JULIEN GOES FOR BROKE
Depending on whether management is willing to blame the poor job it did this season on the coach, Saturday might have been Claude Julien’s final game behind the bench for the Bruins.
Julien had to apply some whacky tactics in an effort to bring the Bruins back in the third period, as he pulled the goalie relatively early in the third period during two power plays. Both led to empty net shorthanded goals against, with Jean-Gabriel Pageau scoring at 11:33 of the this and Zack Smith scoring at 14:29.
|04.09.16 at 12:05 pm ET|
The most important day of the Bruins’ season started horribly, as Jonas Gustavsson led the B’s onto the ice before their final game of the regular season. Tuukka Rask is sick and will not play.
Tuukka Rask took the ice for warmups but barely moved after taking the ice. He eventually took some shots after line rushes, but the shots were mostly lazy ones flung from high in the zone. The Bruins recalled Jeremy Smith on an emergency basis Saturday to serve as Gustavsson’s backup, as Rask was not on the bench when the teams came out for puck drop. The Bruins said just prior to the start of the game that Rask would be unavailable
The Bruins’ lineup in warmups looked as such:
|04.09.16 at 10:52 am ET|
“We’re trying to fight for our life today,” Matt Beleskey said Saturday morning. It’s do-or-die. We have to win this game and then get some help. It’s a big two points today.”
Platitude-packed as Beleskey’s words were Saturday, not many of them were wrong (the Bruins technically don’t have to win Saturday to get into the playoffs; they could actually get in if Philly helps them more than expected). The Bruins should consider Saturday a must-win if they want to spend next week in Tampa or DC.
First, the Bruins’ scenarios in short:
– They’ll get the third spot in the Atlantic Division with a regulation or overtime win and a Detroit loss, overtime loss or shootout win. They’d also get that spot with a shootout win or overtime loss and a Detroit regulation loss. The Red Wings and Rangers will finish their schedules with a game concurrent to Boston’s 12:30 p.m. start vs. Ottawa.
– They would get the second wild card spot by the Flyers getting no more than one point more than them this weekend. The Flyers play the Penguins Saturday and Islanders Sunday night.
The Bruins should not count on getting the Atlantic spot. The Rangers are sitting a group of banged up and not-so-banged-up players that includes Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girard, Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg. Additionally, they are starting backup Antti Raanta rather than world-class net minder Henrik Lundqvist. New York is doing this in an effort to fall out of third place in the Metropolitan Division to the first wild card so they could play in the Atlantic.
Obviously, that would do the Bruins no good. If the Red Wings win in regulation Saturday, it won’t matter what the Bruins do. The spot would belong to Detroit.
“We’re not concerned about that,” Brad Marchand said. “I don’t know about the lineup changes.”
Upon being told the Rangers were trying to lose, Marchand responded, “Are they? I can’t really comment on that. We can’t control that.”
What the Bruins can control is Saturday’s game against the Senators.
“They’re a good team,” Marchand said. “They beat Florida last game. I’ve said this plenty of times before: Any team can win on any given night, so you can’t take any team lightly. Regardless of who’s in the lineup, young guys are fighting for jobs and other guys are fighting for contracts and stuff. You can never take any team lightly in this league and you have to be prepared to play your best every night.”
|04.08.16 at 1:50 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Oddly enough, the Bruins will have technically not had a single must-win game this season. Though the Bruins’ win over the Red Wings Thursday was huge in keeping their hopes of reaching the playoffs realistic, they would not have been eliminated from postseason contention had they lost it.
Same goes for the final game of the season. The Bruins will host the Senators as they hope that they can win while other teams lose, but technically it’s not a must win. The Bruins could lose their final game of the season and get into the playoffs if the Flyers lose later in the day Saturday and then again Sunday night.
Of course, the Bruins would be mad to consider Saturday anything but a must-win. The teams they are hoping will lose games — Detroit and Philadelphia — will face opponents in the Rangers and Islanders, respectively, that have incentive to lose those games for the sake of playoff seeding.
The Bruins will know their fate for the Atlantic Division at the conclusion of Saturday’s game, as the Red Wings are playing at the same time as them. They won’t know their fate as a potential wild card team until late Saturday afternoon at the earliest because Philadelphia plays at 3 p.m. Depending on what happens in the Bruins-Senators and the Flyers-Penguins games, the B’s might need to wait until Sunday night’s makeup game between the Flyers and Islanders to know whether they’re in.
First thing’s first, though: The Bruins need to take care of the Senators at TD Garden. Ottawa has been eliminated since late last month.
“There’s no pressure on them,” Claude Julien said. “There’s no doubt, but at the same time, they played a very solid game last night against Florida. It just goes to show us that no matter what the situation is at this time of year, there are no easy games. There’s a lot of pride. There’s a lot of players playing for jobs. There’s a lot of reasons for every team to want to win hockey games. No doubt if I was in their shoes, I’d say ‘let’s finish on a winning note here,’ so there’s a lot of reasons for them to be motivated for this. Hopefully a lot more reasons for us to be motivated for it.”
The Bruins need to get at least one point in any scenario to get in as the third team in the Atlantic Division. They could lose out and still get the second wild card spot depending on how the Flyers fare.
Here are the very easy scenarios for the Atlantic:
– Any Bruins win and any Red Wings loss on Saturday would put the Bruins in as the third team in the Atlantic Division.
– An overtime or shootout loss for the Bruins and a regulation loss would put the Bruins in over Detroit.
– If the Bruins get a regulation or overtime win and the Red Wings get a shootout win, the teams would be tied in both points and regulation/overtime wins (the first tie breaker), in which case the B’s would get in by virtue of their head-to-head advantage over the Detroit this season.
As long as Philadelphia gets no more than one point more than Boston between now and Sunday (the Bruins play Saturday to finish the season, the Flyers play Saturday and Sunday), Boston will be the second wild card. The Bruins are currently one point ahead of Philadelphia and also have more regulation and overtime wins, so if Philly ties Boston in points, Boston would go to the postseason.