Claude Julien  didn’t hide the fact that after Saturday’s press conference following a 4-3 shootout win over the Sabres in the regular season finale that he was headed to watch more hockey. He knew the Bruins were either going to be playing the Senators or the Capitals starting Thursday at TD Garden.
But first, he did allow time to look back on what was the toughest – albeit rewarding – grind of his coaching career, including falling very temporarily to the No. 7 seed in the East before rebounding to win four of their last five and salt away the division and the No. 2 spot.
“I don’t think we liked seeing ourselves in the seventh spot, but the one thing that really helped us through it is, I think we started sensing the playoffs were getting close, and we knew that we had to play better to be a good playoff team,” Julien said. “As I said numerous times, I think it was more of a mental struggle this year than anything else. Our guys are in — these guys are well-conditioned athletes, so physically, it’s never an issue, but the mental part. If your mind tells you you’re tired, you’re going to look tired. If your mind tells you you’re not, you’re going to perform with better energy, and I think right now it’s a big mental obstacle that we had to overcome this year because our guys, at one point, we looked tired because, in our minds, we felt tired, and I think once the excitement of the playoffs started getting closer, we started seeing the playoffs around the corner, all of a sudden, we started getting excited again.
“And you say, ‘Oh, look, they don’t look like they’re tired. They look like they’ve got a lot of energy.’ Well, I gave them days off, but those days off alone wouldn’t have been enough, so I think the part right now is our psyche, and if we’re excited to go into the playoffs, then we’re going to be just as good as any other team.”
Julien said he and his staff would pretty much begin their preparations immediately for their first-round opponent (the Washington Capitals ) was determined.
“I’ll do it [Sunday],” Julien said after the win over the Sabres. “I mean, we’re off [Sunday] — that’s the players, not the coaching staff. The minute we find out our opponents, we start doing the video work and cutting, which we’ve already done some of it, but depending on some changes along the way. Obviously there’s two teams. It’s either Ottawa or Wash [Washington], so we’ve got a lot of that work done, and when it’s solidified, then we’re going to start, we’re going to finish it up, and by Monday, we should be on top of things.”
Asked about his team’s chances of repeating now that they’re back to the playoffs, Julien said his team is looking ahead to the first round, no further.
“That’s still a long ways away,” he said. “It’s one of those things where, they finished the season. Our number one goal is the same it’s been every year, and that’s to make the playoffs. And, I always keep saying the same thing over and over, that making the playoffs is a tough thing to do on a consistent basis. We’ve seen teams that have won the Cup and failed to make the playoffs the next year, we’ve seen teams win the Cup and just barely make it in.
“For us to win our division and get another season of over 100 points, I think it’s a credit to those guys in there because it was a tough grind. We had ups and downs, but now we start that new season that everybody gets excited about, and we’ve got as good a chance as anybody else to win, and even though it’s hard to, as they say, repeat nowadays, and it hasn’t been done in a long time, we’re certainly going to challenge that.”