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Claude Julien has the back of Jaromir Jagr: ‘That was vintage Jagr’

05.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien showed Monday night that he had the backs of his players. (AP)

Everyone knew Jaromir Jagr was due to break out.

He picked a very good time to do exactly that as Claude Julien had his patience in the 41-year-old superstar rewarded in Monday’s 5-2 win over the Leafs in Game 3 of their first-round series at Air Canada Centre.

Heading into Game 3, the line of Jagr, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly hadn’t done much. They were struggling to find a rhythm in the first two games. Jagr was weakened heading into the playoffs by flu-like symptoms, cutting down on the amount of time he could spend generating any type of chemistry with teammates.

That changed 5:57 into the second period when he stripped the puck behind the Leafs net and found Peverley all alone in front of James Reimer for the goal that made it 2-0 Bruins.

“It’s my job to make the excuses, and I made the excuses for them because I felt it was right,” Julien said. “Jags hasn’t been feeling that great and he had to turn a corner here and, at the same time, he had new line mates that hadn’t played much together so it’s just a matter of giving him some time. Sometimes, you have to be patient and I’m more of a patient guy that I am someone who’s going to panic, and tonight it paid off because I thought they were a real good line for us.

“It speaks a lot to Jags. It doesn’t matter how old he is or how long he’s been in the league. It doesn’t matter how much he’s accomplished. He’s a real proud competitor and he takes everything at heart. And the fact that he hadn’t been doing as much as he would’ve like to because of circumstances, he was determined to be a difference-maker tonight and help our team. I thought he did a great job. And the other two guys were a lot more comfortable with him tonight. And again, talking and practicing together certainly helped. He’s strong on the puck, and I know every time he has it, they need one or two guys on him to take it away and that means somebody’s open. He does a great job of that and I thought he was on top of his game tonight.”

Julien was asked if that was vintage Jagr that the Bruins saw from No. 68.

“Well, he did [own the offensive ice],” Julien said. “That’s where you have to give his line mates a lot of credit. That created a lot of space for him. And even when they carried [the puck], they got it back to him and I think that was the main thing. I think the fact is he may not have the speed he used to have but he still has the hands and his forwards are getting used to playing with him. So, instead of being ahead of the play, they’re supporting him, giving him the support he needs, whether it’s to carry it in or chip it in. So, that was vintage Jagr in the offensive zone and that’s what we’ve asked him to do. ‘Do your job in the offensive zone.’ We haven’t given him restrictions or anything like that. He’s good. He knows how to handle the puck and he knows how to make the right plays in the offensive zone. So for him, it’s more [like] be creative the way you always have been.”

Does Julien still marvel at him? ”

“Yeah, that’s because he still has a lot of skill,” Julien replied. “The only thing he’s lost – and he’ll be the first to tell you – is the speed. But he hasn’t lost his creativity. He hasn’t lost his hands and he’s strong on the puck. I’ve seen so many times where I thought he lost [the puck] and he gets it back. He doesn’t give it up that easily so he’s a smart player. He studies the game a lot and he always works within his strengths and he knows what his strengths are, he knows what his weaknesses are and as all good players do, they take advantage of their strengths throughout their whole career.”

Here are other highlights from Julien postgame:

On David Krejci breaking out in the playoffs: “Anybody who watched us win a Cup a couple years ago, he won the [postseason] scoring title. He’s a good player. Maybe he does fly under the radar for a lot of people but he certainly doesn’t fly under the radar for us. He’s very creative, and not only that, he doesn’t get intimated by physicality, he’ll make plays, go into dirty areas and a real good playmaker.

“He’s not a guy that speaks much but he lets his action speak for themselves. I think people that haven’t seen him much are starting to realize that.”

On Tuukka Rask: “He was good. He was solid. you need good goaltending in the playoffs. I think until the third period, it was a pretty good tilt from our end and not giving that many shots. They came out in the third a desperate team and down, 4-1, we knew they were going to throw everything at us. We needed good goaltending and we tried to minimize the scoring chances and be patient. That early goal, that power play goal, certainly gave them some life. They picked up their game from that point.”

On Nathan Horton’s goal 50 seconds after the Leafs cut the Bruins’ lead to 2-1: “They just scored a big goal and obviously, the fans got into it and you could feel the electricity in the air. To me, that was probably a big turning point right there. We came back and score that goal on the next shift and take the energy right out of the building. From there on in, we had better control for the rest of that period. And obviously, Paille scoring that short-handed goal was huge for us. We had a decent cushion going into the third period and we just had to finish strong. This is a team that, no matter what the score is, they’re giving us a real good challenge and it showed in the third.”

On Lucic: “He was a good player again. That line has been good for. He had [three assists]. He’s been really good. He had a tough year but right toward the end, he started to pick it up. We started seeing the Looch we know so well and timing is everything. So, right now he’s playing his best hockey of the season and you can’t ask for anything more.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Jaromir Jagr, Milan Lucic
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