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Claude Julien: Bruins ‘built’ for defensive success in playoffs

06.05.13 at 1:24 pm ET
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Claude Julien speaks to reporters Wednesday morning at TD Garden before Game 3. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Defense wins championships. It’s a cliche nearly as old as the Stanley Cup. But it’s true. Keep your opponent from scoring and your chances of winning in the playoffs increases dramatically. And, according to Claude Julien, it’s been the secret to success for the Bruins in the first two games against the Penguins as the Boston forwards have shown a commitment to coming back and playing defense while the Penguins, not so much.

“It’s been good for us,” Julien said Wednesday morning before Game 3. “I think, when you look at our team, it’s built that way. We take pride in that part of our game, and that part of our game’s also given us the opportunity to be better offensively; turn that puck over quick and then everybody comes back, then we go back up the ice as a unit. That’s been a big part of our game and when it’s good, it provides us with some good offense.”

Julien was told that some in the Bruins dressing room Wednesday – like Daniel Paille – said that’s it’s not as simple as it looks to play a defensive system like the Bruins employ. Julien begged to differ.

“It’s not complicated, so I’m going to have to have a talk with Dan,” Julien said half-jokingly. “It really isn’t. What we try and do is eliminate the gray areas, make it black and white. It really is easy. He probably said complicated because he doesn’t want to tell you what it is. But it isn’t. This game shouldn’t be a complicated one.

“Guys have skills, you try to put some structure together, but the one thing you don’t take away is their ability to use their imagination and their skill and their hockey sense to make plays. Defensively, is where you’re extremely structured, and you want to make sure that you have layers and guys come back to where they should be positionally. When it comes to offense, a couple of rules, but the rest is about letting them do their job and letting them use their creativity.”

Julien again reminded everyone that his team is taking a level-headed approach in the hours before Game 3, knowing the Penguins figure to be hungry after losing Games 1 and 2 on home ice.

“It doesn’t matter what situation it is, I think our guys our mature enough to understand that whatever we went through, whatever the situation is right now, we have to be a good team in order to win at this stage of the season,” Julien said. “We can’t afford to let our guard down, whether it’s the respect for a team you’re playing, and the ability of that team to take advantage of you if you’re not ready, or whether it’s just from within our group to want to be a good team every night. That’s what’s important right now, thats we stay focused on the present and don’t live in the past, don’t look in the future. I’ve said that before, we’ve been good when we’ve kept our eye on what’s going on right now. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Here’s the remainder of Julien’s transcript from Wednesday presser with reporters:

On what having offensive-minded defensemen does to make puck possession easier: To win a hockey game, you need everything. Puck management is one of those things, we talked about defense, we talked about scoring goals, we talked about being strong on the puck, everything else. Puck management, at one point, was part of our game that we were struggling with, a little bit with New York, gave us some issues. We knew it had to be better against Pittsburgh because if you didn’t have good puck management and if you don’t get continued good puck management, you’re going to run into trouble with that team.

On his defensemen being able to rush the puck: They’re good, everybody. Andrew Ference came back in and you see him skating the puck up the ice as well. For the most part, our D’s [defensemen] have done a good job. Some guys are better at skating the puck up the ice than, maybe, others. But others are great passers, you see plays, they see the openings well in the neutral zone, make good passes, and they use their offense from the offensive blue line in. That’s a guy like Johnny Boychuk, his shot; Zdeno [Chara], those guys.

On if he expects a tighter game tonight: Well, that’s what it’s been from the start for us. Every part of the ice is a battle. That’s how we’ve been able to come back 2-0. Like I said, we respect every part of our game to be good, because it needs to be. I keep saying it over and over: the team that we’re playing is a good team, has been a great team all year. I guess, right now, we’re up two nothing because we’ve taken that respect and brought it to our game and made sure that every inch of the ice is important. We’ve taken that approach.

On how much they have to anticipate adjustments from Pittsburgh: I think we have to continue to play our game, but we should expect some changes here and there. If those things happen, I think we’ll be ready for it. I said that all along in the playoffs, we really have to focus, we want to focus on our game, because I think that’s where all the focus has to be. That’s where players’ focus needs to be. As far as coaches are concerned, we have to be ready for adjustments, and if there is some, we’ve got to be ready to tell our players.

On if there are things about Torey Krug’s skill that outweigh his size and how he knew that Krug was ready: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious when you look at him this Pittsburgh series, the plays he makes. he’s got a good sense of the game, he sees the opening, he’s calm with the puck, doesn’t throw it away for nothing. Does he make mistakes? Just like everybody else every once in a while. As far as did we know what we we’re going to get, I think we had an idea. But until he shows it, you never know. That’s why we told him right off the bat to go out there and just play his game, not to play on his heels. We were going to correct whatever needed to be corrected. You have to have confidence in the guys you put in your lineup, and they need to feel that confidence. We were able to dot that and he was able to give us what we wanted.

On how Tuukka Rask is doing after he took a shot up high in morning skate: He’s fine. Just didn’t want him falling in front of that door when he went out of his crease. I told him, ‘You’re making me look bad.’ I said, ‘I told everybody you were normal.’ But I said, ‘I did tell them you had a temper.’ So I said, ‘You’re okay.’ No issues.

On it being nice to have Adam McQuaid playing well: He was a pretty important part of our team when we won a few years ago. Probably flew under the radar because of how well other players played. But when he stays away from injuries and he gets his momentum going, he’s a real reliable defensemen. You’ve seen him at times play against top lines, because he’s capable of doing that. Certainly, the position that he’s in right now, in that third period he gives us a pretty good player.

On a comparison of their different opponent’s speed so far in the playoffs: Well, those are always hard to kind of analyze, because the first round is very different from the second. And I said that, the firs round to me has always been the toughest round to get out of. All the teams that make the playoffs are excited about it and it seems like it takes a little bit of time to build some momentum or it takes something to happen. We used our example in Game Seven of Toronto, we use Chicago for what they’ve done against Detroit, coming back from a three to one deficit. There’s certainly some things that give your team the ability to get better. I think our team’s just gotten better round after round. But our opponents have given us everything they have. For Toronto to bring us to seven; and New York, sure it was a five-game series, but I said it all along and I’ll say it again, there was no quite in that team. They might’ve run out of firepower, and as you can see, had some key guys that were not one hundred percent. But we’re playing a team right now that has all the firepower in the world and can turn this series around very quickly if we’re not careful. Different series have different approaches, as far as how you look at it as a team. Right now, without repeating myself too much, it really has been about how we’re going to play tonight, and after tonight will be the next game. I like the direction our team is heading into, but the challenges keep going in that direction.

On Pittsburgh’s speed: I think when you look at the skill level that they have, the guys that can score goals. You look at, not necessarily the [Sidney] Crosbys and [Evgeni] Malkins, but the [Pascal] Dupuis and the [Chris] Kunitzs. Those kinds of guys, [Kris] Letang on the back end, [Paul] Martin can carry the puck well. There’s a lot of guys, I’m sure I’m forgetting some. But there’s a lot of firepower and a lot of layers in that department that we have.

On if he has any reaction to the competition committee’s recommendation to make visors mandatory next season and if there is a stigma around players that wear visors: I’ll answer your second part real quick. There’s no stigma. I think I’m proud and have encouraged guys to wear visors. I’m one of those guys that when a young player comes up playing minor hockey with a visor and he’s used to it, why take it off? I know there’s been some accidents with a visor, but there’s been more incidents save by the visor than there’s been from the other side of it. Like a seatbelt in the car, how many lives does it save? Every once in a while, you’ll hear, ‘Well, he was caught in the car because of his seatbelt.’ To me, I think it’s a good thing that they’re encouraging that visor, and that it’s going to be grandfathered in. I believe in it. I’m on that side.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Daniel Paille, Pittsburgh Penguins
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