Claude Julien: ‘I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey’
|05.09.14 at 12:37 am ET|
MONTREAL — It was a lot easier for Claude Julien to admit the obvious after a 1-0 overtime win in Game 4 than the alternative. His team still does not look like the squad that won 54 games and the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points.
If it weren’t for the efforts of a player just called up from Providence to bolster the third line, the Bruins could easily be looking at being down 3-1 heading into Game 5 Saturday night back at TD Garden.
But Matt Fraser saved the day and Julien was grateful, not only to the player who got 14 games under his belt this season but to his boss Peter Chiarelli, who called Fraser up in time for Game 4. What did Julien expect?
“The winning goal,” Julien quipped. “He’s been playing well lately in Providence and actually has been scoring some goals. He’s been playing some pretty good hockey and he showed that tonight. I liked his game, not because he scored but his whole game. He seemed to be strong on the puck, making some good decisions, wasn’t turning pucks over, seemed to be skating well. It was nice to see [goal] happen. The GM probably deserves the credit because he was the one who called him up. He’s a good player. We knew that. We had him for quite a while there this year. He can certainly shoot the puck and he has a knack to score some goals. In this series, we need that.”
Then Julien seemed to go back to reality, the reality that his top two lines seem stuck in the mud against Montreal’s system, giving them precious little room to maneuver in the offensive zone. David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron have been bottled up in this series. Things were so bad that Julien tried to loosen everyone up by completely breaking up the lines in the Thursday morning skate.
“A win was important obviously to get us back in this series,” Julien said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best hockey. That’s not to downplay this win. We’ve played hard but I know I’ve seen our team play better. But you know it seems to be a process right now and we’re working through it. You hope that this win here helps us to get better anyways, and you go from there.
“There’s no doubt these guys are working hard, they care, they want to. Just because it doesn’t always go as smooth as we like it to be, what I like is we’re showing character and we’re battling through it and trying to find ways to win games.
“Our team has been through a lot,” Julien added. “Most of the guys in there have been together for a while. We’ve been through a lot, ups and downs. The one thing is, you win tonight, and we know how tight it was, it’s not about anything more than we’ve tied the series and it’s a best-of-three. We still have lots of work to do and that’s what staying even keel is. So far, it’s been a real tight series from both sides, no matter who’s won. At the end of the night, it’s about winning hockey games, stay even keel, we keep the work ethic and hope that our work ethic and the bounces go our way.”
One way to win a playoff game is to have your goalie stop everything and not have defensive breakdowns in front of him and in the neutral zone, as was the case in Game 3, something Julien referenced with an edge afterward.
“He was good,” Julien said of Tuukka Rask‘s 33 saves. “He was poised. We didn’t give up three breakaways so that helped.”
Still, it was hard for Julien not to feel excited for Fraser, who was in awe playing in front of a playoff crowd at the Bell Centre for the first time.
“It’s hard not to [feel in awe] in this building,” Julien said. “You hear so much about it growing up. You’ve seen it so many times so it’s no doubt it was probably a little nerve-wracking for him, but it didn’t show on the ice. I thought he was poised and made some real good decisions and was strong with the puck and in his decision-making. I said before the overtime and talking about him. He was real good for us tonight and there was no doubt he was going to continue to play [like that] in overtime.
“I thought Carl [Soderberg] played well tonight. He skated much better. Loui [Eriksson] was making some strong plays and hanging onto the puck. But Fraz, for some reason, just seemed to fit in there extremely well. He came in and played on that third line a little bit. He had been with Carl for a little bit and it’s not like he was in some unchartered territory. He had some idea of how those guys play. They’re hard on the puck, they get it back quickly and that’s what’s given that line some good looks.”