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Opinion: Claude Julien needs to schedule rest time for weary Bruins 04.12.13 at 1:34 pm ET
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I’m sick of hearing that the Bruins are tired.

“We ran out of gas,” Claude Julien claimed after Thursday night’s loss to Islanders. “The effort and will was there. They were obviously a little fresher than we were.”

If Tyler Seguin and the Bruins have tired legs, it's up to coach Claude Julien to give them time to get back to full strength before the playoffs. (AP)

Maybe.

That quote came just two days after he said, “The schedule has been as tough as it could ever be on an athlete. We’ve got to be careful of how hard we push those guys, because they are tired.”

I don’t disagree.

The schedule obviously has been brutal. Yes, the Bruins face the same difficulties as every other team in the league, but they currently are in the worst of the gauntlet. Whereas they started the season with more days off than most other teams, they are paying the price for that now.

So I’m happy to concede that exhaustion is playing a role in their recent string of uninspired performances.

Normally, this is the time where I would remind athletes and coaches that if they avoid making an excuse out loud, someone will make it for them. We all know the schedule is tough; let us remind people and it will sound more like an explanation and less like an excuse.

And for Tyler Seguin, who said Thursday night that while he wasn’t making excuses, “we ran out of gas after three games in four nights,” I would repeat that message.

But to Julien, I would offer some additional advice.

If your team is so tired, do something about it!

Look, we all know the Bruins are going to make the playoffs and it’s a virtual certainty that they will fill either the second or fourth seed. So, what would be the harm in resting a few exhausted players for a game or two? If they are so desperate for some fresh legs, why not create them?

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What to make of these Bruins as they head into homestretch 04.08.13 at 1:26 am ET
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Tyler Seguin will have to step up with Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely. (AP)

How good are the Bruins? Depends on your mentality.

The optimist loves their chances. He remembers that the team is one of just four with fewer than 10 regulation losses. The pessimist, on the other hand, is worried. He notices that five of those losses have come in their last 11 games. The realist, meanwhile, is trying to figure out just who these Bruins really are.

Good luck, realist.

Regardless of your level of hope, there is no doubt that Bruins are scuffling right now. The team that looked dead in Philadelphia, asleep for 50 minutes in Buffalo, gave up 87 shots in two home games and then embarrassed itself when it couldn’t even muster a shot in their six-on-four power play late in Montreal is clearly not the same group that cruised to a 19-4-3 record to start the year.

There are some obvious differences. These Bruins have had serious personnel changes since the start of the year. Not only have they lost the contributions from two key centermen (Chris Kelly and now Patrice Bergeron), but their loss has tested their depth at the position. It has forced Claude Julien to juggle his lines and shift both Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley from the wing, weakening two of his four lines. They’ve also been forced to test their depth on the blue line as Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have spelled the injured Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuck.

Fortunately for the B’s, I think the optimists win this one. Boychuck is already back. Kelly is close to returning. McQuaid has now skated with the team. Only Bergeron remains as a great mystery for the playoffs, and without him I think we all become horribly pessimistic. He is that important to their postseason chances. Without his presence, as Paul Pierce said about Kevin Garnett‘s effect on the Celtics, “They aren’t going anywhere.”

During this downturn, however, we’ve seen a run of third-period losses. A team once built upon late-game surges has seen its power turned off in key spots. I see two possible explanations: Either the Bruins are getting tired in the third periods, or their goalie keeps losing concentration.

I think the B’s are just tired, and so on this question I’ll remain optimistic as well. Much has been made of the condensed schedule and the toll it is taking on especially physical teams. Julien’s blueprint has always been to beat you up for 40 minutes then take advantage of your exhaustion late. If the schedule has prevented them from playing as physically as they’d like, I’ll assume that they are smartly keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes for major concern.

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