|Claude Julien feels his Bruins have been ‘a lot more consistent’ of late||10.21.14 at 9:03 am ET|
WILMINGTON — As his team prepares to take on San Jose, the Islanders and Toronto this week, Claude Julien can finally sense things coming together after a sluggish start.
The Bruins started 1-2-0, including an ugly 4-0 loss to the Capitals on home ice and a brutal 2-1 loss to Colorado in the final second. After beating the Red Wings in a shootout, the Bruins were embarrassed again in Montreal, featuring the emotional meltdown of Milan Lucic.
But things finally seemed to click in Buffalo, where Niklas Svedberg earned his first career shutout in just his third NHL start. The 4-0 win seemed to give the Julien and the team something to build on. Two wins in three games doesn’t classify as red-hot, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction the way Julien sees it.
“I don’t know if it’s how far we’ve come or how far we have to go,” Julien said. “I think it’s just a matter of us continuing to get better as a team. I think it’s still early in the season and I think there are a lot of teams that are probably saying the same thing. It takes certain guys a while to get going. It takes others even longer. Some guys get off to a good start and then they slow down.
“We’re just looking at our team as a whole. I think what we’re looking for is consistency and we’re looking for an identity. And that’s what we’re starting to get right now, more of an identity. I think we’ve been a lot more consistent in the last three games.”
What is that identity?
“Same as it’s always been,” Julien said, referring to his team’s tough, rugged style that relies on good defense, a good forecheck, stellar goaltending and opportunistic play around the net.
|Seth Griffith: ‘I think after I get one, I might settle down a little bit’||10.20.14 at 6:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — In the midst of a whirlwind week, Seth Griffith is just trying to soak everything in.
The 21-year-old, 5-foot-9 winger had the chance to skate with Milan Lucic and David Krejci on Monday. He was recalled Monday after scoring his second goal of the season in three games for AHL Providence on Sunday against Portland. Just two days earlier, he nearly scored against Montreal. He’s been up and down twice in the span of five days.
Griffith, who played two games with Krejci and Lucic last week, is part of the Bruins’ great early-season experiment to try and find a replacement for Jarome Iginla on Krejci’s line. Saturday night in Buffalo, it was Simon Gagne slotted in with Lucic and Krejci. But on Monday in practice it was Griffith, who has nine shots in three games with Providence but only four in three games with Boston.
“It’s pretty crazy how much faster and stronger it is in the NHL,” Griffith said. “Coming from the AHL just [Sunday] night, you can tell there’s a huge difference so hopefully, I got a little confidence [Sunday] night, come back here and try and bear down on one and hopefully, I get one.
“It’s an adjustment coming from the AHL up here. There’s bigger, faster, stronger guys so just little things along the wall, puck protection skills like that go a long way. You learn a lot from them. It’s not everyday guys get to come in and work with guys like this. You learn a lot of things, just in drills, little tricks you can do in the corners, stuff along the wall. It helps a lot.”
Coach Claude Julien admitted Monday after practice that he is forced into a situation of playing a young player like Griffith at the NHL level because of a lack of veteran bodies due to salary cap restrictions. Griffith is trying to take advantage of that chance by watching and listening to Lucic and Krejci during practice.
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|Kevan Miller being examined for ‘upper-body’ injury||at 12:56 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins coach Claude Julien said Monday after practice that defenseman Kevan Miller is being examined for what the team termed an upper body injury following a fight Saturday in the 4-0 win in Buffalo.
“He’s just being looked at by our doctors,” Julien said. “We will probably have more [Tuesday].”
Julien also said he likes the way Seth Griffith has looked early in the season and would probably benefit from playing with the top line of David Krejci and Milan Lucic, as was the case Monday in practice.
“I think anytime a player can play with some experienced players, it gives you a little bit more confidence,” Julien said. “Guys are pretty good with helping guys through and giving them the opportunity to get accustomed to our team, get accustomed to his line so it certainly helps. I think that’s what Seth has been doing right now, trying to soak up as much as he can.”
The key right now to allowing Griffith to gain some experience at the NHL level is Simon Gagne. The 34-year-old veteran played with Lucic and Krejci on Saturday night in Buffalo. He also has skated on the fourth line in games, as was the case again in practice Monday. Julien said he liked what he saw from Gagne on Saturday night.
“He was OK. What you saw today is probably what you’ve been seeing all along, a little bit of moving around,” Julien said. “He can play on that line, he play on the fourth line. I think he’s made the fourth line a pretty good line. If Seth is going to play, he needs to play on one of those lines right now. If he’s going to gain some experience, I think it’s with those guys. We can alternate Simon in those positions and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”
All of this, naturally, results from the fact that the Bruins are still searching for an answer at right wing on their top line and Julien is trying to find the right combination early in the season while still being patient with young players like Griffith, Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser and Craig Cunningham.
“You have to be a little bit patient,” Julien said “Fortunately, today for the players, you have to be able to bring some young guys in. There was a time when they really had to pay their dues and learn the game in the minors before they even got a shot. But in today’s game, you have to bring some young guys in for reasons like the cap and everything else. So you have to be able to live with some of the learning curves they have to go through and, at the same time, as a coach you try to minimize those so it doesn’t cost your team. That’s the balance you have to have in letting a young guy gain some experience and get better.”
It’s homecoming week against the Bruins as they host Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night at the Garden. On Thursday, Johnny Boychuk makes his first return to Boston since being traded to the Islanders in the preseason.
The Bruins dressed just six defensemen in practice as Kevan Miller was absent. He left Saturday’s game following a fight and did not return with what the team termed an upper-body injury.
|Jarome Iginla ‘understands’ why Bruins couldn’t bring him back: ‘There are cap issues’||10.13.14 at 7:39 pm ET|
Jarome Iginla holds no grudges against the Bruins. As a matter of fact, he said after Monday’s 2-1 win over his former employer that he’s grateful for the one year he spent in Boston.
“It was definitely a little bit different,” said Iginla, who had no shots or assists in 17 minutes and 20 shifts. “I had one of the best [years] of my career, one of the most exciting years last year, one of favorite years, the whole experience coming to this. I made some good friends that are on their side playing with the team, and we had a very good team. So it was a little different, for sure. It hasn’t been too long, it feels almost like you’ve just been gone for a long vacation, but it’s part of the game.
“Coming from the other side, once the game starts, it’s business. We were looking for our first win, and we knew they were trying to get things going for themselves. But it’s a bit different on the ice. You wouldn’t want to play all the time against that team, but it’s a great place and it’s fun to come back.”
After 30 goals and 31 assists in 78 games on Boston’s top line, Iginla left Boston for Denver and signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Avalanche. On Monday, he acknowledged the real economics the Bruins were facing.
“Well, I understand it,” Iginla said. “I was hoping at the time, before free agency opened, that it could work out, but you know there are cap issues. With my family, we wanted to be able to make sure, I’m going to play more than one year, and I didn’t want to just play one year then next year [the Bruins] have even less [cap] room. With all the good, young guys they have coming up, they’ve got to keep room for them and keep signing them.
“It’s a good problem to have, though, if you’re the Bruins. But I understood why and figured if I was going to move my family, it would be the time now, before they keep getting more entrenched in school and liking it even more, and then trying to move the following year. I’ve got a great opportunity in Colorado. I’m excited to be here, and it’s a good, young, fun team. But like I said, before that with the Bruins, it was one of the best experiences of my career. I understand why, and like I said, their young guys played, [Torey] Krug, Dougie Hamilton, [Reilly] Smith, they played great. You’ve got to have room for them, Looch, the list goes on. So I understand.”
|Bruins react to Johnny Boychuk trade and its ‘reality check’ impact going forward||10.05.14 at 10:41 am ET|
With the season opening at home Wednesday against the Flyers, the Bruins don’t have long to be upset about the loss of one of their best teammates.
Still, even coach Claude Julien said after Saturday’s preseason finale that the team will take a little time to get over “the sting” of losing Johnny Boychuk ($3.37 million) to the harsh realities of today’s salary cap NHL.
Torey Krug, just 23, now understands just how important managing the salary cap is for each team after spending most of the summer without a contract because GM Peter Chiarelli couldn’t fit him under the cap. Krug and Reilly Smith had to wait all summer and through most of camp to sign their $1.4 million deals because the team couldn’t sign them.
“[It’s] another lesson in the business for me,” said Krug. “I learned a few things this summer for sure, and it’s always going to be part of it forever as long as this game exists and the cap situation exists in this sport, so it’s tough to see him go for sure.”
Several defensemen will have to pick up the slack for Boychuk and will have the opportunity to step right in and play a bigger role in place of the 30-year-old who was considered one of the heart-and-soul parts of the B’s Stanley Cup run in 2011 and their finals appearance in 2013.
Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Krug all are younger than Boychuk and all likely will get chances to play alongside Dennis Seidenberg on Boston’s No. 2 D-pairing.
“I mean, it’s been like this the last few years, so it doesn’t really change anything,” Seidenberg said. “For me, it’s just trying to play wherever they put me and trying to do it well.”
“I didn’t know that — there was some talk about different things and stuff, but I was pretty much shocked,” McQuaid said in reacting Saturday. “I don’t know, I guess maybe we all just kind of had that hope in the back of our minds that somehow we could all stay. He’s a guy that’s a huge part of this team and for me a guy that always put a smile on my face every day. Always came to the rink in a good mood and was cracking jokes. I think I’ve played seven pro seasons and six have been with Johnny, so we’ve been through a lot together. He’s a guy that — I don’t think it’s really sunk in quite yet — but a guy that will be sorely missed.”
|Claude Julien: Johnny Boychuk trade ‘stings for everybody’||10.04.14 at 11:06 pm ET|
“I don’t think my thoughts differ from anybody else,” Julien said after his team’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Red Wings Saturday night. “I think we’re all disappointed to see him leave. As I mentioned, Peter [Chiarelli] eluded to that in his press conference. It stings for everybody. He was a good player, he was a good person, very well liked.
“Unfortunately our game is in that position where sometimes we’re forced to make those unpopular decisions. For a coaching staff, we’ll miss him like everybody else. But we have a job to do, and we feel we have a lot of good players here that we can certainly overcome this. And that’s just the way it goes, and part of hockey, and part of a tough day. You hope we’ll be able to turn the page here and by the time we start the season we’ll be ready to go.”
That position, of course, is a result of a salary cap squeeze, brought on – in part – with the signing of David Krejci. Now, the 30-year-old Boychuk (due $3.4 million in the final year of his three-year contract) will head to the Islanders while Julien is left to find a replacement to pair with Dennis Seidenberg.
He has several options, starting with Matt Bartkowski. Adam McQuaid, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug will also be asked to carry a bigger load.
“I think there’s no doubt that the experience those young guys got was valuable,” Julien said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to remember that we’ve got Seidenberg, we’ve got McQuaid back in our lineup, which is two more veterans. That certainly helps that youth maybe not be so young. So those are things. But the guys that got that experience ‘ you’re talking about Bartkowski, talking about Krug, you know Dougie Hamilton. I think those things will certainly pay off for us.”