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Milan Lucic: Penguins are ‘almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL’ 05.26.13 at 1:02 am ET
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Milan Lucic has his sights set on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. (AP)

Now the road gets a lot tougher.

The Bruins enter the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins as decided underdogs. The Bruins might have the better goalie in Tuukka Rask and may have won the Cup more recently (2011) than the Penguins (2009). But the Penguins have their version of the Big Three in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla, reminding one player on the Bruins of a powerhouse in the NBA.

“Well, no doubt they’re a great hockey club,” Milan Lucic said after Saturday’s series-clinching 3-1 win over the Rangers at TD Garden. “In my mind, they’re almost like the Miami Heat of the NHL with all the star power they’ve got. Probably the two best players in the world and a 40-goal scorer and the former 50-goal scorer, a future Hall of Famer and a Norris Trophy candidate on their team.

“So, they definitely have a lot of weapons, and in saying all that, I think what makes them successful is they play real well as a team and I think that’s what you’re going to probably see going into this next series, is two well-rounded teams going at it, and for us we’ve got to be ready and excited for the challenge.”

Lucic and the Bruins proved they can beat at least one NHL superstar in the playoffs by dispatching of Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in five games.

“It was big for us,” Lucic said. “I think the mindset in this room was that we didn’t want to be denied and we knew that he was going to be the best player on their team, and he was in this series for them and he kept a couple of games closer. He stopped me four good times here tonight, but he’s a great goaltender for a reason and he played well and like I said we did whatever we could to try to get to him and we were able to do that.”

What will be the key to beating the Penguins?

“We just got to play a strong team game and play to our strengths,” Lucic said. “We’re a team that plays in-your-face-type of hockey and I think what worked for us this series was we were able to establish our forecheck, and we’ve got to keep doing that, and they’re a team that you don’t want to turn the puck over against because they have more than enough weapons to make you pay for it. So, puck management is going to be huge for us, and in saying all that, I think tonight and tomorrow we need to enjoy what we accomplished so far in the playoffs.”

Claude Julien wanted no part of talking about Pittsburgh, preferring to bask in the glow of eliminating the Rangers, reflecting the mood of most inside the Bruins dressing room not named Milan Lucic.

“I’m not going to talk about the Penguins tonight, we just finished against the Rangers. I’ll stick to that, if you don’t mind,” Julien said.

John Tortorella has no such problems giving his opinion about Boston’s chances.

“I think Boston has a really good chance,” Tortorella said. “I think Claude and that staff has done a heck of a job with their club. I can’t believe some of the people, how they second-guess him, just being in the city for a few days, and the type of job he’s done here. That’s a good team. They’re very well-coached, and they’re seasoned. They’ve been through it before, and I give them a lot of credit, as far as what they’ve done with their club. They’re a good hockey team.”

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Claude Julien happy with his power play: ‘Especially [considering] the lack of them’ 05.24.13 at 4:29 pm ET
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Jaromir Jagr skates with the puck Friday at Bruins practice with Brad Marchand as the B's get ready for Game 5 Saturday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Claude Julien has been happy with his power play unit in this series, that is when the Bruins actually get a power play.

He made that much perfectly clear on Friday after practice as his team prepares for another chance to wrap up the series against the Rangers in Game 5 at TD Garden Saturday evening.

The Bruins were 2-for-4 on the power play Thursday in the Game 4 loss to the Rangers, with one of the two misses actually resulting in a goal as Tyler Seguin scored his first goal this postseason as a penalty was expiring in the third period. The Bruins didn’t get a single power play in Game 3 and had only one in Game 2. Boston is 3-for-9 in this playoff series while the Rangers are now 1-for-14 on the man-advantage.

With Nathan Horton and Torey Krug scoring on the power play Thursday night, is Julien pleased that his power play is making the most of its chances?

“Well, yeah especially the lack of them that we’ve had in this series,” Julien said. “It was nice to see us score a couple of goals. It’s been tough. It’s a good thing we’re a good five on five team and that we’ve managed to win hockey games, but last night two for four, and certainly it could have been three for four I guess two seconds after the power play ended, so our power play did a good job of producing and whenever you can count on that it’s always a bonus.

Other notes from Friday’s practice:

The Bruins skated hard for 30 minutes in an up-tempo, early afternoon practice on the TD Garden ice. All players were present and accounted for except for Andrew Ference, who is still nursing a lower body injury that has kept him out since Game 5 in the first round. Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden were the fourth defensive pairs to skate in drills Friday. Julien kept his defensive pairings the same, with Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton leading the way, followed by Johnny Boychuk and Matt Bartkowski and then Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug. There were no changes on the lines either as Tyler Seguin remains on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley.

“I think it was one of those practices today where you wanted to get a good sweat, knowing it’s an early game tomorrow, or afternoon game,” Julien said of the odd 5:30 p.m. start time on Saturday afternoon. “And we just want to make sure we’re ready for tomorrow.”

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Claude Julien on Game 4 OT loss: ‘There’s no panic here’ at 12:34 am ET
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Claude Julien blamed sloppiness - not work ethic - for the Bruins loss in Game 4. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

NEW YORK — There were no Jekyll and Hyde comments from Claude Julien after his team blew a 2-0 lead in the second period and lost a potential series-clinching Game 4 to the Rangers in overtime, 4-3.

To the Bruins coach, Thursday’s loss wasn’t a matter of being outworked, just sloppiness, puck-watching and a lack of execution.

“There’s no panic here,” Julien assured everyone afterward. “Had we been outworked and not been there at all, I’d be talking differently here. But we didn’t get outworked. All it was, our team didn’t execute as well as we have been lately. We have to go home and play a better game. But our work ethic was there. The things we did extremely well weren’t that easy tonight.”

Julien was asked about the bizarre two goals scored by New York on mistakes by Tuukka Rask (falling down) and Zdeno Chara (getting picked behind the net) and how those goals erased the 2-0 lead and allowed the Broadway Blues back in the game.

“I don’t know if it was the momentum that shifted more than … I felt we didn’t get outworked but we didn’t play as well as we could’ve throughout the whole game, even after the first period we talked about it,” Julien said.

“But the other thing is when you give them two gift goals, eventually it’s going to hurt. So, that’s what happened. We have a 2-0 lead there and it’s looks good. But then [get] unlucky and it’s a goal and it’s gives them life again. But at the end of the day, it’s pretty simple, didn’t play well enough, not outworked. We competed as hard as they did but we didn’t execute as well as we can.”

Rask falling down, Chara getting stripped and too many men on the ice all were mistakes that added up to disaster for the Bruins on Thursday.

“I think Tuukka did the job he had to do and just Z got stripped,” Julien said. “Again, it’s a mistake, but as we often say, how many does he repair versus how many does he cost. At the end of the day, those two goals certainly hurt us.”

On the Rangers’ power-play goal, their first of the series and just third in 41 tries in the playoffs, the Bruins allowed Brian Boyle to get deep into the slot with no one covering him and score with 10 minutes left to force overtime.

“We’re 3-2 and the power-play goal [happens] and it’s a mistake on our part. We’re puck-watching. We felt we were puck-watching, allowing Boyle to get into the slot for an easy shot. We were a little sloppy. We weren’t as crisp as we have been in past games. Eventually, they came back and found a way to win this hockey game.”

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Claude Julien in closeout state of mind: ‘We’re going to do whatever it takes’ to win Game 4 05.23.13 at 1:22 pm ET
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Adam McQuaid and the Bruins look for the knockout punch Thursday night in Game 4. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

NEW YORK — Short and sweet.

That’s the way both coaches kept their press conferences on Thursday before Game 4 and that’s the way the Bruins would like to wrap up their Eastern Conference semifinal series tonight at Madison Square Garden.

“We’re here to win a hockey game tonight,” Claude Julien said at the beginning of his 98-second press briefing. “We’re going to do whatever it takes.”

Julien’s press conference was about a minute longer than John Tortorella‘s press briefing with reporters, that was limited to two questions.

Speaking of Julien, the Bruins coach was asked about the importance of the home crowd at MSG, and keeping the New York fans on their hands.

“As important as it has been in every game,” Julien said. “Whether at home or away, you get the crowd in or crowd out. That’s not going to change.

“I think we want to play a 60-minute game. That just shows the character of our guys playing hard right ot the end. It’s a great thing to have and you hope you can keep it.”

Brad Richards has been informed that he’s been benched for tonight as a healthy scratch and Aaron Asham is likely to sit out as well.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Julien said.

“I think it’s going to be more difficult just because they’re going to have two players who are going to step in there and want to change the game and they’ll probably be their two best players tonight,” Daniel Paille said. “It’ll most likely going to be a low-scoring game and make sure we’re not panicking out there and stay focused on our system and things will go well for us.”

As for Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden, both of whom skated with the team Thursday, Julien said he won’t reveal anything until game time.

“Our lineups will be on the ice tonight for warmups and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” Julien said.

As for the players, they’re taking the typical one-game-at-a-time approach.

“I don’t think we focus too much on sweeping,” Paille said. “We focus more on today. Obviously, it’s great to look at on paper but there’s a lot that goes into that. Everyone is in a confident, positive attitude and we want to continue that trend today.”
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Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins ‘far more prepared’ to win a closeout game vs. Rangers at 11:49 am ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday to preview Game 4 of the Bruins-Rangers playoff series.

The Bruins are looking to close out the series with a sweep, but Brickley said he does not expect the Rangers to lay down.

“They’re not going to want to lose on home ice,” Brickley said. “They’re not going to want to go down four straight to this Bruins team. They want to force a Game 5. They absolutely have a lot of pride. They’re professional athletes. They’re a team that was expected to do something this year, and the opportunities are sliding away quickly. So, I expect them to bring their ‘A’ game, and I expected their goaltender to play as well as he did in Game 3.”

The Bruins are coming off an impressive win in Game 3, as they delivered a solid effort for 60 minutes and scored two third-period goals to pull out the win.

“The thing I loved about the Bruins in Game 3 was no Jekyll and Hyde persona that Claude [Julien] likes to talk about; far more consistent,” Brickley said. “The best measure is quality scoring chances given up, and you can count them on one hand against [Tuukka] Rask in Game 3. Even though they needed two goals in the third period, the Bruins were never in any real trouble despite the one goal that beat Rask through a whole bunch of bodies from a screen on that shot by [Ryan] McDonagh from the point.

“The only thing that concerned you a little bit was the scoring chances that they had in the first period and were unable to beat [Henrik] Lundqvist. But their mentality coming into the series was that’s what they expected from Lundqvist all along, even though they didn’t get it in Games 1 and 2. So, I think the Bruins mentally and emotionally were prepared for that kind of performance. And they just try to stay on the attack and play to their identity, which was to roll those four lines.

“What they’ve shown us in this series is incredible depth that they have. No [Dennis] Seidenberg, no [Andrew] Ference, no [Wade] Redden. You get [Matt] Bartkowski, [Torey] Krug and [Dougie] Hamilton, and that gives you a different dynamic to your team — that speed, quickness and mobility on the back end. But I think you also saw their depth in Game [3], with your fourth line and the matchups you get with that fourth line and how good they played, with experience and with familiarity and their forechecking game — simple, fundamental and effective. And they end up being difference-makers on the scoresheet.”

The Bruins’ lack of success in non-Game 7 closeout games over the past three years has been well-documented. Brickley said the B’s appear to be better equipped to provide a finishing touch Thursday.

“I still have memories of Game 5 on home ice against Toronto, up 3-1,” Brickley said. “The way [the Bruins] responded in Game 3 [vs. the Rangers] makes me think that they’re far more prepared — mentally, physically, emotionally — for a closeout game situation. They needed three closeout games to beat the Leafs. You hope it’s a lesson learned. I expect the Bruins, since they’ve found some consistency now in their game, that they’ll be far better tonight.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.

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Wednesday practice notes: Claude Julien likes where his team is right now 05.22.13 at 4:49 pm ET
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Claude Julien is poised for a Bruins sweep in New York. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

NEW YORK — The Bruins have the look of a very confident team right now, as well they should being up 3-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals and getting stronger and stronger with each game.

But Claude Julien knows full well he’s going to hear plenty about being up 3-0 in 2010 against the Flyers and 3-1 against the Maple Leafs last round, showing incredible difficulty in closing out in both cases.

“I think we live in the moment,” Julien said, sounding a highly philosophical tone. “You learn from the past but you live in the moment but you don’t live in the past. So, right now, we’re living in the moment. I like where our team is right now.

“The attitude, the approach and we’re certainly not looking at it the way all the people are going to look at it and try and find reasons to give New York some hope and say, ‘Look these guys have done this and these guys have had trouble doing this.’ We’re certainly not even going there. We’re looking at the present right now and the present is getting prepared to play a real good game [Thursday], kind of like we played [Tuesday].”

Julien, repeating the theme of taking nothing for granted, said a closeout of the Rangers will require an effort as good – if not better than – Tuesday’s performance in Game 3.

“I think if we don’t take the same attitude as we took [Tuesday], then we shouldn’t expect to win the hockey game,” Juilen said.

Other notes from Wednesday’s practice:

It was a light turnout for a laid-back practice on the ice as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley, David Krejci, Daniel Paille, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuck, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic all had the day off from skating. Bergeron and Marchand were among those working on their hand-eye skills with a soccer ball in the hallway outside the Bruins dressing room.

Tyler Seguin, Jaromir Jagr, Dennis Seidenberg, Wade Redden, Chris Kelly, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Jay Pandolfo, Kaspars Daugavins Aaron Johnson were among those taking part.

The Bruins skated for about 40 minutes before calling it a day.

Claude Julien said both Seidenberg and Redden are making significant progress each day and their status will be evaluated Thursday. Meanwhile, Ference (lower body), who hasn’t played since Game 5 against Toronto, is still nursing an injury that has put him on the sidelines indefinitely.

“He’s doing OK,” Julien said. “He’s improving although you haven’t seen him on the ice. Better. I haven’t talked to our trainers about his return date to the ice but I think it’s getting closer all the time.”

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Claude Julien: ‘We’re a very focused group right now’ at 12:06 am ET
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Claude Julien and the Bruins have taken command of their series with the Rangers. (AP)

In the wake of a 2-1 win in Game 3 that leaves them one win from the Eastern Conference finals, Bruins coach Claude Julien says he can sense his team has found its groove.

“We’re a very focused group right now, and the challenge is to stay there.” Julien said. “After the second period, we’re playing a good road period. I thought with a couple of breaks in the first period, we could’ve been ahead. We didn’t care if we had to go to overtime, we just wanted to get that first goal.

“There’s no doubt. I don’t only see it on the ice, I feel it in the dressing room everywhere else. The Jekyll and Hyde thing I haven’t seen since midway through the Toronto series.”

Since falling behind 4-1 with 11 minutes left in the third period of Game 7 against Toronto, the Bruins have outscored the competition 14-3 while winning four straight games.

The Bruins also handed New York its first home ice loss of the playoffs after the Rangers won Games 3, 4 and 6 on Madison Square Garden ice in the first round against Washington.

“You have to be proud of your team,” Julien said. “[Playing] a Rangers team that hadn’t lost here in a long time, playing well here in the playoffs. We had to be better. We’re playing well and eventually get that goal and it came.”

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