|Claude Julien: Bruins relish being a part of a fabulous final four ‘it’s pretty impressive’||05.30.13 at 5:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — As the Bruins wrap up preparations for Game 1 of the Eastern finals Saturday night in Pittsburgh, they are taking a very brief moment to relish what it’s like to be part of a little recent history.
The quartet of the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings isn’t just a made-for-TV dream for NBC, they represent the most successful franchises in hockey over the last four years, as measured by Stanley Cup banners.
Each team has lifted the Cup once in the previous four seasons, starting with the Penguins in 2009, the Blackhawks in 2010, the Bruins in 2011 and the newbies, the Kings, who won their first in franchise history last year.
“I think it’s pretty impressive, knowing about parity in the league and how hard it is to get back there,” Claude Julien said. “To know that somebody is going to win it twice in, at the most, four years is pretty impressive, I think. That’s what we have here. It’s an opportunity for all of us here to duplicate what we’ve wanted to duplicate here for a while.”
Tyler Seguin was a mere 19-year-old pup when the Bruins last made a deep run, as he was a rookie in 2011. But that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate what the Bruins, Penguins, Blackhawks and Kings have all accomplished.
“It’s very cool,” Seguin said. “It’s great to be a part of it. I don’t know if that’s happened too often throughout history but it’s going to make for a great final finish. I think experience has always been huge, especially when it comes to playoffs. We have so much experience in our locker room we can face different types of adversity and I think when it comes to playoffs, teams that have experience are always going to have the edge. There’s always the underdogs or teams that surprise other teams but this year, I think it’s a little different because the last four winners are in the final four.
“I think chemistry can definitely be huge at times, especially when you’re making playoff runs of more than one in the last few years for all four of us. I think chemistry is big in those situations and experience goes a long way.”
Julien also appreciates the job his boss, GM Peter Chiarelli has done in keeping a young core together and in tact, ready to compete for a title, year-in and year-out.
“You know it becomes harder when you win,” Julien said after Thursday’s practice. “We won a couple years ago and he’s managed to keep the core and most of the players around. He’s done a great job. I’ve said it all along, to have an opportunity to coach a team that’s deep because of the players he’s provided us with. Thats’a credit to him and his group. The coach is as good as the people that surround him; that means the assistant coaches, but also means the players, and obviously management.
“That’s always been the case, it’s not something that’s new. It’s more about you have to realize what you have and we have a good group of people here, players, coaching staff, and then management. Everybody seems to be doing a good job at what they have to do and allows us the opportunity right now to be in the top four.”
|Bruins Wednesday notes: D mix-and-match, Claude Julien gets shots in, tells players to soak in rays||05.29.13 at 3:09 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — It was another day of perfect attendance on Wednesday as the Bruins held their second day of practice in preparation for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference finals series in Pittsburgh Saturday night.
The news of the day was the minor juggling of the defensive pairings, as Dennis Seidenberg was moved to a pairing with Matt Bartkowski while Zdeno Chara was paired with Johnny Boychuk. Adam McQuaid remained paired with Torey Krug, Andrew Ference was with Aaron Johnson and Wade Redden remained with Dougie Hamilton.
The offensive lines were the same. Claude Julien downplayed the significance, saying he like what he saw in his team on Wednesday.
“It’s good,” Julien said. “You saw during the season, we mix and match. You guys kept asking a lot of questions about that and I said, ‘You know what? It’s important that we do that because at some point you’re all going to have to play with each other.’ Guys that can play right that are left shots and vice versa, or even playing with different players, knowing how to do that. During the game we mix and match pairs sometimes. It’s not necessarily set pairs that you see on the ice all the time. That’s not going to change.”
Julien also said Wednesday that he has really liked what he’s seen this week so far from his team in terms of focus and execution in practice.
“It’s basically what you’re seeing right now, the last couple of days we’ve had some good practices,” he told reporters in his post-practice media briefing. “It’s been good tempo, good jump, good focus. It’s about being able to handle yourselves at this time of year in these types of situations. What I mean by that, when you get to the rink it’s all about business. Leave the rink, relax, enjoy the nice weather that’s there for you. You know the sun gives you energy, and nothing wrong with being out.
“Really kind of relaxing and making sure you don’t waste your energy out there when you should be saving it for the game and the time on the ice. It’s about focusing on those little things. Our guys have done a good job of taking care of themselves, eating properly, getting their rest. Right now I have no issues with where our team is based on what I see in practice.”
Other Wednesday tidbits: Doug Houda spent time with the defensemen working on skating drills at center ice, spending particular attention on Andrew Ference, who is coming back from a left foot injury. It was the second straight day of practice and sixth day on the ice since he was cleared to resume skating. … Julien took a hands-on approach in drills with his forwards on one-timers, standing in a corner and feeding a group that included Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly. He then worked with the likes of Daniel Paille and Thornton on working on re-directs in front of the net. … Both practices this week have lasted approximately one hour. … The Bruins will be at it again at Ristuccia on Thursday before leaving on Friday for Saturday’s Game 1.
|More ‘mature’ Bruins ready to handle time off before taking on Pens||05.28.13 at 6:15 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The last time the Bruins had this much time off, they fared quite well.
Two years ago, the Bruins had eight days in between sweeping the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and opening their series against Tampa Bay. They, of course, edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, on their way to the Stanley Cup finals.
They will have had at least six days off when they open the series against the Penguins this weekend at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Time off hasn’t always worked for Claude Julien and his Bruins. Remember 2009? The Bruins avenged a heart-breaking seven-game loss to the Canadiens in 2008 with a first-round sweep. They had 11 days off before opening a second-round series against Carolina. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and eventually held on to win Game 7 in double-overtime at the Garden.
What has Julien learned over time about time off?
“I think our team has matured a lot more in regards to that,” Julien said Tuesday. “We had a long break, too, when we swept Philly [Philadelphia Flyers] in four straight a few years ago, and we handled it well. Based on today’s practice, I thought we practiced really well, lots of energy, worked hard. I think the focus is still there. I think those years that you’re talking about, I think we had almost 11 days off, it was closer to two weeks.
“That was a lot and somehow we felt like we slipped out of it and by the time we got back into it, we were in deep trouble because I think we were down 3-1 against Carolina. That was something that, hopefully, we learned from. Right now, I don’t sense that, to be honest with you. I think our guys, we’re pretty focused right now. Like I said, I liked our intensity and our focus and our jump in practice today.”
Julien admitted to being older and wiser as an NHL playoff coach and said Tuesday he is benefitting from that at a time like this.
“It’s like anything else, you get experience, you go through different things,” Julien added. “I’ve gone through a sweep, gone through being swept four straight after up three, different things. We talked about a few years ago, 11 days off. Those experience go a long ways as you move forward, because you’ve been through all these things. It certainly gives you a better idea of how to handle that, but let’s call it experience, not so much learning. Chalk it down as experience.”
WILMINGTON — Andrew Ference skated for a fifth day on Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena, but for the first time with this teammates as he looks to come back from a left foot injury.
Ference was spotted walking with a walking boot on his left foot last Saturday during Game 5 of the series against the Rangers. But according to Ference, he had already been testing the health of the foot on the ice before then.
Ference injured the foot in Game 5 of the opening round against the Maple Leafs on May 10. He has not played in a game since.
“There’s no schedule,” Ference said after Tuesday’s skate, in which he was paired with defenseman Aaron Johnson. “It’s just a matter of go when you can go. I don’t think everything was ever put on a calendar. I think it was day-to-day the whole time, wasn’t it? That’s the way I’ve always viewed it.
“The last couple of days I had great skates. Today was the fifth day on the ice so it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s different when you get other guys on the ice and can actually practice. But to have four days completely on your own to do ‘Hockey School’, it’s nice, it really is. It’s kind of actually rare to get that kind of ice time to do exactly what you need. It’s beneficial.”
Ference said he’s been in a good position since he hasn’t felt rushed to return to a situation where he might not be 100 percent.
“You have help from other people when you’re dealing with something but at the end of the day, nobody knows who you feel except you. You’re not going to put yourself in a position you’re not ready for,” Ference said.
As for coach Claude Julien, he sidestepped questions about whether Ference, a leading penalty-killer for the Bruins, would earn his spot back when declared healthy and ready to go. Ference would likely nab the spot of Matt Bartkowski at this point, with Dennis Seidenberg already supplanting Dougie Hamilton last Saturday in Game 5 against the Rangers.
“You know what? We’re not there yet and until we’re there, I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said Tuesday. “It’s like we’re trying to get ahead of everything here. We’re not even close to starting a series. We’ll let him skate a little bit with us and see how he does. When the times comes, I’ll be more than happy to make that tough decision.
“It’s a good sign that he’s practicing with us. I don’t know. Again, it’s a medical issue that unless the trainers say it’s a go ‘ sometimes he may be ready, but could be a risky kind of ready. We’ll wait and see what our trainers say and how Andrew [Ference] feels, as well, before we make any decision on him.”
WILMINGTON — Claude Julien has instilled a certain attitude with his Bruins.
Play fearless hockey in the playoffs and see what happens.
Rask said that he expects to carry a big load and always goes into a series thinking he is the best goalie. That attitude also matches what the experts are saying. If the Bruins are going to have a chance of upsetting the Penguins, Rask will need to play to his level and maybe above.
Rask is considered by all experts as the superior netminder in this series, far and above the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I think he answered it right because I’m one of those guys where you have to relish the challenges,” Julien said Tuesday as the Bruins returned to the ice as a team for the first time since eliminating the Rangers on Saturday evening. “You can’t fear them. Bring it on. And that’s what he’s telling you right now, ‘Bring it on. I’m ready for it.’ That’s what our whole team’s demeanor is going to be is like, ‘Hey, we know it’s a big challenge. Bring it on.’ We’re ready for it. We’ll give it everything we have and hopefully, that’ll be enough to win a series.
“I think there’s two teams here that know what’s at stake. They’re going to bring their best at us, and we’re hopefully going to do the same thing to them. And we know how we play and we know how they play and it’s going to be a matter of just seeing how it pans out.”
Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.
The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.
“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”
Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. ‘¦ You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”
Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”
Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.
“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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|Claude Julien gives Tuukka Rask green light to ‘start laughing’ about Game 4 miscue||05.26.13 at 1:30 am ET|
For all the great saves Henrik Lundqvist made on the Bruins throughout Game 5 Saturday at TD Garden, the one save that will be remembered the longest is the one made by Tuukka Rask on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway with just over 11 minutes left in the third period.
The Bruins were clinging to a 2-1 lead as Callahan was fed on a break through the neutral zone and had a clear path toward Rask. The Bruins goalie made the save, and Boston’s lead stood up in a 3-1 win over the Rangers in the clinching Game 5.
“Well, our goalie coach [Bob Essensa] told me after, I think it was Game 1 when he scored on that breakaway, that he never goes backhand,” Rask said. “So I was banking on him shooting and keeping it on the forehand. But he went backhand, and I just extended my leg and blocker there and made the save.”
Rask had faced just 17 shots through two periods before facing 12 in the third, including Callahan’s.
“That’s just staying mentally sharp,” Rask said. “But you have to know something is going to happen, and they’re going to throw everything they could at you and going to try to get that change to tie the game. You know, today it happened to be a breakaway and I just wanted to make one or two big saves in the third and hopefully keep that lead. And today we succeeded.”
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