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Best defense for Bruins down stretch might be strong offense 04.05.16 at 12:58 pm ET
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Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Even at less than 100 percent, Kevan Miller’s expected return to the Bruins’ lineup Tuesday will help improve the defense from what it was on Sunday. With Dennis Seidenberg still out, the B’s need whatever they can get to avoid the issues they had when trying to defend the Hawks of the first 40 minutes of their final road game.

So with Colin Miller also entering the lineup, it’s natural to wonder whether the youngster’s return is a step in the right direction for the Bruins defensively.

It isn’t, but then again they weren’t going to much better off with Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman in the lineup instead of him. If the younger Miller can bring his skating and offensive ability, it will be worth what he lacks in his own end.

This is because the banged-up Bruins aren’t positioned to defend particularly well one through six. The offense, however, can be a strength after recently bouncing back from its most dormant 10-game period of the season. It might need to be if the Bruins want to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight year.

“The offense is there right now again,” Claude Julien said Tuesday morning. “We just have to tighten up a little bit defensively, which we’ve gone through a couple of times this year. We’ve gotten loose a little bit and then we’ve tightened it up and when we’ve tightened it up we’ve been able to have success, so if we can tighten it up tonight and continue to take advantage of our opportunities to score, that should help our chances quite a bit.”

Coming off a road trip that saw the B’s score 10 goals and allow 11, they will look for similar offense in the season’s final three games while crossing their fingers on the health and play of the defense improving. That might mean some high-scoring games, which are not the type Claude Julien teams have been known for playing.

“I think we can. I don’t think that we want to,” Ryan Spooner said of winning potential track meets. “If you look at our team, just this team as a whole in the past 10 years, they’ve taken a lot of pride in being a good defensive team first. I think if you ask all the guys in the room, they would rather win a game 2-1 or 3-2 than they would 6-5. At this time of the year, you don’t want to get into those run-and-gun matches.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Claude Julien, Ryan Spooner,
Bruins not thinking about repercussions of missing playoffs 04.04.16 at 1:55 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

The Bruins might not even need to win all three of their games this week. The Red Wings are mediocre enough that it would be a surprise if they came into Boston Thursday having not lost to the Flyers the night earlier.

Yet whether it means winning two games or winning three, the Bruins need to do whatever is required of them to make the playoffs this week. If not, an organization that already needed changes might make more drastic ones. Even if he isn’t a primary reason for the Bruins’ situation, Claude Julien could be an obvious fall guy.

“We’re not even there,” Julien said of the idea of missing the postseason. “We don’t even talk about that.”

Julien is in his ninth season with the Bruins. Players like Zdeno Chara (10 years) and Dennis Seidenberg (seven years) have been around to see much better days in their time with the B’s. The Bruins’ recent era of dominance essentially ended when Johnny Boychuk was traded ahead of last season, but the longer-tenured Bruins who have won before feel they can win again in Boston.

“We look at the next game tomorrow, that we’ve got to win that. All the other [expletive], there’s no reason to look any further than that,” Seidenberg said. “I’m confident we’re going to win all these three games and make it to the playoffs.”

The Bruins will play their final three games of their regular-season schedule at TD Garden, starting with Tuesday’s contest against the Hurricanes.

Read More: Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg,
An NHL coach texted Claude Julien ‘WTF’ after bad video review 03.24.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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Claude Julien said he was just as baffled as everybody else when a video review led officials to say there was no conclusive evidence of the puck crossing the goal line on what would have been a Patrice Bergeron goal Thursday night.

Furthermore, Julien said a coach from another team texted him about the play.

Said Julien: “I got another coach that texted me, and [it] was ‘WTF. How can that not be a goal?’ That’s coming from somebody who’s neutral.”

“I think you need to call the league because I can’t explain it either. I’m as baffled as you are right now, and I looked at it many times here before coming out here,” Julien said. “It looks like it’s in. It looks very conclusive.”

The goal would have tied the game at two goals apiece, but the Panthers ended up building on their lead with two more goals in an eventual 4-1 win.

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Bruins believe in Capitals hype, but know well that ‘anything can happen’ 03.05.16 at 11:48 am ET
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The Capitals are considered the Eastern Conference's lone Cup contender (Getty Images)

The Capitals are considered the Eastern Conference’s lone Cup contender (Getty Images)

The Eastern Conference picture has been clear pretty much all season: There’s the Capitals and there’s everyone else.

In ranking first in the NHL in goals per game and third in goals against per game, the Capitals are the clear favorite to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Final this season, but at the very least, they will run away with the Presidents’ Trophy. Their 98 points through 64 games puts them on pace for 126 points; since the return from the 2004-05 lockout, only twice has a team had a 120-point season (Detroit with 124 in 2005-06 and Washington with 121 in 2009-10). The Capitals have beaten the B’s in both of the teams’ meetings entering Saturday’s contest at TD Garden.

The Bruins are among the teams trying to establish themselves as a potential “other Eastern Conference powerhouse.” As the last Eastern Conference to win the Cup and a common favorite in seasons leading up to this one, the Bruins know well that being considered the favorite in the East doesn’t always pan out. Boston dominated the 2011-12 regular season before being knocked off by the No. 7 ranked Capitals in seven games.

“Let me put it this way: Every playoffs, there’s been surprises,” Claude Julien said Saturday morning. “I don’t put a ton of stock into who’s in and who’s out. We all know Washington’s one of the favorites in our conference; rightfully so. They have a great team and their record shows it, but in this game anything can happen.

“We go about our business and go day-by-day. To overthink that situation to me is not healthy. To just go out there and do your job and look forward to what you have to do is probably the best way to look at that situation.”

Dennis Seidenberg said that if the Bruins are no longer considered in the class they once were, it alleviates the pressure that their stronger clubs of seasons past had.

“We like being in the underdog role,” Seidenberg said. “It means we can perform without pressure, but that team is really good over there. They’re very, very deep, very balanced scoring, very deep on defense. They’re the favorite for a reason, but with that comes a lot of pressure, a lot of certainty. Once we get into the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s what happened to us when we lost against them in seven games. If there’s a team that plays well at the right time and has a goalie that plays very well, anything can happen. We’ll see.”

The Bruins will try to pull off their second consecutive upset against a Cup favorite Saturday when they host the Capitals. Much like the Blackhawks team that Boston defeated on Thursday, the Capitals will be playing the second night of a back-to-back and will have their backup goaltender in net.

Still, defeating the Blackhawks and Capitals in succession would not only be a feather in this post-deadline Bruins team’s cap, but it would secure much-needed points that many figured would be unattainable this week. The Bruins enter Saturday’s game in third place in the Atlantic Division, though current wild card Detroit sits three points behind them with one game in hand. Including Saturday, the B’s have 17 games remaining in their regular-season schedule.

“Before you know it, the season will be over,” Julien said. “There’s not that many games left, so we need to assert ourselves every game. It’s not so much what it means more than what we need to do here. We need to bring our A game and understand that we have to play a lot like we did the other night, be strong in all areas in order to beat good teams like Washington.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg,
5 things we learned as Bruins beat Blackhawks, Claude Julien pulls even with Art Ross 03.03.16 at 9:32 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

Whether he cared about personal accomplishments or just wanted a measuring-stick win, Claude Julien had to like what he saw Thursday against the Blackhawks.

The Bruins defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions, 4-2, at TD Garden behind a strong effort that gave Julien his 387th regular-season win as Bruins coach, tying him with Art Ross for the most in team history.

By turning in a clean defensive performance and got balanced scoring in the victory, the Bruins improved to 37-23-6 on the season (78 points) to remain third in the Atlantic Division. Tuukka Rask stopped 25 of the 27 shots he saw, though improved play in front of the net made his night easier than it’s been for much of the season.

Here are four more things we learned Thursday:

ERIKSSON BACK TO SCORING AFTER LINE SWITCH

Claude Julien kept the lines that he used in the third period of Tuesday’s game against the Flames, which saw Loui Eriksson and Matt Beleskey switch spots. Beleskey played on the left of David Krejci and David Pastrnak, while Eriksson moved to the third line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes as the B’s used the following lineup:

Marchand-Bergeron-Stempniak
Beleskey-Krejci-Pastrnak
Eriksson-Spooner-Hayes
Ferraro-Acciari-Connolly

Chara-Miller
Krug-Seidenberg
Liles-McQuaid

Rask

After going four straight games without a point, Eriksson got back on the scoresheet with a second-period goal to bring his season total to 24.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Claude Julien,
5 things we learned as Patrice Bergeron-less Bruins beat Wild for Claude Julien’s 500th win 02.13.16 at 4:34 pm ET
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Claude Julien‘s 500th win as an NHL head coach came a day earlier than some might have expected.

Given that Patrice Bergeron was out of the lineup and Jonas Gustavsson was given the start Saturday, the Bruins were better positioned to win on the second day of this weekend’€™s back-to-back than the first. The B’€™s managed the victory anyway, defeating the Wild as the penalty skill held strong throughout a special teams battle.

The Bruins killed off five Wild power plays and got a shorthanded goal from — you guessed it — Brad Marchand in a 4-2 win in Minnesota. The B’€™s will travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings Sunday in the third game of their current six-game road trip.

The Bruins’€™ power play didn’€™t fare much better than Minnesota’€™s with an 0-for-6 showing on the man advantage, but even-strength goals from David Krejci and Loui Eriksson allowed the B’€™s to outpace their opponent despite only attempting 10 shots over the game’€™s first 40 minutes. Zdeno Chara added an empty-netter from the defensive zone with just under two minutes remaining to seal the victory.

Now 2-0-0 on their road trip, the Bruins have sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division entering Sunday’s contest against the Red Wings. Detroit trails Boston by one point with both teams 55 games into their respective schedules.

Here are four more things we learned Saturday:

KEMPPAINEN RETURN PART OF BERGERON TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT

Bergeron being out of the lineup meant that Claude Julien had to shuffle his lines and special teams assignments. Among them: Ryan Spooner jumped up to center the first line, Joonas Kemppainen returned to the lineup and greater special teams assignments were given to David Pastrnak, who played on the first power play unit, and Kemppainen and Zac Rinaldo on the penalty kill.

Joe Morrow and Kevan Miller also remained in the lineup over Colin Miller, who sat for the fourth straight game. The Bruins used the following lineup:

Marchand-Spooner-Connolly
Beleskey-Krejci-Pastrnak
Eriksson-Kemppainen-Hayes
Rinaldo-Talbot-Randell

Chara-Trotman
Morrow-Seidenberg
Krug-Kevan Miller

Gustavsson

MARCHAND MAKES IT 12 IN 12

With a shorthanded goal — his fourth of the season — Marchand continued his furious scoring pace to give him 12 goals in the last 12 games. He brought his total on the season to 27 goals, which puts him fifth in the NHL and one behind former linemate Tyler Seguin with four fewer games played.

Marchand is now on pace for 42 goals this season.

POSITIVE REVIEWS

Boston’€™s second goal needed to be reviewed, as Krejci threw the puck on net off the rush as Nino Niederrieter was crashing into the Minnesota goal. A review confirmed that the play, which saw Krejci’€™s shot go off Niederrieter and across goal line, was a good goal. Following is the league’€™s explanation:

At 11:48 of the second period in the Bruins/Wild game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play at the Minnesota net. The referee informed the Situation Room that it was a good goal, a decision supported by NHL Hockey Operations in accordance with Rule 63.6, which states: “In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, prior to the puck crossing the normal positions of the goal posts, the referee may award a goal. In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts. The goal frame is considered to be displaced if either or both goal pegs are no longer in their respective holes in the ice, or the net has come completely off one or both pegs, prior to or as the puck enters the goal.” Good goal Boston.

ERIKSSON HEATING UP

It’€™s tough to say how much longer Eriksson will be a Bruin. If these are some of his final games in Boston, however, he’€™s making them count.

Eriksson took a nice pass from Spooner in the third period and scored on a breakaway to give him three goals in the last four games. The goal was also the 200th of his career.

The free-agent-to-be had seen his scoring stall for a bit — zero goals in nine games leading into last Saturday — but he has recovered well. With an assist on Thursday as well, the veteran wing has four points (three goals, one assist) in his last four contests.

Read More: Claude Julien,
3rd-place Bruins say they’ve ‘surprised,’ ‘proved people wrong’ 01.27.16 at 2:15 am ET
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Ryan Spooner

Ryan Spooner

The Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break didn’t go their way, a 6-2 loss to Anaheim that dropped the B’s home record to a lousy 11-13-2.

However, the players in the Boston dressing room seemed content with their lot in life as they packed up for a week’s furlough, a 26-18-5 season mark in tow that was holding them third place in the Atlantic Division with 33 games remaining on the season.

“We’ve surprised a lot of people,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “We’re not surprised in here where we [are]. We had a goal to be in the top three [of our division] before the All-Star break and we’re sitting right there.”

“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of people that probably thought that we wouldn’t be in the playoffs,” echoed forward Ryan Spooner. “You kind of heard that stuff, and that we would be a younger team. But we’ve shown that we can play with the top teams. We’ve proved a lot of people wrong and we just have to keep that up.”

The Bruins have indeed exceeded many preseason prognostications to this point. The team’s 21-10-2 record against the Eastern Conference shines bright, as does its 12-6-1 mark within the division. The latter includes a 4-0 performance against the two teams ahead of Boston in the Atlantic (Florida and Detroit).

That said, despite winning five of their last seven games, players also are willing to admit that their current playoff perch is a tenuous one.

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Read More: Claude Julien, Ryan Spooner, Torey Krug, Tuukka Rask

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