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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.”

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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Read More: Claude Julien, Dougie Hamilton, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara
What to make of these Bruins as they head into homestretch 04.08.13 at 1:26 am ET
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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, ‘€œThey 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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Read More: Bruins, Claude Julien, Tyler Seguin,
Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess 04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET
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Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.

Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.

The lines looked like this:

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.

Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.

It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.

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Read More: Claude Julien, Tyler Seguin,
Claude Julien on allowing 87 shots in 2 games: Bad habits have ‘crept into our game’ 04.05.13 at 2:20 am ET
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Claude Julien can read the shot board on the TD Garden scoreboards like anyone else.

He knows full well that the Bruins gave up 47 shots on Tuesday night and escaped with a 3-2 win over the Senators thanks to the play of back-up goalie Anton Khudobin.

He knows full well the Bruins allowed Tuukka Rask to face 40 shots Thursday night against New Jersey, only to have their rear ends saved by the fact their goalie turned away all 40 in a 1-0 squeaker over the Devils.

“Well, he was good,” Julien said in his best understated voice. “You know, he was one of the reasons we won, obviously. He made the big saves when he had to and kept us in the lead at times when they could have gotten themselves back into the game. He was good for us tonight, and sometimes a little bit of rest and a little bit of work with the goalie coach is what goaltenders need.”

Rask wasn’t complaining afterward. Actually, he was happy to see so many pucks early, as the Bruins were outshot 17-6 in the opening 20 minutes after he had the last two games off.

“Yeah, I was saying to Doby [Anton Khudobin] in the first intermission that I would rather take 17 shots, then three or four shots to just get kind of get going and even though they had 17 shots there were a lot of shots from the outsides so it was good to get that feeling. Feel for the puck and stuff like that, so good effort.

“I’€™d just rather go out there and just get my mind right during the game. Doby played great in Buffalo, played great against Ottawa so I wasn’€™t feeling sorry for myself sitting out there. I was feeling good for him. He’€™s kind of in that groove and he’€™s playing really good so it was good to watch him for a couple of outings there and I felt good out there.”

Is Julien concerned about the shot totals and the way his team is playing defensively? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, NHL, Tuukka Rask
Chris Kelly days away from returning to Bruins lineup 04.04.13 at 12:40 pm ET
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Chris Kelly skated for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday as he nears a return from a broken tibia suffered on March 11 against the Senators, but Thursday marked the first time he skated with his teammates.

Kelly participated fully in the Bruins’ morning skate, and though he will not play Thursday against the Devils, Claude Julien said that his return to the lineup is right around the corner.

“I think it’s just a matter of probably days now vs. a week that hopefully he’ll be back,” Julien said.

The coach added that Kelly will travel with the team to Montreal this weekend for Saturday’s game, though it’s too early to tell whether Kelly will actually play vs. the Habs.

Though Kelly is itching to get back on the ice (this is the longest he’s been out with an injury in his NHL career), he isn’t getting too far ahead of himself when it comes to jumping back in the lineup.

“It’s just about how I feel. If I feel good, I do a little bit more the next day,” he said. “If I don’t feel as good, maybe don’t push it as much. One step at a time. Today was my first day with the guys, and it was just a morning skate. Maybe if we practice tomorrow, I’ll get to skate a little longer with them and maybe do a little more.”

Morning skates aren’t a very physical affair, as the half hour is used for skating, line rushes, and other work such as special teams and face-offs. The next step in Kelly’s recovery would appear to be adding the physical aspect.

“I’m hoping not to get hit, to be honest,” he said with a laugh. “If they want to hit me, I guess that will be the next step.”

As for what he’s looking to get out of the final days before he gets back into games, Kelly said that it’s a combination of getting over the injury and getting his strength back.

“I think it’s a little bit of both. Conditioning is definitely a big part of it,” he said. “You don’t want to be fatigued and put yourself in a vulnerable position for other injuries. The fatigue aspect is definitely there. I need to work on that and just feel comfortable with the injury as well.”

When he does return, his line could look different. When he was injured, he was skating with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron on the third line, but since then the Bruins have added Kaspars Daugavins and Jaromir Jagr, both of whom could eventually be in the third line mix. The B’s have also used Jay Pandolfo more on the third line (Pandolfo and Daugavins played on Peverley’s wings in Thursday’s morning skate).

Kelly’s line struggled mightily before he went down, and the third line has continued to underachieve. He doesn’t view his eventual return as a chance to bounce back with a new linemate or two, focusing instead on just playing when he can.

“I just want to be back. Whoever I play with will be great,” he said. “I know adding [Jagr] was great, and Daugavins as well. There are a few new faces, but whoever I play with will be great with me.”

Read More: Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, Jaromir Jagr,
Bruins not offended by Jarome Iginla’s decision, but can still prove him wrong 03.29.13 at 2:05 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Jarome Iginla slighted the Bruins when, after the Flames and B’s agreed to a trade Wednesday, he told the Flames that he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to go to Boston and would rather play for the Penguins. That’s it, plain and simple, but the Bruins on Friday showed no effects of having been spurned.

David Krejci likely would have been Iginla’s center, and the addition of the rugged right wing would have given Krejci a more consistent scorer in a season in which linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have seen their offense go missing for long stretches.

“I’ve got nothing [to say] about it,” Krejci said. “I’m just playing a game. I heard rumors he might be coming here and I guess he picked Pittsburgh, and that’s his decision. We’re still the same team as we were a couple days ago.”

The message Bruins players could have gotten from the fiasco is that Iginla thought he had a better chance of winning with the Penguins than he would have with the Bruins. That should add extra motivation for the Bruins to prove him wrong, but the B’s don’t want to make it about Iginla.

“They’re a great team, so it’s always been a motivation to play Pittsburgh,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I don’t think this should change anything. We’re confident in our team. It’s always been that way, so to me it doesn’t matter.”

The Penguins have won 14 games in a row, while the Bruins have gone 7-5-2. The Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the best three or four players in the league. The Bruins don’t blame him for picking Pittsburgh, but they feel they’re still capable enough to make him regret not picking the B’s.

“That was his entitlement. He’s got a no-trade clause, and when you look at what Pittsburgh’s done, you’ve got to respect the guy’s decision. It was his decision to make, and he made that,” Claude Julien said. “It will be at the end of the the year that he’ll see whether he made the right decision or not.

“Certainly there’s no animosity here. We’re a good team, and if he would have come here it would have made us better. He’s not here because he went somewhere else and we’ve turned the page. It’s about us right now, not about him.”

Read More: Claude Julien, Jarome Iginla,
Claude Julien acknowledges Jarome Iginla trade rumors swirling 03.27.13 at 11:55 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged the trade rumors involving Calgary Flames veteran superstar Jarome Iginla were swirling around his team after the Bruins blew it two-goal lead in the third period and lost 6-5 to the Montréal Canadiens in a shootout Wednesday night at TD Garden.

“I don’t know if it affected the game, but I know it’s present,” Julien said. “You know, there’€™s a lot of rumors circling around our team. I called a couple players into my office just to talk before the game about certain things and they were a little jumpy ‘€“ they were all expected the worst news. And it had nothing to do with trades more than talking about the game. So it’€™s present and it’€™s pretty obvious why.

Julien also would not offer specific comment on two controversial calls against the Bruins late in the third that eventually ended in the game-tying goal, unlike earlier in the month when he accused the Canadiens of “embellishment” in drawing penalties in a win at TD Garden over the Bruins.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Jarome Iginla, NHL
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