|3rd-place Bruins say they’ve ‘surprised,’ ‘proved people wrong’||01.27.16 at 2:15 am ET|
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.
|Undermanned Bruins in a strange state after season-worst 5-of-6 skid||01.05.16 at 11:58 pm ET|
Washington took a 1-0 lead in the first period and never trailed en route to a 3-2 victory at TD Garden.
Now, compared to the B’s poor effort in a 5-1 loss to Montreal on New Year’s Day, Tuesday’s one-goal defeat might even qualify for “moral victory” status to some.
However, when the B’s big picture now paints a season-worst funk, with the team having lost five of its last six games, it was hard to find great optimism in the Boston locker room after Tuesday’s game.
“I don’t know, a little bit up and down,” winger Loui Eriksson said of his team’s effort. “We’re playing a good team and they took advantage of us in the first [period]. We came back a couple of times, but in the end they won a game. It’s a tough one, we need to start winning here again.”
Coach Claude Julien approved of the will, but not quite the way.
“Yes, for me, disappointed in the loss,” Julien said. “Not disappointed in the effort. There’s no moral victory, but I can’t criticize the effort our team gave tonight. In the situation we’re in we almost had to play a perfect game to beat those guys. Our guys worked hard, they had chances, and this is a good [Washington] hockey club.
“We gave ourselves a chance there, I don’t think we ever quit. We were down a goal, then down two and came back into it. They made a big save on [Zdeno Chara] at the end to keep that game from being tied. I think our guys tried, really tried, but at the same time in this league you’ve got to win hockey games. We’ve got to be disappointed, hungrier for the next game so we can turn things around here. Hopefully the bitterness in our mouth from losing tonight is going to carry into Friday in New Jersey.”
|Claude Julien pays homage to Bill Belichick with Bruins hoodie for Winter Classic||01.01.16 at 1:55 pm ET|
So it should come as no surprise that Julien decided to pay homage to Belichick by wearing a Bruins hoodie for Friday’s Winter Classic against the Canadiens. Here’s video of Julien showing off his hoodie to Belichick, courtesy of the Bruins’ Twitter account.
|Baldness and Boldness: The in-depth Winter Classic fedora story you didn’t ask for||12.31.15 at 3:21 pm ET|
This is a story about fedoras and the genius coaches who wear them.
With coaches unable or unwilling to wear hats in arenas (perhaps because it’s impolite to wear a hat indoors), the Winter Classic gives them the option to express themselves in the classiest way possible: by wearing a nice hat.
Three of the 11 head coaches to participate in the Winter Classic, now in its eighth season, have worn fedoras. Among the Frozen Federlines is Bruins coach Claude Julien, who donned a snazzy camel-colored number with a dark brown ribbon in 2010 at Fenway Park.
Many coaches — most of them, in fact — have opted against wearing a hat. Yet there’s something that five of those six guys had that the others did not: hair.
Bald coaches typically wear hats at the Winter Classic. The only one of the three bald and/or balding coaches in Winter Classic history to not wear a hat was then-Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, who won his game in 2011 despite looking pretty cold.
FOXBORO — Look who took a twirl at Gillette Stadium before Thursday’s Bruins practice.
‘ DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) December 31, 2015
Julien and Belichick Pt. II pic.twitter.com/6et7Y1ORtl
‘ DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) December 31, 2015
“It’s always great to catch up with Bill,” Julien said. “I was fortunate enough to be a guest of his yesterday at his practice, and we walked through it, and it was nice to see him work with his team. I’ve admired him for a long time for how he handles his team, how he coaches, how prepared he is.
“We play different sports, but as coaches, I think there’s a lot of things we can learn from each other and admire from each other. And that’s the one thing I have learned from Bill is his preparation is second to none.”
|Speaking of Peter Chiarelli, Bruins were smart to not fire Claude Julien||12.14.15 at 3:49 pm ET|
When Peter Chiarelli made his infamous declaration during a 2013 WEEI appearance that he would never fire Claude Julien, the then-Bruins general manager made himself and his coach a package deal.
Upon Chiarelli’s dismissal in April, the question on everyone’s minds was rather Julien would be attached to Chiarelli on the latter’s way out.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be here either,” Julien said Monday, stating the obvious.
It’s not yet known whether the Bruins made the right call in firing Chiarelli. It is clear so far that they did make the right decision by retaining Julien.
The Bruins enter Monday night’s game against Chiarelli’s Oilers as a playoff team with the second-best goal differential in the Atlantic Division. The B’s sit third in the Atlantic with 35 points in 28 games, though they’re surrounded in the standings by teams that have played more games than them (second-place Detroit has 38 points in 30 games; while Ottawa and Florida sit behind the Bruins having played 30 games each).
The concern of whether Julien was fit to lead a changing team was understandable given that the Bruins had such a similar roster for such a long time, but that line of thinking didn’t take into consideration that Julien has been one of the best coaches in the NHL for several seasons. This season has probably required more coaching than Julien’s had to do, as he’s frequently been required to shuffle both his forward lines and defensive pairings. The Bruins are also employing a different breakout than seasons past and have strived for more of a four-man attack.
If the organization and its fans wanted the Bruins to be a competitive team capable of making the playoffs this season, they should mostly be satisfied with the job Julien has done. He has not been afraid to bench younger players at times (Ryan Spooner) or make them healthy scratches (Joe Morrow, Colin Miller). He’s made such decisions in the interests of wining games rather than placing a high priority on player development. Given how he was able to bring along the likes of David Krejci and Brad Marchand over the years, he probably isn’t too worried about his methods.
A worse performance from the team would suggest that Julien would be better off playing the kids as much as possible in an effort to develop them quickly. That won’t be an option for the Bruins as long as they’re in the playoff race. In that respect, it’s also worth noting that new general manager Don Sweeney’s offseason might not have been as bad as it looked.
Defensively, this has not been a typical season for Julien and the Bruins. Given the team’s weakened back end, the Bruins sit 21st in the NHL in goals against per game after ranking in the top eight in every season since 2008-09. Julien has made tweaks recently to correct that, such as teaming Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid as the Bruins’ top pairing.
The Bruins’ offense has returned to its usual spot near the top of the league (the B’s rank second with 3.21 goals per game), implementing several new players including Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Frank Vatrano and, to an extent, Brett Connolly. Should the Bruins’ defense and penalty kill continue to trend upward, finishing the season with the No. 2 seed in Atlantic would be a realistic goal.
That’s a much more optimistic line of thinking than many had in the offseason. Given how much uncertainty surrounded the Bruins’ changing roster, radio hosts filled time by wondering whether Julien would make it to the New Year without losing his job. Such a topic wouldn’t be able to fill a segment now.
The season hasn’t reached the halfway point yet, but the Red Wings are the only one of the eight teams with new coaches this season to currently sit in playoff position. It’s probably too early to tell which of the Bruins’ decisions were correct, but keeping Julien was one of them.
|Alain Vigneault calls Claude Julien old, raises important question of whether Brad Marchand or Henrik Lundqvist would make a more desirable son||11.28.15 at 1:08 pm ET|
Alain Vigneault and the Bruins have gone back and forth in the media ever since the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship over the Vigneault-coached Canucks. Despite Vigneault being long gone from Vancouver, that spat is now in its latest installment.
The Rangers coach responded Saturday to Claude Julien and Brad Marchand voicing their frustrations with an uncalled Henrik Lundqvist embellishment on a Brad Marchand goaltender interference penalty in Friday’s Bruins win. In particular, Vigneault seemed annoyed with Julien summarizing Lundqvist’s dive by quipping, “I know he does some acting on the side, but I don’t think it needs to be on the ice.”
“Well, [the Rangers public relations staff] filled me in a little bit on what was said after the game,” Vigneault said Saturday, per the New York Daily News. “I mean, it’s a little disappointing. Obviously everybody saw the knee to the head. The comments on Hank were very inappropriate. The way Hank conducts himself, on the ice, away from the rink, off the ice, the example that he sets.
“Who would you rather have as a son: Henrik Lundqvist or Brad Marchand? For him to say things like that about Hank, totally wrong, and probably Claude is getting a little older and needs to check his eyesight.”
Exclusive video of Vigneault, Marchand and Lundqvist pic.twitter.com/uNa3AaBp8N
‘ DJ Bean (@DJ_Bean) November 28, 2015
The “check his eyesight” comment is absurd given that there is little debate as to what happened on the play. Marchand made contact and Lundqvist had a woefully delayed reaction. Both players deserved penalties.
As for the stuff about having Marchand as a son, this marks the latest occurrence of Vigneault having something peculiar to say about the B’s left wing. After Marchand low-bridged Sami Salo in a January 2012 game that earned him a five-game suspension, Vigneault made what the Bruins perceived to be a threatening comment about Marchand.
“Marchand — and this is just my feeling — but some day he’s going to get it,” Vigneault said back in 2012. “Some day, someone’s going to say ‘enough is enough’ and they’re going to hurt the kid because he plays to hurt players. And if the league doesn’t care, somebody else will.”
Then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had an impromptu media session with reporters after those comments were made to voice his feelings on Vigneault’s handling of the situation.
“I think we’ve learned our lesson over time that that’s a real inappropriate comment,” Chiarelli said. “That’s a real inappropriate comment, and it’s an unprofessional comment.”
Vigneault’s words about Marchand aren’t the only comments about the Bruins he’s made in recent days that raised eyebrows. On Friday he compared an uncalled boarding penalty on Matt Beleskey to Aaron Rome targeting the head of Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the 2011 Cup Final.
The Bruins did not practice on Saturday, but they’ll have the opportunity to respond to Vigneault’s words after Sunday’s practice.