|Claude Julien: ‘We make it tough on ourselves’||05.13.13 at 11:51 pm ET|
Claude Julien spoke for Bruins fans everywhere and certainly those in his own organization when he was asked what it was like to survive the most miraculous Game 7 comeback in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs Monday night.
“They certainly keep you in check,” Julien said. “I’m a tired coach, I’ll you that much, trying to find a way to get these guys to give us what we want out of them. We make it tough on ourselves. We’re being honest here, not being able to close it in Game 5. We’ve had trouble, we’ve always had trouble with the killer instinct.”
Down 4-1 and the their season all but over, the Bruins managed to score three times, including twice with an extra attacker in the final 1:22 of regulation to force overtime in Game 7. Patrice Bergeron scored the game-tying and game-winning goals as the Bruins prevailed, 5-4, in Game 7 and now get to face the Rangers starting Thursday at TD Garden.
“That’s maybe a fault of ours but the strength of ours is the character that you saw tonight,” Julien said. “There’s that fault and that character and somewhere along the way you try to fix the faults and keep the character going. That’s the biggest challenge for me.”
Tony Amonte, who provides Bruins analysis for CSNNE, checked in with Mut & Merloni on Monday to talk about the B’s first-round series against the Maple Leafs.
Following their 2-1 loss in Game 6 Sunday night in Toronto, the inconsistent B’s face a Game 7 Monday night at TD Garden. Amonte said the Bruins’ failure to rise to the occasion the last two games is a very bad sign.
“You can’t survive that way. You can’t win a Stanley Cup. And that’s the way it’s been the last couple of months for this team,” Amonte said. “You just don’t know what you’re going to get on a nighty basis. If you’re going to play that way, especially in the playoffs, you’re not going to go very far.
“Could it be that they’re going to be out tonight? Yeah. If their B club shows up, the minor league team shows up, they’re in trouble, they’re going to lose this game tonight.”
The Bruins had an impressive overtime win in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, but they haven’t been able to close it out after starting slow in the last two games.
“I was surprised,” Amonte said. “Coming off of Game 4, that was probably one of the best games of the playoffs as far as this year out of both teams. The Bruins showed a high-powered offense in that game, pretty strong defensively, Tuukka [Rask] was on his game. So, it seemed like, yeah, they put a dagger in the hearts of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But then to come out in Game 5 in the first period, and Toronto dominated. They turned the switch off and they didn’t play the way they needed to. By the time they got into the game, it was too late again, just like it was last night.
“It’s all about getting out there early, establishing some confidence. For these guys, now it’s in their heads. They’ve got to go out and score goals.”
“You’ve got a guy out there basically quarterbacking the power play in Tyler Seguin who has no points and no assists,” Amonte said. “You’ve got a guy that’s got 10 points at that point in time, 10 points in the playoffs, leading the playoffs in scoring, sitting on the bench. From a fan’s perspective, it’s crazy. You have to play the odds. And the odds say Krejci’s going to score a point way before Seguin is ever going to do it.”
TORONTO — Here comes Game 7.
With all the things that can be said about this Bruins team after blowing a 3-1 lead — that this is typical of a team that lost nine games that it led in the third period in the regular season, that the B’s are pulling a 2010, etc. — the Bruins are trying to think about none of them. If they’re going to be embarrassed that they let the Leafs come back in this series, they can do it later. First they have a game to win.
“Being frustrated right now is not going to help,” Patrice Bergeron said after the Maple Leafs‘ 2-1 win in Game 6. “It’s about being determined, finding ways to put it in. It’s all about [Game 7] now.”
The Maple Leafs have momentum, and while both teams have goalies who have played exceptional, the Bruins have made more mistakes and the Maple Leafs have made them pay. Claude Julien summed it up pretty well in his five-question postgame press conference Sunday.
“We are the team that should have prevailed in this series in everybody’s eyes, but they’ve played well and we haven’t played well enough,” he said. “It’s as simple as that, and that’s why it’s a 3-3 series right now.”
The Bruins put on their best “We’re not frustrated” faces after Game 6, but they should be frustrated. This should have been a five-game series, but the B’s came out flat and lost Game 5 and then had to play without Andrew Ference in a Game 6 that they shouldn’t have had to play. Now, they have one game to save their season.
“We’ve always said they were a good team. We never said it was going to be an easy series, so here we are now,” Bergeron said. “It’s all about one game, and whatever happened in the first six games doesn’t really matter. It’s about us showing up.”
|Leafs force Game 7 with dramatic win over Bruins||05.12.13 at 10:37 pm ET|
TORONTO — It isn’t about eliminating the Leafs any more than it is staying alive now for the Bruins, as Toronto handed them a 2-1 loss in Game 6 Sunday to force a winner-take-all Game 7.
The Bruins, who had a 3-1 series lead, could not get to James Reimer again, as the Toronto goalie allowed just one goal for the second straight game, with the one Boston goal not coming until the final 30 seconds of the game on a Milan Lucic tally.
After the teams skated to a scoreless first two periods, Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf tipped a Nazem Kadri shot past Tuukka Rask at 1:48 of the third period to give the Leafs the lead. Phil Kessel later beat Tyler Seguin to a rebound to extend the lead to two goals, which was too much for the Bruins to overcome given the performance of Reimer.
Game 7 will be played Monday at TD Garden, with the winner facing the victor of the Capitals-Rangers series, which also is tied at three games apiece.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
‘¢ Any hockey fan had to smirk at the sound of the “Thank You, Seguin” chants that rang throughout Air Canada Centre following the Kessel goal. With another night without a point, Seguin has now put up a goose egg through the first six games of the playoffs while Kessel has three goals and one assist for four points. Seguin needs to rise to the occasion.
‘¢ David Krejci had a rough go of it on the shift on which Phaneuf scored. A botched drop-pass in the Toronto zone left the B’s behind as the Leafs took the puck the other way. Furthermore, Krejci was gliding back into the zone and let Kadri get the shot off. Had he been hustling, Krejci likely could have broken up the play by knocking the puck away.
‘¢ The Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Tyler Seguin line had no shots on goal in the first period, with Seguin missing the net on a 3-on-2. Bergeron had a shot on goal late in the first, but it came on the power play and not with his line. Marchand played just 3:49 in the first and registered his first shot on goal in two games late in the second period.
The line came to life early in the second period and had a number of scoring chances, including on one shift in which Bergeron followed a Seguin bid by trying for a wraparound and being stopped by Reimer. On that same shift, a Bergeron slap shot yielded a rebound with lots of open net, but Marchand was battling in front and didn’t see it.
‘¢ With Andrew Ference out, Claude Julien inserted Dougie Hamilton into the lineup and broke up the Zdeno Chara–Dennis Seidenberg pairing in order to have a lefty and righty on each pairing. There was a lot of mixing and matching done on the blue line for the B’s, but Hamilton was used less as the game went on. After playing 4:49 on six shifts in the first period, Hamilton was given only three shifts for 1:31 in the second.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
‘¢ For the third straight game, Rask showed up big. Rask made a glove save on a Phaneuf slap shot in the final seconds of the second period to keep it scoreless after shining late in Game 4 and through Game 5. Yes, the Bruins gave up a big series lead against the Leafs, but don’t think this is 2010 all over again for Rask. He’s been one of the B’s most consistent players. The same can’t be said for a lot of guys on this team right now.
|Bruins don’t believe in momentum||at 2:02 pm ET|
TORONTO — Momentum is mass times velocity. The Bruins believe that’s all it is.
With the Maple Leafs having forced Game 6 but the Bruins playing a strong third period in their Game 5 loss, one question that came up a bit from the Toronto media Sunday was which team has the momentum in the series, and how big a factor it is.
“I don’t know if there is such a thing, honestly,” Claude Julien said after Sunday’s morning skate. “When you’re in the playoffs, whether you win or lose, you turn the page and [focus on] the next game. As a losing team, you have to bounce back. As a winning team, you’re trying to keep that momentum but you know that there’s going to be some desperation from the losing team.”
Julien made the point that if momentum was as big a factor as people like to believe, you’d see sweeps after one team won a game, but that there was only one sweep in the first round (San Jose over Vancouver) in the first round.
While momentum can definitely be played up a bit too much, it’s still a factor and something the Bruins could give the Leafs if they don’t end the series Sunday. A Game 6 win would give the Leafs two straight wins and a whole lot of confidence that was built with their backs against the wall.
Yet the B’s don’t want to acknowledge it as such. While they can’t explain why they came out flat in Game 5 against the Leafs, they don’t think either team wouldn’t have reason to come out as hard as they can in Game 6. They view a win as a win and a loss as a loss, and every playoff game as one worth showing up for.
“To me, the next game is the next game,” Chris Kelly said. “Momentum, a lot of times, is just a word. It depends on who’s playing their game that given night.”
|Left out: Aaron Johnson making best of tough situation||at 1:36 pm ET|
TORONTO — Hey, remember Aaron Johnson?
With the Bruins definitely without one lefty defenseman in Andrew Ference in Game 6 and potentially without another in Wade Redden, the left-shooting Johnson — on paper — would appear to be a logical option for Claude Julien. Johnson’s been skating with the team regularly as he waits for his opportunity, though it’s one that won’t likely come.
Said Johnson Sunday: “I have been skating every day and playing every day and doing whatever possible, other than playing in game situations.”
And that’s the conundrum. It’s been a whole lot of “other than playing in game situations” for Johnson, as the last time he played in a game was on March 30. The Bruins wanted to send him to Providence late in the season in order to get him into some games, but they weren’t able to send him down for a conditioning assignment without having to put him through the waiver process.
Now that they could use him, that lack of game action makes him borderline untouchable (unless as a last resort) in the playoffs, as the Bruins simply can’t trust someone who’s played so little in such a key spot.
“It’s been tough for Aaron,” Julien said. “For me, it’s about what players are allowed and not allowed to do. We would have loved to give him an opportunity to play and play in Providence, but the CBA doesn’t allow it, and it’s kind of played against him and right now we have a player that hasn’t played in a long time. It’s tough for him.”
With Matt Bartkowski figuring to play in place of the injured Ference, the Bruins would be left with Johnson and Dougie Hamilton as potential replacements for Redden if the veteran blueliner (termed a game-time decision by Julien) can’t go.
In that case, the right-shooting Hamilton would get the call over Johnson based on the fact that he’s sharper. Hamilton played more regular-season games and has gotten into one playoff game already, though Game 2 created issues that would likely arise again if the rookie plays Sunday.
Because Hamilton would be replacing a left-shot, the Bruins would need to take Dennis Seidenberg off the top pairing to give them another left-side defenseman. That didn’t work out in Game 2, when the B’s played their defensive game of the series and Seidenberg was on the ice for three goals against. Playing Johnson would avoid having to break up that shutdown pairing, but it would also bring too much uncertainty to such an important game.
Johnson, who understands his situation but hasn’t moaned about it, stayed out longer for the morning skate with the rest of the healthy scratches Sunday. He knows that Sunday would have been a potential opportunity for him to play, but that his lack of games (12 in the regular season between Boston and Providence and none in over a month) makes his chances remote. If he does get the call, he’s certain that rust won’t be a factor.
“I think it’s just a matter for myself, staying ready, if that call does come to just play my game,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’ve played this game for a long time now, 10 years professionally. There’s no secret recipe. You just kind of go out and play your game. Obviously it will be a little faster in [the postseason], but I think when that happens, you just try to keep it simple.”
|Bruins Thursday notes: Nathan Horton OK, David Krejci loves being ‘unpredictable’ and Tuukka Rask ‘in the zone’||05.09.13 at 3:46 pm ET|
The Bruins held an optional skate on Thursday at TD Garden, with optional being the key word. David Krejci and Dougie Hamilton were among several Bruins in the tunnel outside their dressing room playing soccer but other than that there was no on-ice activity as the Bruins rest after their Game 4 victory over the Leafs that leaves them one win from the second round.
Coach Claude Julien confirmed that Nathan Horton is OK after taking a vicious body blow on a forecheck from Dion Phaneuf that led to Krejci’s game-winner in overtime Wednesday night. Horton is expected to be ready and play Game 5 Friday night at TD Garden.
Julien covered a number of topics on Thursday, including the play of Krejci, the nerves of steel of Tuukka Rask and what makes the Bruins so much fun to coach at this time of year.
Here were his answers in Thursday’s Q & A with reporters at TD Garden.
On if after the game he realized how good of a game last night was: “Yes, I do. I said it [Wednesday] night, I said it this morning to the guys. It shouldn’t be looked at who’s an experience team, who’s a young team, who’s this, who’s that; it should be viewed as two teams playing really good hockey right now. There’s a lot of teams that Leafs squad would have beat playing the way they did and we’re, when I say fortunate, that we played well enough and found a way to score that overtime goal to get that win, because it was a real good game that could have gone either way.”
On the mentality heading into a possible clinching game: “You’ve got to play your best game because we know how hard it to close. That’s the thing you hope your players realize extremely well after all the experiences we’ve had throughout the years. We now know how hard it is to close and no reason for us to come out tomorrow and not play as hard, if not harder, than we did last night.
On how important it is to come out hard and set a tone Friday night: “No matter what, we came out, I thought we came out well last night and we were down 2-0. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good period, it was circumstances that one was a bit of a missed assignment, but a nice good goal on their part. The other one was just an unfortunate break on our part because Tuukka [Rask] was screened until the last second. I really felt we played well enough and came out in the second and regained ourselves and got ourselves back in the game.
“It’s just a matter of making sure you’re ready, you know how hard to start. Everybody says, ‘Well, you’ve got to come out hard,’ both teams have to come out hard. The most important thing is you’ve got to be ready to play, not just a period, or have a good start, but play the whole
game, not just in a physical way, but a mental way.”
On if the other lines are way behind the David Krejci line right now: “I think it’s pretty obvious that that the line is leading the way right now. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] scores a goal last night, it as on the power play. I think Bergy’s played well, I thought Tyler [Seguin] played extremely well here in Boston and that line was actually good, but I don’t think Tyler played his best, and neither did Brad [Marchand], in Toronto. They’ve got a chance to redeem themselves here, but the other lines have, at some point, produced, as well. But Krejci’s line is, no doubt, the dominant line, I think that’s the biggest thing. We saw that ‘ I feel like I’m repeating myself ‘ a few years back when I thought [Chris] Kelly, [Rich] Peverley, and [Michael] Ryder were a dominant in the Montreal series, and then other lines picked it up afterwards. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of always having somebody doing something to help us win hockey games and, so far, that’s what’s been happening.”
On what changes occur in Krejci’s game when the postseason comes around: “Well, some people like playing in these situations and we’ve seen those in the past from other players on other teams. He’s a playoff performer, he loves the intensity, the excitement of it. He comes up big in those kinds of situations. It’s always nice to have those kinds of players on your team and, so far, David’s always been a good playoff performer for us. It’s a good thing he’s on our team.”
On what it is about Tuukka Rask’s temperament that allows him to shine in situations like overtime: “Well, I think right now that Tuukka is calm, he’s in the zone, he’s not getting too high, not getting too low. All he wants to do is stop the puck. He’s been pretty good and he is temperamental at times, we’ve seen that side of it, too, when he’s not happy with either a situation or himself. But at the same time, right now, he understands how important it is to stay focused and he’s done a great job of that.”
On how much more dangerous Krejci is when he is shooting the puck: “It makes him unpredictable. When he’s not shooting and he’s not, maybe, at the top of his game, often you’ll see him looking to pass, now he’s taking whatever is given to him; sometimes it’s a pass, sometimes it’s a shot. He’s confident. Right now, everything about David is good; he’s been good on draws, he’s been good at scoring goals, he’s making great plays, he’s involved in the gritty areas, he’s been physical, he’s been all around such a great player. That’s what makes him good. Maybe, everybody would like to see him do that for 82 games, unfortunately, that’s not the case.” Read the rest of this entry »