|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.
|Ryan Spooner benching a reminder Bruins’ can’t embrace potential as much as they’ve said||11.18.15 at 2:52 pm ET|
The Bruins have long said that this season is about potential. Yet it seems that they feel their best chance of realistically winning games is to bank on more sure things than embracing that potential. They’re not necessarily wrong in thinking that; they just might need to cool it on that P-word for a while.
When Claude Julien benched Ryan Spooner in the third period of Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, the worst part of it was that the change didn’t allow the Bruins to complete their comeback. The second-worst part of it is that it loaned more evidence to the historically incorrect Claude Hates The Kids argument.
If the Bruins had their act together on the back end and could kill penalties, do you really think Julien would have benched Spooner for his bad second period Tuesday? Of course not. Yet this season has seen him limit players like Spooner and David Pastrnak when they’ve struggled because the Bruins, for all the gushy stuff they’ve said about their young players, can’t actually give them the keys because the Bruins aren’t good enough to absorb their mistakes.
Asked after the game why he gave Spooner no even-strength time in the final period, Julien snapped back at the reporter, asking if he had noticed that Joonas Kemppainen had earned the ice time inherited by Spooner’s benching. On Wednesday, Julien was more willing to elaborate on his decision to limit Spooner’s third-period shifts to just the power play and the final minute with an extra attacker.
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|Claude Julien named assistant coach of Team Canada for World Cup of Hockey||11.05.15 at 2:03 pm ET|
Claude Julien will be an assistant coach for Team Canada at 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Team Canada announced Thursday.
Julien will be joined by Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville, and Bill Peters as assistants to head coach Mike Babcock. The announcement comes as no surprise, as Julien was one of Babcock’s assistants on Canada’s Gold Medal-winning Olympic team in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Julien was also an assistant coach of Team Canada at the 2000 IIHF World Junior Championships.
The World Cup of Hockey will take place in September of 2016, with eight teams competing in Toronto. In addition to six teams representing individual countries (United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic), there will be a Team Europe for European countries not represented, as well as a Team North America for North American players ages 23 and younger. Former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is the general manager of Team North America.
|Bruins’ first home win ‘a pride thing’||10.27.15 at 11:57 pm ET|
If they’d lost on Tuesday, the Bruins would have been in Original Six territory.
As in the 1951-52 Original Six Bruins, the last version of the B’s to start a season winless on home ice for more than four games; that season Milt Schmidt’s boys went 0-5-4 out of the gate en route to a fourth-place finish.
Instead of Original Six, the 2015-16 Bruins went Additional Six on Tuesday night with a 6-0 shutout of the Coyotes to snap their 0-3-1 homely open to the year.
“It was nice to finally get a home win and get that out of the way,” Bruins winger Loui Eriksson said with a satisfied sigh.
Instead of the Bronx cheers that were heard sprinkled in at TD Garden during losses to Winnipeg, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Tuesday night’s win ended with a standing ovation of approval raining down from the local faithful who stayed to the final horn.
“We felt like we kind of owed them a little bit. We owed them the win,” David Krejci said on a night when he added two more goals to his growing personal collection of seven markers on the year. “Big for the standings and our fans as well. Obviously, you like to get the first one at home. We were close the last couple times, but it was big to get the first one finally. The way we played today, we got the fans on our side.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t want to go so far as saying the poor home start was weighing on his team, but he certainly acknowledged that home success is important. After all, just two years ago Boston’s 31-7-3 mark on home ice buoyed the team to a 117-point season and the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I think the fact that we were playing better the last four games [overall] — we had the one overtime loss — I think our guys felt if they kept playing the way they could it was just a matter of time,” Julien said. “I think it’s more about a pride thing. Our home building has to be something that doesn’t bode well for teams coming in here. And right now we’ve made too many teams feel comfortable. That’s what we’re trying to change.”
In discussing his new-look lines for Tuesday night’s game, Claude Julien stated the obvious on Tuesday: He’s probably going to be tinkering with his lines a lot this season.
Though the Bruins enter Tuesday’s action third in the NHL with 3.9 goals per game, they’ve only kept the same forward lines in consecutive games one. Injuries aside, Boston’s new group of wings and the ongoing search for an ideal fit for Ryan Spooner has made Julien more active than he was in Boston’s recent heyday, when filling out his lineup was a set-it-and-forget-it affair.
“In order to coach, you’ve got to make the right moves at the right time,” Julien said Tuesday. “For me, [Tuesday’s lineup] is a start. We’ll see how that goes, and if it doesn’t go I’ve got to make some adjustments here. That could be happening all year round. I know people are used to seeing me with certain lines and sticking with them, but I think that stage of that consistency is gone right now. It’s not there yet, or it’s gone. Like any coach, you adapt to what you have, and that’s what I’m doing right now.”
By the looks of morning skate, both the third and fourth lines will be different from last game. Matt Beleskey, returning from injury, will skate with Spooner’s line for the first time after skating with David Krejci‘s line in the first five games. Loui Eriksson will remain with Krejci, while Boston’s fourth line looks to be Joonas Kemppainen between Chris Kelly and Tyler Randell, a line that has not been iced this season.
Krejci has had David Pastrnak on his right wing for all seven games this season, though there’s no guarantee that they’ll stick together. Pastrnak has had more growing pains this season than he did as a rookie, so Julien could eventually tinker with Krejci’s trio again.
The veteran center, who is tied for the NHL with 12 points (he’s played seven games; the other three players with 12 points have played at least eight), had a good four year stretch in which his linemates rarely changed and barely ever changed in-season. Milan Lucic was his left wing and Nathan Horton was his right wing (Rich Peverley would sub in when Horton was concussed), until Horton departed in free agency and Jarome Iginla replaced him.
Last season, in addition to being in and out of the lineup, Krejci had numerous different right wings and expressed unhappiness that he didn’t have Eriksson as his full-time right wing. He said Tuesday that playing with different linemates has been a learning experience.
“It’s always nice to play with the same guys, that’s for sure, but what I’ve learned from [these] last couple years when I’ve had different linemates is don’t worry about who’s on your line,” Krejci said. “The chemistry will come, but just try to be the best you will be. Then your wings will try to be the best they can be and the chemistry will develop. Sometimes it will develops early, sometimes later, but don’t try to change your game for the guy next to you. Just keep playing your game.”
As for his left wing of the last two games, Eriksson has been bounced around Boston’s lineup enough over the years — with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, without Bergeron and Marchand, with Carl Soderberg, with Krejci, etc. — that he’s used to different linemates. Arguably Boston’s best player this season, it would be hard for Eriksson to complain about his current spot.
“I’m kind of used to it,” Eriksson said. “I played with different lines in Dallas, too. … It’s been the same thing here in Boston. It’s always a challenge, but when you get used to it and find some chemistry with some guys, it’s always easier.”
|Bruins blown leads a troubling trend||10.22.15 at 8:49 am ET|
The so-called most dangerous lead in hockey, the two-goal advantage, used to be downright safe for the Bruins to the tune of a 158-9-7 record over the past four seasons. But, with three of their first six games this season featuring blown two-goal leads, the B’s are quickly rekindling fear about the old hockey adage.
Wednesday night at TD Garden, the Bruins enjoyed a 4-2 lead heading to the third period, but watched their potential two-point reward slice in half as the Flyers came back for a 5-4 victory in overtime.
A 2-0 second period lead over Tampa Bay on October 12 at the Garden also ended in defeat for Boston this year, and a lost 3-1 third period lead on October 17 in Arizona was restored to a win thanks only to the Bruins white-hot power play. There was no such salvation on Wednesday.
“We have to play with more composure when we score a goal or get scored on,” said team captain Zdeno Chara. “[We have] some mental breaks like that. Things that are easy to be corrected. Just have to work harder and take pride in winning the battles.”
Lost puck battles were the theme of head coach Claude Julien‘s critique of the Flyers’ loss.
“We played a light game,” Julien said. “We had too many guys with light sticks, too many guys playing a light game. It’s unacceptable. What happened tonight we probably deserved. [Philadelphia] was the hungrier team. We didn’t respond well. A lot of guys would just go into battle, take a swing at the puck, and curl the other way. Again, that’s not the way we play and it’s not the way we’re going to accept players to play on our team.”
On the bright side for the Bruins, goal scoring has been plentiful to put some leads in place. Boston has netted 18 goals over their last four games. But the 2-1-1 record that’s resulted over that span has left a feeling of missed opportunities.
“When you score four goals you should have more than enough to win the game,” said Patrice Bergeron, who added two more points against Philadelphia to give him seven (four goals, three assists) through six games played. “Too many slow reactions defensively and lack of communication. Poor decisions. It ends up hurting us big time.”
Bergeron’s colleague Chris Kelly, whose shorthanded tally gave Boston a 3-2 edge on the Flyers in the second period, agreed.
“We mismanaged the puck, especially in the third [period],” Kelly said. “A team that has capable scorers like [Philadelphia has], it didn’t take much, a couple turnovers and misplays and they tied it up pretty quickly. It’s a combination of things. It’s about managing the puck, [not] putting the other guys in a tough spot changing, and maybe not changing at the right times. Little things. It’s the combinations of a lot of little things that lead to a goal. That was the case, especially their fourth goal, the [Wayne] Simmonds goal.”
“The effort is there,” Kelly continued. “It’s just focus needs to be sharper throughout the course of 60 minutes. There’s times in all four home games where we’ve played extremely well and done a lot of good things, just to maintain that composure for 60 minutes seems to be an issue right now.”