|With all eyes on them, Bruins can use this week as a turning point||12.23.10 at 2:10 pm ET|
After a lackluster effort on Monday night (a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at the Garden), the Bruins were given two days to figure things out. While the rest of the town (foolishly) talked about whether Claude Julien should begin frequenting Monster.com, the B’s buckled down and did what they deemed necessary to help them regain the promise shown at the beginning of the season. They did so with two gritty, high-energy, high-intensity practices, and as they prepare to face Atlanta on Thursday — a “must-win” game by multiple players’ accounts — they hope the hard work will have paid off.
“The last two days have been very good,” Patrice Bergeron. “Practice has been very hard with lot’s of battle and lots of emotion, and I think that’s what we need to bring in games.”
The B’s didn’t hold a morning skate on Thursday, but the players in the dressing room exuded a confidence that suggested they know they’ve put the work in, and now they need to put it to good use.
“As long as we learn from it — and we do — we’re fine,” Mark Recchi said Thursday of the team’s two days following perhaps their worst loss of the season. “We have a good group of guys who care and want to get better. The tempo was great in practice. ‘¦ We don’t get the opportunity to practice like that for a couple of days, especially with the schedule. To get that opportunity now is good.”
The Atlanta game is monumental for the young season for multiple reasons. In addition to the fact that the Thrashers beat the B’s, 4-1 last month, the Bruins will play five consecutive road games after Thursday. Given how much the team has struggled (1-3-1, 1.8 goals per game over their last five), the team also needs to show angry fans — who booed the team mightily on Monday — that the high expectations placed on them this offseason weren’t unwarranted.
A big part of the team’s struggles has been a difficulty to string 60-minute efforts together, with the forecheck and physically cutting in and out throughout the night. Recchi, who has spoken throughout the season of how difficult a team to play against the Bruins could be, knows the team has yet to reach that point, but that hope is not lost.
“We’re progressing. We’re getting there. We know when we do the right things, we’re a miserable team to play against, and we’re getting there, but it’s a process,” Recchi said. “It takes all year. … We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think the guys understand that it’s not easy being like that every night, but at the same time, it’s pretty rewarding.”
The Bruins can use Thursday, a game in which the town will be watching to see what the squad’s made of, to unveil new lines, and a new mindset for the B’s who with a win and a Canadiens loss could suddenly find themselves third in the Eastern conference. If they do, and the team does find a way to turn it around, this week could be one that’s looked back on as a turning point in the season.
“I think we needed some practices to get back on track and talk about our system a little bit more,” Bergeron said. “‘¦ I think it was good to re-focus and re-set ourselves to be back on track.”
|Mike Milbury on D&H: Bruins ‘need some passion’||12.22.10 at 1:02 pm ET|
NESN and NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show to give his opinions about the Bruins and the NHL. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Asked if the Bruins might consider a change behind the bench, Milbury said it’s too early for Claude Julien‘s job to be in jeopardy. “I don’t think so, no,” he said. “This team has shown remarkable resiliency. When they get down, you think that the wheels are falling of the wagon, they pull it together. And I think they’ll pull it together for Claude again.”
Added Milbury: “They need to loosen the screws a little bit offensively. Go after it, make some mistakes, try some things, do some things differently. Do I think they’re ready to knock on Claude Julien’s door? Absolutely not. I don’t think that’s a consideration right now. Tell me 10 games from now when they’ve won one, and it’s a different story.”
Milbury said there are plenty of other people who need to answer the critics before the coach. “[Marc] Savard hasn’t quite hit the plateau that he wants to be at,” he said. “[Patrice] Bergeron has not had a great year offensively. [Milan] Lucic is not doing what he’s supposed to do in terms of being an explosive chemistry set ‘ just get in there and create some mayhem. That’s important to that team, and it’s been lacking. I’m on [Blake] Wheeler and [Michael] Ryder all the time for that. These are pretty smart players and gifted players. But the games needs passion. And the Bruins more than anything right now need some passion.”
Milbury said there are individuals showing that passion, but the team’s marquee players need to step it up. “The guy that leads the most for me in terms of effort is Shawn Thornton,” he said. “And he does it on a regular basis. He’s a really important part of this team. [Zdeno] Chara needs to pick it up physically. Just because he’s playing 30 minutes [a game], it doesn’t mean he can’t whack and bang and play with some sort of Kevin Garnett-like attitude once in a while ‘ more in-your-face. All these guys. Savard, when he’s playing well, he’s a bouncy, in-your-face guy. Bergeron in his own quiet way will get there and be in the way and get in the way.
“I don’t know what’s ailing them, but I’m not going to pin it on young guys/old guys, I’m going to pin it on the team and the coach, that somehow have got to refocus their priorities ‘ not to forget about defense, but to make sure they know that the way they’re going to score goals is causing turnovers. And doing that means ‘ dammit, there’s not a better word than hustle.”
|Peter Chiarelli says Claude Julien’s job is safe||at 12:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — On Wednesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien addressed the swirling speculation over whether his job in Boston is safe. Fans have called for the team to fire him, while media outlets have also raised the question of whether a coaching change could be in the works.
“I don’t let that get to me. I come in, I’m going to coach the same way, and I’m going to do what I do the best I can,” Julien said after the team’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “It’s as simple as that.
“It is what it is. Honestly, I just went out there today and yesterday very positive with the players and doing my job just like I would any other day. I hear what’s going out there, but certainly not listening or reading, because that’s certainly not helpful for me.”
Julien was given a vote of confidence by general manager Peter Chiarelli on Wednesday. Despite the team’s recent struggles, Chiarelli said “yes” when asked on CBS Radio Boston if he would say “unequivocally that Claude Julien’s job is not in danger.”
Chiarelli said such a decision ultimately would have to be made by a group of front office members, but that he feels the team is better off with Julien than without him.
“That’s my preference and that’s my recommendation,” Chiarelli said. “This is a collective thing that we do on these matters. But I have full confidence in Claude and the staff to figure it out.”
While he’s glad the organization has his back, Julien said that he isn’t going to let anything he sees or hears change the way he goes about his business.
“You always appreciate support. That’s important, but right now my job is coaching this hockey club. Whatever is being said out there and however it goes is out of my control,” Julien said. “I come in here every day with the same intentions and that’s to coach this hockey club and make them as successful as I can.”
Julien is in his fourth season as head coach of the Bruins. He has led the team to three straight playoff appearances, including two trips to the second round. This season, the B’s are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, though they trail the Canadiens by two points for the Northeast division lead.
|Claude Julien: Bruins need to contribute to Boston’s winning reputation||12.21.10 at 1:44 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — In addressing the Bruins’ recent woes, coach Claude Julien brought up the fans’ disappointment in the team, noting that given the recent championships of the area’s other sports teams, it’s up to the Bruins to add to Boston’s reputation.
“There’s expectations here from outside, the fans and the people,” Julien said. “There’s a lot of winning going around in this city, and if you want to be part of it, you have to show up and play hard every night.
“I think what the players realize is that people here expect their teams to win. They’re used to it, and you try to give them what they want. At the end of the day, that’s what you want to be. Not just for the fans, but you want to be that yourself.”
The Bruins have lost four of their last five. They will take on the Thrashers Thursday at TD Garden.
|Recchi: ‘We have to win Thursday’||at 11:17 am ET|
Mark Recchi was a guest on the Dennis and Callahan show on Tuesday, the morning after his club was blanked 3-0 by the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden. The Bruins were booed by the home crowd throughout the contest and head coach Claude Julien admitted after the game that he was “really disappointed” by the effort his team, who have won just once in its last five games.
Recchi was asked about the loss and the lackluster play of the Bruins of late.
“You can’t have those games,” said Recchi of Monday night’s performance. “We know it’s 82 games, but the compete level has to be there every night. It’s something we as a group have to address and keep getting better at. We know it’s 32 games in and we still have an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to jump into first place and in our division. But we can’t seem to make that jump right now and that’s something that’s going to be very important in the next little while. We have a really tough stretch coming up. We have to win Thursday.”
When asked why he considered a December game against the Atlanta Thrashers a must win, Recchi pointed to the schedule.
“We go on the road for five games [after the home game vs. Atlanta] and it’s not an easy road trip,” said Recchi. “Lot of travel, so yeah it is [a must win]. But we’ve been pretty good on the road, and sometimes it can bring you together ‘¦ but Thursday it a must win for us right now.”
Claude Julien has been a target for fans and some in the media, who wonder if a coaching change would help shake off the recent doldrums for the Bruins. Recchi was asked if that was the solution or if it was more a matter of the players stepping up.
“Well it’s up to us, to the players,” said Recchi. “This [the recent play] is something we have to address. Obviously there are some things that coaches can do. Claude’s a very good coach and there are certain things that he has to address and we as players support him. And that’s what is going to go on for the next couple of days. There’s some concern, absolutely, but it’s something that can be fixed. We’ve shown that in stretches that we can be a formidable team to play, but it has to be every night.”
It was supposed to be a festive night, featuring Rene Rancournaments handed out to 10,000 fans, the Bruins wearing their white home jerseys and the Bruins and Ducks on national TV.
Instead, it turnout out to be one big dud, filled with nothing for Boston hockey fans except the proverbial lump of coal in their stockings – and stale coal at that – which could never light a fire under the Bruins.
The Bruins got 45 shots on Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller but none of them found the back of the net. The Bruins were done in by the Jonas smother.
“You can say we had forty-something shots, but a lot of them were one shot and out,” B’s center Marc Savard said. “We’ve got to dig down. I think the intensity level was lacking tonight on a lot of us and coach switched the lines there for the third. We seemed to have some more jump a bit, just to try and get some energy on the team because like I said, we were getting stale there a little bit.
“We created chances, but bottom line is that you’ve got to come to the rink and want results and I think, including myself, I’m probably top of the list right now I’m not getting any and then therefore, that’s not helping the team at all. So we’ve all got to look in the mirrors here. We’ve got one more before Christmas, it’s huge, and we need it.”
While their coach was ripping them moments later, Savard acknowledged that Claude Julien can’t do much more screaming at them.
“Claude is trying,” Savard added. “I mean, he can’t yell at us every single night. It gets long on him too, so it comes with the guys in the room here to pick up the slack and right now, that’s what we’ve got to do. Like I said, this one more before Christmas here, we’ve got to have a huge effort.”
Savard agreed with Mark Recchi, who told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning that Thursday’s home finale before Christmas has turned into a must-win for the fragile psyche of the team.
Savard said he has no answers right now but knows they better appear Thursday against Atlanta.
“Well, yeah, I mean, I don’t have the answer for it,” Savard said. We’ve all just got to be that much more intense. Like I said, this one before Christmas is huge. We need it.”
Many people have been wondering about the near-term fate of Julien. But just as many – if not more – have wondered if the lineup and roster need a shake-up.
“No, I don’t think the lineup needs a shakeup,” Savard said. “We’ve got a good hockey club. We’ve just got to get it going here and work together as a unit and we’ll be fine. Our goalies are battling for us every night back there and we’ve just got to give them some support.”
|Claude Julien shows the desire he wishes he’d get from his team||12.20.10 at 11:19 pm ET|
Claude Julien had seen enough.
There was the back-to-back losses last week in Buffalo and Montreal. There was Saturday night when he watched his team get outshot on home ice, 38-10, after taking a 3-0 lead over Washington, barely holding on for a 3-2 win.
The Bruins were outshot by an amazing 26-2 in the third period and it was clear from Julien’s tone Saturday night that he felt his team was fortunate – if not lucky – to win. On Monday, there was no such luck. The Bruins fell behind 2-0 before having a breakdown on the power play in front of Tim Thomas, allowing a short-handed goal that all but cooked their goose in a 3-0 loss to the Ducks at TD Garden. Julien needed to let loose and let his team have the what-for.
“Our compete level needed to be better,” Julien began. “I’m disappointed. I’m really disappointed in our effort tonight and it’s not something we should be proud of and we should be willing to try to redeem ourselves next game and find some more emotion and more intensity in our game.”
That next game is the game before Christmas, Thursday night at home against Atlanta. In the meantime, there’ll be a pair of practices which should test the quality of the practice ice in Wilmington.
Julien said while it was good that his team put 45 shots on Jonas Hiller, he said his players “need to bury those chances.”
Julien even used a classic hockey expression to express his displeasure of the lack of desire from his team, particularly his forwards.
“It’s starts with the forecheck,” Julien said. “We had a lot of guys playing at the end of of their sticks. When you’re trying to move up five spots [in the standings], that’s unacceptable.”
The Bruins coach said he’s noticed a lack of emotion and energy in his team in the last week.
“Through the course of the season, certain things will creep into your game,” Julien said. “And that’s crept into our game and we’ve got to get rid of that. We have to get that emotion again, give yourself a chance to win. And we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Bruins entered the game with the same number of points (38) as their opponent but it wasn’t the Ducks they were chasing in the standings. With a win, the Bruins could have jumped from eight in the conference to tied for third, as they would have 40 points, matching the Canadiens.
“We had all the reasons in the world to want to compete tonight, an opportunity to move up five spots [in Eastern Conference] and we didn’t have enough guys going tonight, there’s no doubt there,” Julien said.