|Claude Julien embracing in-game lineup changes||04.04.15 at 1:00 pm ET|
Earlier in the season, Claude Julien did something he didn’t do too often in the past: He juggled his lines in-game.
On one shift, Seth Griffith would be on David Krejci‘s right wing. On the next, it would be Simon Gagne. (The fact that neither player is currently on Boston’s roster paints a pretty good picture of how this season has gone for the Bruins, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Now that Julien finally has a healthy group of forwards, making such adjustments is nothing new. He’s done it of late and will continue to do it.
On Thursday night, Julien had to jumble his forwards throughout the night. After opening the game with David Krejci at center, adjustments had to be made as a result of a Patrice Bergeron injury. Due to David Pastrnak and Carl Soderberg, further changes were made. By the end of the game, all four lines looked different from how they started the night.
Julien has long been preferred to keep things the same. If something isn’t broken, he doesn’t fix it. If it might be broken, he lets it heal rather than changing it. This season has forced Julien to change his ways.
“We’re a team this year that’s had more fluctuation in our line combinations than ever,” Julien said.
His work isn’t done. Though the Bruins’ lines on Saturday might be the same as they were to finish Thursday’s win over the Red Wings, they could change in-game once again. Krejci isn’t going to play right wing forever, but his presence with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron gives Boston a particularly loaded first line.
Playing Brett Connolly in place of David Pastrnak with Ryan Spooner and Milan Lucic makes Spooner’s line a little bigger and more experienced. Teams tend to pick on Pastrnak when they want to, but they won’t be able to do that to Connolly. As such, Julien might be willing to play Spooner’s line more than he has.
“He’s been in the league for all of last year, and he’s a big guy and he’s skilled, too, and he’s fast,” Spooner said of Connolly. “He’ll be a good guy to play with, too. I think it will just add some age to our line and all that kind of stuff, and some experience.”
Julien’s adjustments in Thursday’s game meant that Soderberg went back to center. He played with Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, his linemates for the previous four games.
Soderberg benefitted from having Chris Kelly on his left wing earlier in the season, as Kelly is an experienced center whose responsibility in his own end and ability to win faceoffs supplemented Soderberg’s contributions.
Playing Smith on the line and usually having Eriksson on the left wing now (both players are left shots) does not give Soderberg that safety net, but Smith brings more to the table offensively. The line connected for the game-tying goal in Detroit as Eriksson scored his 21st goal of the season.
All of the lines will be worth watching, but the bottom of the lineup is where it might get most interesting. Daniel Paille has been scratched the last five games and Max Talbot joined him on Thursday. Both players figure to sit again Saturday, as Julien goes with a line of Gregory Campbell between Kelly and Pastrnak.
All that could change and the players know it. A Talbot/Paille-Spooner-Pastrnak line would be an ideal fourth group going forward, but it won’t happen as long as Krejci is playing right wing. Changes figure to happen and, with the exception of the Campbell situation, Julien doesn’t seem to be afraid of making them.
“Now I have decisions to make and when you have decisions to make and you have tough ones it creates accountability amongst players,” Julien said. “If you want to be in the lineup or whatever the case is, there’s a lot more accountability and that’s one of the things that the coaches have left to manage their team, is having those extra players and good players.
“Having good players have to sit out for different reasons — and sometimes it’s just rotation, sometimes it’s poor play — but no matter what, to me I’d rather be in this position right now than be in the position I was a month ago. This is what I have.”
|Peter Chiarelli on Sunday Skate: Milan Lucic in group that has underperformed this year||03.29.15 at 9:45 am ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli joined Sunday Skate with DJ Bean, Joe McDonald and Pete Blackburn Sunday morning to talk all things Bruins heading into the final few games of the regular-season as the team battles to make the playoffs. To hear the interview, go to the Weekend Shows audio on demand page.
Milan Lucic has seen his play improve with new linemates recently, but the team could an interesting choice with him going forward given that next season will be the final year of a three-year, $18 million deal. Chiarelli was asked about the team’s intentions with the player.
“I think I would put him in the overall group that we’ve all kind of underperformed,” Chiarelli said. “I haven’t made any real decisions on really anything and that includes Milan’s case. He’s done a lot for this organization. But, like I said, I think a lot of personnel have underperformed, so I would put Milan in that category like the rest of the group, myself included.”
Also a major topic of late with the Bruins is the job security for both Chiarelli and Claude Julien. Unlike past seasons, the final games of the regular-season have much more importance and therefore Chiarelli is in a different position than he’s ever been in.
“Yeah, interesting is a good way to put it,” he said of this season. “The year has been a bit of a difficult year. We’re battling for a playoff spot now. Much chronicled about Claude’s job and my job, but we’re professionals. We try and get the best out of our team — I try and make the right decisions and it’s a grind every game to watch. It seems like every game goes to overtime and it’s been difficult, but part of the business.”
When asked if he thinks his position should be reviewed, especially having made the postseason seven straight seasons, he refrained from going into detail.
“I am not going to comment on that,” said Chiarelli. “I am a professional paid to make the right decisions and make decisions that are best for the organization. These are things that happen in our business. … If it’s my job, it’s my job, but I hope that it’s not.”
If the Bruins do make the playoffs and Chiarelli does keep his job, there has been concern from the fanbase that the team would be satisfied with the current roster and refrain from making the necessary changes to avoid another season like this one. Chiarelli said he would plan on making the moves this team needs regardless of how it fares down the stretch.
“What we’ll do at the end of the year is, we’ll look at this roster,” Chiarelli said. “You ask me about all the things — I call them reasons, you may call them excuses — why the team isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to or where the expectations are, we’ll look at those. We’ll look at how the season finishes off. We’ll look at each individual player and make decisions, well-informed, educated decisions based on that.
“For me to say, ‘OK, what if things go well?’ I’m not going to speculate on either [scenario]. We have the season we’re having. I’m going to go through this process and we’ll make the proper decisions.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Don Cherry on MFB: Bruins ‘in deep trouble right now’||03.27.15 at 12:36 pm ET|
Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry joined Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins’ playoff chances going into the final eight games of the regular season. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins are tied with the Senators for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, but Ottawa holds a game in hand.
“That game in hand is a killer,” Cherry said.
On Thursday night the B’s had a chance to jump over Ottawa for the second wild card spot after the Senators got blown out, 5-1, by the NHL-leading Rangers. The Bruins had a 2-1 lead over the Ducks entering the final minute of play, but Anaheim scored with just over 30 seconds left to tie the game, and then notched the game winner on a tip-in in overtime.
“That was a killer last night,” Cherry said, adding: “The winner went in off a stick, so you can’t blame [Tuukka] Rask for that one.”
The B’s goalie has not had his greatest season, but he usually has been good enough to at least give the team a chance to win.
“The problem is not Rask,” Cherry said. “He’s not stealing the games like he did last year, but he’s got a great [goals-against] average, 2.26, and a .924 save percentage. That’s pretty good. Their problem is they can’t score. And of all of the teams playing in the playoffs already, they’re the worst. They’ve got one 20-goal scorer right now, and that’s [Brad] Marchand. You’re not going to win many games if you don’t have any 20-goal scorers.”
Added Cherry: “Now they’ve got [Dougie] Hamilton hurt, he was their second-leading scorer. They’re in deep trouble right now. They’ll have to dig down.”
Cherry, a former coach of the Bruins, does not blame current coach Claude Julien for the B’s underwhelming season.
“Listen, it’s not Julien’s fault, he’s not going out telling them to not score,” Cherry said. “These are the guys, they can’t score. … He puts them on the ice and they don’t score. What, is he supposed to put the puck in?”
If the Bruins are able to rally and make the playoffs, they likely will face either the Rangers, Canadiens or Lightning. While they certainly wouldn’t be favored over any of those teams, Cherry wouldn’t count out the B’s.
“Just make the playoffs,” Cherry said. “Anybody that gets in the playoffs can make it.”
For more Bruins news, visit the team page at weei.com/bruins.
|Bruins finally showing winning ‘character’ at right time||03.13.15 at 10:11 am ET|
The Bruins have finally hit their stride. And they couldn’t have picked a better time.
They’re even winning shootouts. After winning their first two shootouts of the season, they lost their next seven such contests, prompting their head coach to say shootouts “suck” and giving thanks they end with the regular season. Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning ended the skid and gave many inside the dressing room and organization reason to hope.
Their critics will point to the up and down play of key players like Dougie Hamilton, who, by his own admission, had an off night Thursday. The critics will say the Bruins, even during the four-game winning streak, haven’t displayed the consistent 60-minute-plus effort it takes to win in the playoffs.
But what the Bruins showed Thursday night was character and grit. No one showed it more than Gregory Campbell, who took a puck to his right eyebrow early in the first period, necessitating no fewer than eight stitches. It was nothing compared to Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern finals against Pittsburgh, when he gave up his lower right leg on an Evgeni Malkin slapshot. Later in the period, when he returned to the game, he was mashed into the corner boards but got up only a little worse for the wear.
“When you win, things look a lot better,” Campbell said. “There have been times when we’ve played some pretty good hockey and for whatever reason haven’t gotten points. Winning hockey games makes everything look better. We’ve gone the right direction and I think it’s been a process this year. Sometimes there’s not answers for everything. You have expectations coming into the year and for whatever reason, we had a slow start and it’s been well documented that we’ve stumbled a little bit along the way.
“But we’ve continued to try and improve our game, find solutions and stick together as a team. The important thing to us is not what’s happened but the way things are going. This is the important time of the year and we need wins and that’s reason to be optimistic for our team because when you play important games and get wins, that’s playoff-like hockey. That’s a positive we can build on with our team.”
Wins are wins and Thursday was the seventh straight time the Bruins took the ice and gained points. Boston has won four straight, 6-of-7 and 7-of-9 since their six-game skid that put their playoff position in serious peril. Now, the Bruins have 80 points, six points better than ninth-place Florida with 15 games left. Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien hopes NHL moves to 3-on-3 play or back to ties (basically anything but a shootout)||03.12.15 at 1:39 pm ET|
In the shocker of all shockers, Bruins coach Claude Julien said Tuesday that he hopes three-on-three overtime play replaces the shootout.
Julien, who last week said shootouts “suck” expressed hope that next week’s general managers meetings in Toronto will further the move away from the shootout. It’s expected that the league will explore playing three-on-three in the event that the game isn’t settled in four-on-four overtime play.
“Personally I’m more of a team-oriented coach I guess, which I always believe that this is a team sport and should be decided by a team,” Julien said. “I never, never have been [in favor of the shootout] and I’m just being honest about it. I know it’s a great show and I know that we’re here for our fans. If the fans like it that much and they keep it in then I have no issues, I’ll move along with it. But if you ask me my personal opinion, I’d like to see it decided in a way that its more than just one player against a goaltender.
“Whether its four-on-four or three-on-three, it’s still a group. I think that’s the way games should be decided. I’m still one of those people that still believes that if you can’t decide it with four-on-four or three-on-three then a tie should still be good. For some reason we’ve decided that there needs to be a winner every game. Sometimes a lot of people can go home really happy having seen a game that was well played, that was tight at the end of it, was exciting to watch vs people going home feeling like they didn’t do a great job because they lost in the shootout. It really tarnishes the outcome of the whole game. That’s my personal opinion on it.”
Four-on-four followed by three-on-three and then a shootout is currently being used to settle overtime games in the AHL.
|Daniel Paille uses ‘positive attitude’ to regain his mojo: ‘When they go in, it seems you can almost do anything’||03.08.15 at 5:20 pm ET|
Since being benched for the final two games of the five-game road trip, Paille has been on fire. His two goals Sunday were the difference in a 5-3 win over the Red Wings at TD Garden. He has four goals in the six games since, including Sunday’s short-handed marker.
“Sometimes when you sit out you get to reflect on what you can do better,” Paille said after Sunday’s offensive display. “For me, I definitely kept a positive attitude about it. Like l’ve said before, Claude was great with me about it. Coming back, kind of a play like you’ve got nothing to lose. Just keep working. If you keep working, good things will come out of it, and so far, that’s what’s been going right now. So it’s a huge boost I guess.”
“I’m sure it helped him in a good way, not necessarily as a wake-up call, more than watching the game and missing it,” Julien added. “At the same time, I think there’s no doubt the trade deadline’s over, guys know they’re here, there’s a lot of players that have picked up their game I think since then. Whether it’s a combination of that or combination of where we are in the standings and wanting to make sure we get ourselves into a playoff spot and doing whatever it takes, could be a lot of different things. It’s nice to see a lot of those players really bring their game up a notch.”
Paille was the butt of many jokes about the Bruins’ lack of finish around the net. He’s had the last laugh since being re-inserted into the lineup. Paille went 36 games without a goal and scored in each of his first two games back. On Sunday, he matched that total in just three shots.
“When they go in, it seems that you can almost do anything, so a big part of the game is mental and sometimes they’re not going to go in and it’s just staying focused on the right things that we’re doing out there and for me of course it’s been a frustrating time for the most part of the season, but the main point is to stay with it and having the support through the whole team here is definitely a huge boost for all of us,” Paille said. Read the rest of this entry »
|Claude Julien says ‘lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now’||03.06.15 at 8:50 am ET|
It’s been the one thing that has haunted these Bruins all season.
They can’t find a way to finish scoring opportunities in and around the net and wind up regretting it at the end of the game. Such was the case again Thursday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames. There were several chances for the Bruins to put some distance between themselves and Calgary in the early and middle parts of the game and they simply couldn’t find the finishing touch.
There was Daniel Paille with a wrister on Flames goalie Karri Ramo midway through the first period. There was a slap shot from Dougie Hamilton that was deflected away by a stick at the last moment. But there was no better example of Boston’s inability to find the scoring touch than when Loui Eriksson, on a 3-on-1 rush, had the puck on his stick and fired wide of an empty net midway through the third period.
Carl Soderberg, without a goal since Jan. 17 against Columbus, has now gone 17 games without a goal. He had two chances in the opening period and couldn’t find the back of the net.
“Again, the challenge of our lack of finish is probably the biggest concern right now,” coach Claude Julien said. “So I think we had the better of the game, five-on-five. There’s no doubt we played a lot more in their end then they did in ours.
“It’s a little bit of maybe confidence, and you squeeze your stick you’re trying so hard. There’s a lot of guys, use Carl Soderberg as an example. He’s really struggled the last little while scoring goals, and guys are putting pressure on themselves. There’s games where you like your team’s game, but your finish is what ends up killing you at the end.”
Julien realizes that the Bruins had chances leading 1-0 and 2-1 to really do damage and failed to seize on the opportunity because they simply couldn’t finish.
Read the rest of this entry »