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Claude Julien: Bruins ‘built’ for defensive success in playoffs 06.05.13 at 1:24 pm ET
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Claude Julien speaks to reporters Wednesday morning at TD Garden before Game 3. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Defense wins championships. It’s a cliche nearly as old as the Stanley Cup. But it’s true. Keep your opponent from scoring and your chances of winning in the playoffs increases dramatically. And, according to Claude Julien, it’s been the secret to success for the Bruins in the first two games against the Penguins as the Boston forwards have shown a commitment to coming back and playing defense while the Penguins, not so much.

“It’s been good for us,” Julien said Wednesday morning before Game 3. “I think, when you look at our team, it’s built that way. We take pride in that part of our game, and that part of our game’s also given us the opportunity to be better offensively; turn that puck over quick and then everybody comes back, then we go back up the ice as a unit. That’s been a big part of our game and when it’s good, it provides us with some good offense.”

Julien was told that some in the Bruins dressing room Wednesday – like Daniel Paille – said that’s it’s not as simple as it looks to play a defensive system like the Bruins employ. Julien begged to differ.

“It’s not complicated, so I’m going to have to have a talk with Dan,” Julien said half-jokingly. “It really isn’t. What we try and do is eliminate the gray areas, make it black and white. It really is easy. He probably said complicated because he doesn’t want to tell you what it is. But it isn’t. This game shouldn’t be a complicated one.

“Guys have skills, you try to put some structure together, but the one thing you don’t take away is their ability to use their imagination and their skill and their hockey sense to make plays. Defensively, is where you’re extremely structured, and you want to make sure that you have layers and guys come back to where they should be positionally. When it comes to offense, a couple of rules, but the rest is about letting them do their job and letting them use their creativity.”

Julien again reminded everyone that his team is taking a level-headed approach in the hours before Game 3, knowing the Penguins figure to be hungry after losing Games 1 and 2 on home ice.

“It doesn’t matter what situation it is, I think our guys our mature enough to understand that whatever we went through, whatever the situation is right now, we have to be a good team in order to win at this stage of the season,” Julien said. “We can’t afford to let our guard down, whether it’s the respect for a team you’re playing, and the ability of that team to take advantage of you if you’re not ready, or whether it’s just from within our group to want to be a good team every night. That’s what’s important right now, thats we stay focused on the present and don’t live in the past, don’t look in the future. I’ve said that before, we’ve been good when we’ve kept our eye on what’s going on right now. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

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Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Daniel Paille, Pittsburgh Penguins
Barry Pederson on D&C: Penguins ‘forgot to play their game and work hard’ 06.04.13 at 10:17 am ET
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Patrice Bergeron reaches around Sidney Crosby for the puck during the Bruins' Game 2 rout Monday night. (AP)

NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning to offer his opinion of the B’s 6-1 rout of the Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

“I’m a little bit shocked at what I just witnessed last night. … How ill-prepared the Pittsburgh Penguins looked right from the opening faceoff of not only Game 2 but Game 1,” Pederson said. “It’s as if when they had their eight days off to prepare, they watched the Vancouver series the year the Bruins won the Cup and they said to themselves, ‘Listen, we’re not going to let them out-hit us, out-physical us. Let’s make sure that we start running around and be physical to show that we’re not going to be pushed around.’ But they completely forgot to play their game and work hard and do the little things.

“And then of course when you have bad goaltending that also breaks the spirit. They are not heading in the right direction, to say the least.”

Added Pederson: “I also think they got off to the wrong start in Game 1 where they looked rattled, they looked like they were very fragile, whining and complaining about calls. Even yesterday you could see that when things were offside they were jumping all over the linesman as if the linesman made mistakes. They look like they’re not focused, and they’re looking at the wrong things instead of themselves.”

Most of the criticism is being heaped upon stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“When you’re talking about these two, to me, you’re talking about the two best players in the National Hockey League — not even the National Hockey League, in the world,” Pederson said. “When you sit there and you look now, you’re talking about two players that have lost their direction. They look like they’re unfocused. They’re I think setting bad examples for their teammates in the sense that they’re not working hard enough. You saw last night a number of fly-by situations where they had chances to stop, do the little things that you need to do to win championships.

“So, they’ve lost their focus and their direction, and they’ve got to get that back. Because they’re the ones that the team is going to be looking to here in Game 3 to kind of help them turn things around.”

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Read More: Barry Pederson, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby
Bruins light up Penguins in Game 2 06.03.13 at 10:36 pm ET
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Brad Marchand (middle) celebrates his first of two goals with Patrice Bergeron (37) and Johnny Boychuk (55). (AP)

PITTSBURGH — The Bruins offense has been the only one to show up offensively, and it led them to a 6-1 victory over the Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday. The B’s now hold a 2-0 series lead after taking both games in Pittsburgh.

Tuukka Rask and the B’s once again kept the Penguins quiet, as the league’s top offense has managed just one goal through two games. Rask made 26 saves in the win.

Brad Marchand, who had just two goals in the Bruins’ first 13 playoff games, turned in a big night with two goals, which came in the first and final minutes of the first period.

Sidney Crosby gave the puck away at the blue line on the first shift of the game, with Marchand racing his way to a breakaway and beating Tomas Vokoun with a wrist shot glove side. Goals from Nathan Horton and David Krejci in a two-minute span later in the period prompted Dan Bylsma to replace Vokoun with Marc-Andre Fleury.

Less than three minutes after the change, Brandon Sutter scored the Penguins’ first goal of the series with 34 seconds left in the first, but Patrice Bergeron‘s line negated any optimism the Penguins could have brought into the intermission by turning some good neutral zone work into a rush that resuled in Marchand’s second of the night with nine seconds left in the period.

The teams skated to a scoreless second period before Bergeron took a feed from Jaromir Jagr in the offensive zone with plenty of open net and made it 5-1. Johnny Boychuk poured salt on the wound with a slap shot goal from the point with just over a minute to play.

Interestingly enough, the last team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in the conference finals and win was the 1991 Penguins, who came back against the Bruins en route to winning the Stanley Cup. The series will head to Boston, with Game 3 being played Wednesday and Game 4 Friday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– The Penguins’ offensive stars have been duds through two games. Crosby had two bad turnovers, one of which led to a goal in the first minute of the game, and none of the Penguins’ top six forwards have managed a point through 120 minutes this series. Jarome Iginla got behind Zdeno Chara to set himself up for a good opportunity on a rebound from an Evgeni Malkin shot in the first period off a rush, but he fanned on it. Bylsma switched James Neal and Pascal Dupuis late in the second period.

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Read More: Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, Sidney Crosby, Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Penguins in Game 1 06.01.13 at 10:46 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask

PITTSBURGH — Tuukka Rask’s first career playoff shutout came against the toughest offense he’s ever faced in the playoffs, as Rask blanked the Penguins in a 3-0 Bruins victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Rask stood tall for the B’s shutting down the Penguins’ high powered offense and keeping them quiet through four power plays, while Krejci scored in the first and third periods to give him seven goals this postseason and an NHL-leading 19 points.

Krejci’s first tally came a slapshot that went off of Paul Martin’s skate and past Tomas Vokoun, and he increased Boston’s lead by knocking in his own rebound in front in the third. Shortly after, Nathan Horton picked up his sixth of the playoffs to make it 3-0.

The game was by no means a clean contest, and the foul play was highlighted by a Matt Cooke hit from behind on Adam McQuaid in the second period. Cooke, who infamously elbowed Marc Savard in 2011 and gave him concussion issues that have since ended his career, came in with speed and shoved McQuaid from behind, with the Boston defenseman going into the end boards head first. McQuaid left the game but eventually returned. Cooke was given a game misconduct for the hit and figures to face additional discipline.

Brad Marchand also turned in a rather dirty hit in the second period, shoving James Neal into the boards in front of the Pittsburgh bench. Marchand was given a two-minute minor for boarding, but given what a dangerous hit it was, Penguins fans were justified in wanting more punishment for Marchand.

The second period ended with a fracas that followed Sidney Crosby bumping Rask, with the situation culminating in Patrice Bergeron fighting Malkin in a heated bout.

The teams will next play Monday for Game 2 before the series returns to Boston.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- Rask entered this series with mediocre numbers this postseason, but the B’s get past the Penguins it will likely be because he vaults himself into Conn Smythe consideration. Rask made 29 saves in the shutout, and while the Bruins definitely shouldn’t expect

- The B’s were saved by the bell in the first period, as the Penguins got big chances late. Their best chance came when an intentionally wide shot off the endboards yielded a rebound to Malkin in front, with Malkin’s bid going through the crease with just two seconds left. Furthermore, Johnny Boychuk appeared to hook Malkin in the chest in front on the play and got away with it.

- It was definitely a surprise to see Andrew Ference back in the lineup, but he made a positive impact in his return. Ference picked up the secondary assist on Krejci’s goal and also made it possible by driving to the net and bringing Martin with him. Without Martin there attempting to block the shot, Vokoun likely would have seen it cleanly and stopped it. Instead, it went off Martin’s foot and past the Pittsburgh netminder.

- It’s kind of an obvious note, but it’s big that the Bruins were able to get one of the first two games in Pittsburgh. At worst, they’ll head home split.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- Matt Cooke strikes again. The funny thing is that because his last suspension came in March of 2011, Cooke actually doesn’t qualify for repeat offender status. In order to be considered a repeat offender, one’s last suspension has to have occurred within the last 18 months, which in this case it did not. Of course, there’s no way Brendan Shanahan won’t consider the whole package with Cooke when deciding on his punishment.

Cooke would be a rather big loss for the Penguins, as he’s played well this postseason and is a big part of Pittsburgh’s bottom-six depth.

- It’s a method that worked, but it was interesting to see how sparingly Claude Julien used his fourth line early on. Daniel Paille played less than three minutes in the first period and a half, but he should be of more use in this series given his speed and defensive prowess. If Tyler Seguin really isn’t going to do anything (he had a pretty bad giveaway in the first period), it wouldn’t be crazy for Julien to consider putting Paille on the left wing of Chris Kelly’s line and move Rich Peverley back to right wing. Normally you wouldn’t want to mess with the Merlot Line, but if they aren’t going to play much, why not?

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Claude Julien on underdog role vs. Penguins: ‘Bring it on’ 05.28.13 at 2:03 pm ET
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Claude Julien says the Bruins aren't about to be afraid of the Penguins. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WILMINGTON — Claude Julien has instilled a certain attitude with his Bruins.

Play fearless hockey in the playoffs and see what happens.

That’s why he was happy to hear how Tuukka Rask responded when asked about the big load he will carry into the series against the high-powered Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Rask said that he expects to carry a big load and always goes into a series thinking he is the best goalie. That attitude also matches what the experts are saying. If the Bruins are going to have a chance of upsetting the Penguins, Rask will need to play to his level and maybe above.

Rask is considered by all experts as the superior netminder in this series, far and above the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury.

“I think he answered it right because I’m one of those guys where you have to relish the challenges,” Julien said Tuesday as the Bruins returned to the ice as a team for the first time since eliminating the Rangers on Saturday evening. “You can’t fear them. Bring it on. And that’s what he’s telling you right now, ‘Bring it on. I’m ready for it.’ That’s what our whole team’s demeanor is going to be is like, ‘Hey, we know it’s a big challenge. Bring it on.’ We’re ready for it. We’ll give it everything we have and hopefully, that’ll be enough to win a series.

“I think there’s two teams here that know what’s at stake. They’re going to bring their best at us, and we’re hopefully going to do the same thing to them. And we know how we play and we know how they play and it’s going to be a matter of just seeing how it pans out.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Shawn Thornton on D&C: Penguins front lines ‘a force to be reckoned with’ at 10:21 am ET
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Shawn Thornton

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning and previewed the B’s Eastern Conference finals series against the Penguins, talked up “underhyped” goalie Tuukka Rask and revealed that he received a congratulatory text message from former teammate Tim Thomas after Game 3 vs. the Rangers.

The Bruins return to practice Tuesday following two days off since dispatching the Rangers in Game 5 on Saturday night, preparing for what is expected to be a much tougher test from the top-seeded Penguins.

“They’re a pretty deep group up front, that’s for sure,” Thornton said. “They’ve got guys like Brenden Morrow on their fourth line. That’s some pretty good players back there. So, yeah, they’re a force to be reckoned with up front.”

Added Thornton: “I know there’s a lot of hype with the guys we’re playing against, and rightfully so, they’re great players. It’s always kind of the Sidney Crosby show wherever he goes. He’s the face of the league and he’s probably the best player in the game. You can’t get caught looking at that. We have to worry about what’s going on in our locker room, like we did last series with the Rangers and the series before with Toronto. You can’t really worry about what’s going on outside. We’ve got to play our game if we want to be successful. … You get caught just trying to react to what they’re doing, you’ll get caught with your pants down. They’re a dangerous team.”

Asked if Crosby is the best player he’s played against, Thornton said: “Yeah, I’d say, all-around. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He competes hard. Not only how skilled he is, his compete level is right up there. He never seems to take a night off. I think that’s part of the reason why he’s so good. ”

Thornton said there are no hard feelings toward Jarome Iginla after the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston at the trade deadline.

“No, I don’t care,” Thornton said. “He made a decision based on his personal opinion. He has a no-trade, he’s entitled to that. He earned it. He played a lot of great years in Calgary for that right. As a player, you can’t really fault him for it.”
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Read More: Claude Julien, Shawn Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Tim Thomas
Claude Julien gives Tuukka Rask green light to ‘start laughing’ about Game 4 miscue 05.26.13 at 1:30 am ET
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Tuukka Rask can really laugh now about his stumble after eliminating the Rangers in five games. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

For all the great saves Henrik Lundqvist made on the Bruins throughout Game 5 Saturday at TD Garden, the one save that will be remembered the longest is the one made by Tuukka Rask on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan on a breakaway with just over 11 minutes left in the third period.

The Bruins were clinging to a 2-1 lead as Callahan was fed on a break through the neutral zone and had a clear path toward Rask. The Bruins goalie made the save, and Boston’s lead stood up in a 3-1 win over the Rangers in the clinching Game 5.

“Well, our goalie coach [Bob Essensa] told me after, I think it was Game 1 when he scored on that breakaway, that he never goes backhand,” Rask said. “So I was banking on him shooting and keeping it on the forehand. But he went backhand, and I just extended my leg and blocker there and made the save.”

Rask had faced just 17 shots through two periods before facing 12 in the third, including Callahan’s.

“That’s just staying mentally sharp,” Rask said. “But you have to know something is going to happen, and they’re going to throw everything they could at you and going to try to get that change to tie the game. You know, today it happened to be a breakaway and I just wanted to make one or two big saves in the third and hopefully keep that lead. And today we succeeded.”

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