|Opinion: Claude Julien needs to schedule rest time for weary Bruins||04.12.13 at 1:34 pm ET|
I’m sick of hearing that the Bruins are tired.
“We ran out of gas,” Claude Julien claimed after Thursday night’s loss to Islanders. “The effort and will was there. They were obviously a little fresher than we were.”
That quote came just two days after he said, “The schedule has been as tough as it could ever be on an athlete. We’ve got to be careful of how hard we push those guys, because they are tired.”
I don’t disagree.
The schedule obviously has been brutal. Yes, the Bruins face the same difficulties as every other team in the league, but they currently are in the worst of the gauntlet. Whereas they started the season with more days off than most other teams, they are paying the price for that now.
So I’m happy to concede that exhaustion is playing a role in their recent string of uninspired performances.
Normally, this is the time where I would remind athletes and coaches that if they avoid making an excuse out loud, someone will make it for them. We all know the schedule is tough; let us remind people and it will sound more like an explanation and less like an excuse.
And for Tyler Seguin, who said Thursday night that while he wasn’t making excuses, “we ran out of gas after three games in four nights,” I would repeat that message.
But to Julien, I would offer some additional advice.
If your team is so tired, do something about it!
Look, we all know the Bruins are going to make the playoffs and it’s a virtual certainty that they will fill either the second or fourth seed. So, what would be the harm in resting a few exhausted players for a game or two? If they are so desperate for some fresh legs, why not create them?
|How will Tyler Seguin respond to demotion?||04.08.13 at 1:38 pm ET|
With Claude Julien shuffling the lines Saturday and again on Sunday, no player has gotten more attention than Tyler Seguin. The third-year player began Saturday’s game at center in place of the concussed Patrice Bergeron, was moved back to wing after a rocky start against the Canadiens and then demoted from the second line to the third line Sunday.
Saturday’s game was Seguin’s second of the season at center, as he centered Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr Thursday night, but he was 3-for-12 on faceoffs and was a far cry from Bergeron defensively. The line was on the ice for the Canadiens’ first goal Saturday night, and Seguin was replaced in the middle by Rich Peverley midway through the first period. In Seguin’s defense, the expectation should have been that Seguin would struggle at center early on in the experiment, which makes it rather puzzling that Julien would try it in the first place if he was going to pull the plug so quickly.
“I figured it would take a little while,” Seguin said after Monday’s morning skate. “I wasn’t expecting to snap right back into it right away. Obviously, that would have been nice, but I knew it was going to take a bit to adjust. I think when you’re going into a game like Montreal, it’s a big game. I guess there shouldn’t be any time for adjusting. You just have to go out there and do it, and I wasn’t doing it.”
Seguin, who was drafted as a center after playing center in the OHL, said that he wasn’t surprised that Julien broke up the line and moved him back to wing.
“Well, it wasn’t working,” he said. “We were out there for the first goal there and it just wasn’t good work in our own zone. We were kind of running around a bit, and I can’t say I was shocked that it got changed.”
Whenever Julien does anything involving Seguin, there seems to be some level of outrage on the part of the fans. It dates back to Julien limiting his ice time when Seguin was timid as a rookie, and it’s continued up to Saturday with Julien not putting Seguin, who led the Bruins with 29 goals last season, out on the ice at the end of a one-goal game with the B’s on a 6-on-4.
While coaches will be scrutinized no matter what, why isn’t there any finger-pointing being done at the player? People love railing against Milan Lucic whenever anything goes wrong, but is criticism of Seguin not allowed?
Seguin had no shots on goal Saturday, marking the second time in a seven-game span that he’s failed to get a puck on net. Seguin’s the fastest player on the ice almost at all times, yet he still loses races for pucks if there’s a chance getting there first also means getting hit. Is he Boston’s most talented player? Sure, but at age 21 he is not without his faults. Maybe Julien bumping Seguin out of the top six is his way of making the former second overall pick work his way out of some bad habits.
Seguin, who did not speak to the media Sunday, didn’t make any complaints about the situation Monday. He can’t be happy with being taken off the second line, but if he’s mad, he’s keeping it to himself.
“I think we’re mixing things up,” he said. “I’ve played third line before, I guess my first year and not so much last year. I’m just going to go out there. Obviously Kells is a playmaking player to play with as well.”
|Chris Kelly expected to return for Bruins Monday||at 11:42 am ET|
Chris Kelly (leg) did participate in the morning skate, with Claude Julien saying afterwards that the Bruins expect Kelly to make his return to Boston’s lineup Monday night against the Hurricanes. Kelly, who has been out since March 11 with a broken tibia, has skated on a line with Tyler Seguin and Daniel Paille the last two days. Kelly said after the morning skate that he has been medically cleared, is able to take contact and is ready to return if Julien puts him in.
Anton Khudobin was the only goaltender on the ice Monday, but he stayed out after the skate, suggesting that Rask will be the starter against the Hurricanes. Kaspars Daugavins also stayed out longer, so the guess here is that Jordan Caron would be in tonight over Daugavins and Jay Pandolfo.
Here are the projected lines for Monday night:
For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.
How good are the Bruins? Depends on your mentality.
The optimist loves their chances. He remembers that the team is one of just four with fewer than 10 regulation losses. The pessimist, on the other hand, is worried. He notices that five of those losses have come in their last 11 games. The realist, meanwhile, is trying to figure out just who these Bruins really are.
Good luck, realist.
Regardless of your level of hope, there is no doubt that Bruins are scuffling right now. The team that looked dead in Philadelphia, asleep for 50 minutes in Buffalo, gave up 87 shots in two home games and then embarrassed itself when it couldn’t even muster a shot in their six-on-four power play late in Montreal is clearly not the same group that cruised to a 19-4-3 record to start the year.
There are some obvious differences. These Bruins have had serious personnel changes since the start of the year. Not only have they lost the contributions from two key centermen (Chris Kelly and now Patrice Bergeron), but their loss has tested their depth at the position. It has forced Claude Julien to juggle his lines and shift both Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley from the wing, weakening two of his four lines. They’ve also been forced to test their depth on the blue line as Matt Bartkowski and Aaron Johnson have spelled the injured Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuck.
Fortunately for the B’s, I think the optimists win this one. Boychuck is already back. Kelly is close to returning. McQuaid has now skated with the team. Only Bergeron remains as a great mystery for the playoffs, and without him I think we all become horribly pessimistic. He is that important to their postseason chances. Without his presence, as Paul Pierce said about Kevin Garnett‘s effect on the Celtics, ‘They aren’t going anywhere.’
During this downturn, however, we’ve seen a run of third-period losses. A team once built upon late-game surges has seen its power turned off in key spots. I see two possible explanations: Either the Bruins are getting tired in the third periods, or their goalie keeps losing concentration.
I think the B’s are just tired, and so on this question I’ll remain optimistic as well. Much has been made of the condensed schedule and the toll it is taking on especially physical teams. Julien’s blueprint has always been to beat you up for 40 minutes then take advantage of your exhaustion late. If the schedule has prevented them from playing as physically as they’d like, I’ll assume that they are smartly keeping something in reserve for the playoffs.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t causes for major concern.
|Bruins trying to solve an offensive mess||04.07.13 at 11:23 pm ET|
Claude Julien said before the season he was going to be quicker to make reactionary moves this season. It would be impossible to blame him for doing so after Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.
Julien demoted Tyler Seguin to the third line, put Rich Peverley on the seldom-played fourth line and promoted Gregory Campbell to the second line (making the second line the 2010 version of the Merlot Line, except with Jaromir Jagr in place of Shawn Thornton) for Sunday’s practice. The moves speak to how in flux Boston is offensively, as the B’s have scored two goals or less in four of their last five games, with three one-goal showings.
The lines looked like this:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Gregory Campbell-Jaromir Jagr
Daniel Paille/Jay Pandolfo-Chris Kelly-Tyler Seguin
Kaspars Daugavins/Jordan Caron-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton
Sunday’s lines could have just been a threat on Julien’s part to wake up some of his slumping forwards, and there are plenty of candidates. Brad Marchand wasn’t demoted with the revamped lines, but he has just two goals in his last 17 games. He and Seguin combined for zero shots on goal Sunday night in what was a very untimely disappearing act for two of Boston’s top scorers.
Then there’s the Peverley thing, which is very interesting. Julien clearly expects way more than he’s getting out Peverley (no points, minus-2 rating last five games). After Peverly was a healthy scratch last month, it appears he is back in the doghouse.
It hasn’t been a no-win situation for Peverley, but you do have to take into consideration that he hasn’t been playing with top players for the most part. His linemates have included Chris Bourque, Jay Pandolfo and Kaspars Daugavins. It isn’t exactly like Peverley’s been put in a position to win the Hart Trophy, but it’s reasonable to expect better numbers than he’s put up even with subpar linemates.
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Jaromir Jagr ‘going to be a very effective player’ on B’s power play||04.05.13 at 12:23 pm ET|
NBC’s Pierre McGuire spoke with Mut & Merloni on Friday about Jaromir Jagr‘s role on the Boston power play, Tyler Seguin shifting to center, and what the Bruins need to do against the Canadiens on Saturday.
McGuire reminisced about his days working with a young Jagr in the Penguins organization, saying, “We had to kick him off the ice because he was such a workaholic. That’s how much he wanted to be great.”
The Bruins got their first look at Jagr on the power play on Thursday, and McGuire said he expects Jagr to be as much of a force low in the zone with the man advantage as he’s always been.
“That’s where Jaromir’s so good,” he said. “From the hash marks down to the icing line, just getting him to get the puck — he can spin and control, he can dish it off or he can take it to the net. So, when he has that kind of multiple-weapon attack from that area, it opens up the one-timer for [Zdeno] Chara. It opens up the back door for potentially Tyler Seguin. It opens up getting the puck to other areas on the ice, maybe for Nathan Horton. So again, where he’s posted right now, he’s going to be a very effective player playing down there. He always has been.”
To beat the Canadiens, McGuire said, the Bruins have to shut down P.K. Subban the same way opposing teams targeted Ray Bourque during his time in Boston.
“The biggest thing is you have to identify certain players,” McGuire said. “Whenever Raymond Bourque was on the ice we had a Ray Bourque rule. You had to hit him every time he was on the ice, and as you skated by him, you had to hit him in the hands with your stick. Our guys lived by it for two straight years and it paid huge dividends for us. ‘¦ It’s the same thing with Subban. Their power play’s effective, yes, because [Andrei] Markov‘s good, but Subban’s got that overwhelming shot and the ability to distribute, and he’s a breakout player, and he’s a trap-breaker. So if you’re giving that guy free minutes, he’s going to eat you up. You’ve got to punish that guy.”
He didn’t think it would be this hard.
But after skating up and down the center of the ice and going side to side in his first game as a center, Tyler Seguin has a whole new appreciation and understanding of exactly what Patrice Bergeron does.
In his first game replacing the concussed Bergeron, Seguin skated 19 shifts in 19 minutes with Jaromir Jagr on his right and Brad Marchand on his left. Seguin finished with three shots in Boston’s 1-0 win over the Devils Thursday night at the Garden.
“First shift I was like, ‘Bergy, I appreciate you a lot more right now,'” Seguin said. “I guess the first period I felt it a little bit more, but, again, as the game progressed I felt like I could use my speed a little bit more, and it was just about finding those areas. It’s one thing from being a centerman and then going to the NHL, but it’s another thing from going center to wing in the NHL and then going back to center, so it’s going to take some adjustment.”
His coach could certainly see a difference.
“Well, it brought us what we thought. Tyler is obviously realizing, probably, how tough it is for Bergy to play that position, because playing in the D-zone, there’s a lot of territory to cover as a centerman, and when pucks are going from one side to the other, he wasn’t always there,” coach Claude Julien added. “That’s the work in progress, and that’s what we expected, and that’s what he’s going to get used to. But overall, that line was fine. Again, you’ve got to remember there’s a Hall of Famer on that line with two young players who were probably looking for him a bit too much versus making the plays or taking the shots like they should’ve. Hopefully, it will wear off and it will get better.”
Seguin also has a new appreciation of the responsibility Bergeron carries in the face-off circle. Seguin won just three-of-12 but vowed to get better with practice. Read the rest of this entry »
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