Bergeron: Blame "should fall on the players," not Julien

Bergeron: Blame "should fall on the players," not Julien

BOSTON – With the Black and Gold collapsing down the stretch and missing the playoffs by mere points for the second straight season, it’s only natural to wonder what the fallout will be for next year. At the top of the speculative list is the job security of head coach Claude Julien, who managed to survive the firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli when the Bruins came up one point short of the playoffs last spring.

This time around the Bruins got spanked by the Ottawa Senators in a lopsided 6-1 score that plunged a dagger into their playoff hopes, and left the Bruins at 93 points, falling short of both the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers for the playoff cut. So the Bruins head coach for the last nine years, with a Stanley Cup ring, a couple of Stanley Cup Final appearances and seven straight playoff appearances on his Boston resume, could find himself looking for a head coaching out in the hockey world in the weeks ahead as the heat gets dialed up in Boston.

Julien was lauded just last month for his nearly 400 career wins with the B’s that have him in first place all time with the Boston franchise ahead of the legendary Art Ross, but the coach couldn’t find an extra win hidden in the couch cushions in each of the last two seasons that would have put them into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That’s clearly on the players to a large degree, but it’s also on a coach in Julien that seems to fighting some of his coaching instincts in preaching a faster, more explosive, more open offensive style that allowed the Bruins to boast three 30-goal scorers this year in Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Couple that with some of the stalled development for young players like Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller that could have helped Boston a lot sooner than they did, and there’s some legitimate, fair gripes for the B’s coaching staff.  

Patrice Bergeron said he hoped the Bruins would retain Julien for next season, but it’s hard to reconcile No. 37’s words with the fact the Bruins have displayed far too little urgency in the their game in each of the last two years.

“Well, I mean, it’s not my decision, to be honest with you. I’ve said a million times that Claude [Julien] has been the best coach I’ve had, and it’s definitely not on him,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It should be on us as his system is there, the game plan is there, and it’s about us executing, and we didn’t do that. So it should fall back on the players.”

The final straw might have been leaving his best players, like Brad Marchand and David Krejci, on the bench for this week’s shootout loss to the middling Carolina Hurricanes. That sequence mystified some Black and Gold followers given the Nose Face Killah’s scoring prowess with his shot and release. The shootout loss to the Hurricanes will be remembered vividly by Bruins fans that can point to that game as when things slipped away in Boston.  

The bottom line: there’s no doubting Julien is one of the greatest all-time head coaches in Bruins history, and certainly the best of this last generation of hockey people.

But sometimes the fact Julien is a great head coach muddies up what the Bruins must do for what’s best in their future, and whether or not a proven coach like Julien wants to continue a prolonged, painful rebuild of the Black and Gold. One thing is for certain if he is let go by the Bruins: Julien will get scooped up immediately by Montreal, Ottawa or some other talented veteran group in need of a bench boss to put them over the top.

Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that "wasn't too dangerous"

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Backes escapes skate blade situation with deep cut that "wasn't too dangerous"

TAMPA – David Backes certainly didn’t escape the scary situation with an errant skate blade unscathed, of course. 

The 33-year-old limped his way to the Bruins team bus out of Amalie Arena after Boston’s 3-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and needed approximately 18 stitches to close up the gash on his right thigh. But Backes was still able to joke about it as he exited the dressing room while knowing that it could have been much, much worse with that kind of freak accident on the ice. 

"I'll play a second period one of these days,” said a smiling Backes, who was forced out of Saturday night’s loss with the skate blade cut in the last minute of the first period and exited the Florida loss as well after catching a match penalty in the first period as well. Luckily for him, there was no structural damage to Backes’ right leg after Yanni Gourde caught him in the thigh area as both players were down on the ice around the Tampa net.

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There was a lot of blood, however, as he quickly exited the ice, sped past the bench and headed right to the Bruins dressing room with Bruins trainer Donnie DelNegro trailing right behind. 

“I went in and saw him between periods. He’s okay. There’s no structural damage. There will be concern going forward about swelling or infection, but it looks like he’ll be okay. We’ll classify him as day-to-day, but I don’t know if he’ll be ready to play on Monday,” said Bruce Cassidy of Backes, who actually scored the second goal of the game for the Bruins as a power play strike. “You see a guy coming off like that and you see the blood pooling up, and you’re always worried they could hit an artery somewhere. He was able to get up. That was the first good sign and he was able to be tended to quickly. 

“It is scary. But we were told it would be a deep cut that would require some stitches, and it wasn’t too dangerous.”

For now it just becomes an eventful month for Backes where he’s been suspended, tossed out of a game with a match penalty and now forced out of a game after a freak skate blade incident, but there’s no doubt he’ll return better and stronger than ever in rapid fashion as he’s done through the last two seasons with the Bruins.


B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

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B's make a big statement to Tampa, rest of the NHL with gutsy win

TAMPA – One has to wonder what the Tampa Bay Lightning are thinking after Saturday night’s game. 

It’s probably something along the lines of “Oh crap” after the Bruins completely shut them down while missing their top defensemen pairing, their best all-around player and top line center, their most impactful rookie forward and also losing their best power forward, who was filling in as top line center, in the first period. The undermanned Bruins made a big, fat statement with their 3-0 win over the well-rested, healthy Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena at the end of a long, four-game road trip, and now sit just two points behind the Bolts with 12 games to play in the regular season. 

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It was impressive enough that the Black and Gold won at all against the NHL’s best team while missing so many of their top shelf players, but to do it while also totally shutting down Tampa’s offense was something worth remarking about. The Bruins defense and goaltending had been playing a bit fast and loose for the better part of a month, and had been bailed out time and again by an offense that’s been dropping big numbers lately. 

But the Bruins went into Saturday night determined to leave an impression with the Lightning about what awaits them next month once the playoffs start, and they did it with physical, gritty defense that left Tampa with little space to operate. Even better the Bruins defensemen moved the puck pretty much perfectly and swiftly all night, blocked shots with hard-nosed determination and proved they could do more than survive without Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. 

That’s damned impressive when you consider the opponents from Tampa Bay lining up against them with a chance to clinch their playoff spot, and what’s on the line for both teams headed into the final three weeks of the regular season. 

“We were looking at it as more of a bounce-back against a really good team, and let’s see where we are. I thought we answered the bell,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “Probably the biggest win in a long time. We've had some nice comebacks and some high-scoring affairs, but it was nice to get a zero [goals allowed] in the column. It’s been a while. 

“It was just good, solid team defense…winning pucks. It was probably not the prettiest hockey, but I thought the goals we scored were pretty nice ones going to the net. It was playoff hockey. I thought we were better at it than they were tonight. Who knows how the next one is going to go, but we’re going to enjoy this.”

It was clear early on that the Bruins wanted to set the tone both physically and style of play-wise, and they did just that. The pounding physicality clearly bothered the Lightning as Steven Stamkos made an uncharacteristic choice to retaliate against Tim Schaller after he threw a heavy hit on the Tampa Bay star player. That landed Stamkos in the box and set the Bruins up for their first of two power play goals on the evening. 

Those two power play goals were proof enough that the Bruins had their special teams in good order, but it took just a combined 23 seconds of power play time to strike for those two scores against the Lightning penalty kill. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to keep Jon Cooper and the Tampa Bay coaching staff up at night before the final two meetings between these two teams. The suffocating defense, the stout physicality and the quick strike offense just completely overwhelmed the Lightning, and things went exactly according to the game plan that Bruce Cassidy had set out for them prior to the game. 

“We’re a confident group back there, and when we play the way we’re supposed to we can compete with anybody,” said Kevan Miller, who played a punishing, physical 21:41 of ice time in the win. “It’s that time of year where we’re pushing for the playoffs, we’re grinding away and we knew as a group after [the Florida loss] we needed to tighten things up. We did that. That’s a tough team over there, so you need to take time and space away from them. As a group we did a great job of that.”

About the only thing that didn’t go right for the Bruins early was David Backes exiting quickly at the end of the first after his right thigh got sliced by an errant skate blade. But even the 33-year-old Backes managed to avoid serious injury despite approximately 18 stitches to close the wound, and was cracking jokes about it as he limped to the Bruins bus postgame.

Clearly things can and will change with two games remaining between the two teams in the final three weeks of the regular season. The Bruins should theoretically be even better and more difficult to beat once they got all of their key players healthy, and that’s got to be a frightening prospect for the Lightning. 

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Then again perhaps the Bolts were a little rusty after three days off leading into Saturday night, and they needed to be kicked in the teeth by the Bruins to start getting that hunger back. Either way the Bruins are within a single win of pulling into a tie for the President’s Trophy and home ice throughout the entire Eastern Conference playoff bracket. Nobody should be surprised the Bruins did it once again while fighting through injuries and a brutal late season schedule, and that’s a testament to how stubbornly they’ve successfully plowed through adversity this season. 

The dominant win over Tampa on Saturday night just serves as another piece of compelling hockey evidence that something special is building with the Black and Gold. It’s become impossible to deny or ignore as the Bruins continue bucking the odds in a way that should have everybody else’s full attention around the NHL at this point.