Felger: Players' loyalty to Julien isn't a winning move

Felger: Players' loyalty to Julien isn't a winning move

So why did the Bruins retain coach Claude Julien? 

Several reasons, probably. But one has caught my attention.

The players apparently recommended it.

"One of the things I can tell you that I've learned recently is that our coach has not lost the room,'' said team president Cam Neely yesterday. "That's one of the first questions you ask, especially of someone that's been around as long as Claude and some of the players have been around as long as Claude. That has not happened, and if it did we'd have different discussions.''

Great. The same group of players who for three years running have puked on themselves when it mattered most are still listening to the coach.

Forgive me, but maybe that's the problem?

To be fair, I have no idea where Neely procured the information that Julien still had the ear of the team. But I can only assume it came from his exit interviews with the players. I mean, who else would be in a position to know?

However he came to that conclusion, it's still a scary one. The B's have been a horrendous big-game team for over two years now. Going back to the end of their 2013-14 President's Trophy winning season, when they blew a 3-2 series lead to Montreal in the second round, scoring one goal in the final two games, the B's have turtled in most of the big spots they've faced. They lost 9 of 14 down the stretch in 2014-15. They lost 9 of 12 down the stretch in 2015-16. They embarrassed themselves in front of 60,000 people against a bad Canadiens team at the Winter Classic. They cratered with the playoffs on the line in the season finale two weeks ago against a bad Ottawa team. We could go on. There are dozens of examples. 

The point is that the coaches aren't getting the most out of their players when it matters most. And a lot of those players have been working with this coach for a long time. Perhaps part of the issue is that everyone is just a bit too comfortable with each other. Perhaps it's time for the players in the dressing room to get a coach they don't like so much. Not that that can last forever, but something has to give, right? If the B's bring back the same group of veteran players and the same coach, how is anything going to be any different?

The B's are attempting a tricky rebuild, what Jeremy Jacobs would call an "evolution, not a revolution.'' They are attempting to bring along young players and be patient with their prospects while also making the playoffs every year. Not easy. But the only way to pull it off is for the coaches to get the most out of the roster. That isn't happening. 

Either Julien has lost his touch or his players aren't responding to him. Make no mistake, the talent has been there to make the playoffs -- the Bruins beat writers were adamant about that fact this past March and I trust them implicitly -- but it's not coming together when it counts. There's an issue with the mix of players and coaches. 

So why would you ever listen to them?

E-mail Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on Comcast SportsNet.

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.