Julien: Bruins 'need to push a little harder at times'

Julien: Bruins 'need to push a little harder at times'

BOSTON -- Bruins head coach Claude Julien was certainly happy with his Bruins eventually securing Thursday night’s two points, and has to appreciate the sudden third period pushes that have allowed the B’s to come back from deficits in recent games.

But the B’s also snoozed through the first two periods of Thursday night’s 2-1 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and didn’t start showing net-front urgency or any sustained offensive push until the third period clock started ticking. If not for a masterful goaltending job by Anton Khudobin and his 29 saves, the Bruins might have come away disappointed against a Hurricanes team they need to handle if they harbor hopes for a playoff return.

A Torey Krug scoring blast in the final minute of regulation, aided by a Teuvo Teravainen kick into the net, was some much-needed relief for a goal-starved Bruins team. The goal was also thanks in part to David Backes grinding away in front, and getting into a net-front battle with Teravainen that helped boot the puck in the Carolina net. Brad Marchand, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak also chipped in with shootout goals during the last two games, so that was a positive as Claude Julien and Co. work to cement a consistent lineup in the little-utilized shootout.

With all of this Julien still challenged his group postgame for more while knowing full well the Bruins haven’t exactly hit their franchise high water mark this season, and that there is room for his Black and Gold group to really improve offensively, defensively and on special teams.  

“They created a lot of turnovers so you can’t let your guard down for a minute and we weren’t strong enough,” said Julien. “I think our team for two periods was content with being okay. But that wasn’t good enough for us.

“We needed to step it up in the third period and at least we did that. It took us a while to get that goal, and finding a way to win is important. But at the same time we need to understand that if we want to be one of those playoff-contention teams, let’s not get satisfied with being okay and being close in games. We need to push a little harder at times.”

So the message was pretty clear from the B’s bench boss to his players: let’s see less of the hockey we’ve seen during the first 40 minutes of the Bruins over the last two games, and more of the 20-minute third period comebacks that have ensured the Bruins of much-needed points in the standings. 

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.