Bruins

Julien, Kessel bury hatchet

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Julien, Kessel bury hatchet

OTTAWA It might have been a bit surprising Team Chara captain Zdeno Chara okayed the All-Star draft selection of Phil Kessel for the weekends All-Star events at Scotiabank Place. It was Joffrey Lupuls pick, to be sure, but Chara signed off on a player that memorably bolted out of Boston three years ago.

But it clearly speaks to the ten tons of water now under the bridge when it comes to the messy divorce between Kessel and the Bruins. Kessel, the natural born goal-scorer, crafted an escape route to Toronto and hes been looked at as a weasely villain ever since.

Its been three long years since Kessel left Boston for bluer pastures with the Maple Leafs, and both sides have clearly moved on.

The ultimate closure arrived for the Bruins when they captured the Stanley Cup last spring. The rapid development of Tyler Seguin into an All-Star is the cherry on top of the sundae.

With that in mind it was interesting to hear Bruins coach Claude Julien who will coach Kessel for the first time Sunday since his departure from Boston reveal a conversation he enjoyed with Kessel following the All-Star Draft Thursday night.

Julien and Kessel clashed often during his three seasons with the Bruins and on a myriad of subjects: Kessel would routinely get challenged for not working hard enough in the weight room and for his stubborn choice in hockey sticks. Kessel, on the other hand, never really forgave Julien for benching him during the first round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens during his second season in the league.

The friction between Kessel and Julien was widely believed a big factor in Kessels forced exit to the Maple Leafs, but it appears thats been smoothed over with an All-Star chat that was a long time coming.

The years go by and its always nice to see those guys again. I had a really good conversation with Phil yesterday. Hes obviously excited and loves where he is, said Julien. Thats what its all about. We obviously lost a good player, but it was a trade that had to be made. In return we got a couple of good players, so it worked out for both sides.

Kessel is never going to truly open his veins to the media about anything never mind a heart-to-heart with his former coach, but even No. 81 admitted he looks back on his experience in Boston with a much different lens these days. Hes a two-time All-Star and one of the most dangerous scorers in the league, and he knows the Bs coaching staff was trying to make him a better player.

Much like a grown-up child that eventually realizes why their parents were hard on them long after the fact, Kessel understands what happened in Boston was part of his development. How much does Kessel think hes matured since he left Boston?

Quite a bit. I meanthat was three years ago now, right? I was still pretty young. I was just getting used to the league back in the day. I think you take every lesson that you learn in the league and get better as a player and a person, said Kessel. When we were there he tried to make me a better hockey player.

I have a lot of respect for what hes done. Hes a good coach and a good guy. I understand some of the things Julien did now. When I was there I was young. I wanted to play and help.

Is Kessel going to enjoy playing with Julien behind the bench again?

Itll be fineyeah, said Kessel. I played with him for a couple of years and he taught me a lot about the game. Hes obviously a good coach. Its nice for him to get recognized here because hes done great in Boston. Its a good thing for him.

It sounds like at 24 years old with a potential 40-goal season and playoff berth in his future, Kessel is finally starting to get it as an NHL player.

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, 'happy he can move on'

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10 years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has its back against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

Spooner's strong play continues as B's dominate Habs

GOLD STAR: It had to feel good for Ryan Spooner. The speedy forward played a great game, finished with the game-winning goal in Claude Julien’s return to Boston and had both four shots on net and four registered hits in 16:07 of ice time. His goal was a level of grit and buy-in that he didn’t always have when Julien was the coach, but it’s one that he’s found more and more since Bruce Cassidy took over behind the B’s bench. Spooner drove the puck straight toward the net, and attempted to throw a pass backdoor to Matt Grzelcyk. But instead the puck bounced off Jonathan Drouin’s skate and ended up in the back of the net to make it a 2-1 game in the second period. For a player that long struggled under the watchful eye of Julien, Spooner’s night continued a stretch of very strong play since coming back from injury. 

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Drouin was supposed to be a game-changing center for the Canadiens after being moved from Tampa Bay, but he hasn’t even been close to that, or actually being a center, for the Habs this year. Drouin really didn’t bring much of anything on Wednesday night with a couple of shots on net, a giveaway and a 1-for-9 on the draw in his 17:04 of ice time. He was like so many of the other players on the Montreal roster that didn’t show up with their best in a rivalry game between the Bruins and the Habs. Even worse than that they didn’t show up in a game they desperately needed to win if they wanted to stay relevant in the playoff race. With the minus game again on Wednesday, Drouin is also now a minus-20 on the season in what’s been a truly disappointing year. 

TURNING POINT: The Bruins bounced back strongly after giving up a goal on the first shift of the game, and really took things over after the fortunate bounce for Jakub Jerabek got the Habs on the board early. The Bruins outshot the Canadiens by a 25-13 margin in the first two periods, dominated play and posted a goal in each of the first two periods to get the B’s on the board. From that point on it was smooth sailing and Boston only needed to collect a couple of insurance goals in the third period to truly seal Montreal’s fate. What was surprising was that the Habs showed little fight or pride while slowly sinking into the mud during the game, and never ever provided any real challenge to the Bruins in a game that was still separated by just a single goal until later in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci had one of his better games for the Bruins with a goal, two points and a plus-2 rating in 15:58 of ice time. It was an empty net goal that rounded out the scoring in the third period, and he finished with four shot attempts, a takeaway and 16-of-20 face-off wins in 15:58 of ice time. In general the Bruins frontline centers absolutely and thoroughly dominated Montreal’s poor excuse for players down the middle of their lineup, and Krejci was a big part of that in helping set up Spooner’s game-winner as well. Krejci was also a player that had his differences of opinion with Julien when he was coaching the Bruins, so the big game for him on Wednesday night also must have felt pretty cathartic when it was all said and done.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of games for Tuukka Rask’s current point streak where he’s put together a 13-0-2 record that dates back to his four game benching in the middle of November. He finished with a solid night’s work of 21 saves in the win over the Habs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We laid an egg.” –Claude Julien said that phrase in both French and English to discuss a truly pathetic performance for his Canadiens team in what should have been an intense Bruins/Habs rivalry game on national television. 

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