BOSTON – Claude Julien will “absolutely” return to the Boston Bruins for his 10th season coaching the NHL hockey club in Boston after a full endorsement by Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who said it was his decision alone.
The press conference ended five days of speculation and organizational silence after the Bruins missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight season, and then took five days to come out from under the rubble publicly.
“I emphatically believe that Claude is a coach that can take us through what I’ve described as a bumpy transition period this year. We’ve got work to do. I have work to do,” said Sweeney, describing the longtime coach that won the B’s a Cup in 2011 and qualified for the playoffs in seven straight seasons leading up to the past two DNQ’s for the postseason. “There’s no question we have areas that we want to address, and I’ve already started to assess that. We’ve tried to address some of those things [during the year] and we’re going to continue to address them.”
Julien said he was hungry to once again start building this Original Six organization up again, and sounded many of the same notes when he was at the dais explaining the late season collapse two years ago as well. One has to hope that there’s a different result at the end of next season, or it will feel like the Bruins are just doing the same thing over and over again.
“I did a self-evaluation: do I still have the ear of the dressing room? Are they still listening? All of that stuff that you go through after being here for nine years," Julien said. "Everything that came out of if after my evaluation with Don [Sweeney] on Sunday morning was that I wanted to be here, I want to bring this team back to where we once had it and I know that there’s some bumps along the way. I’m going to be honest with you. Would it have been easier to go somewhere else and get off to a fresh start? That’s not what I want. To me this organization has been has been good to me, and loyal to me. I love this city and I love these fans. I love the environment here.
“You want to be somewhere where people are really passionate about the game. There are a lot of people here, including the players, that have helped me become the coach that I am. I don’t want to be the guy that bails just because all of a sudden you hit a bump in the road. I want to be the guy that perseveres. It’s okay to be remembered for being the winningest coach in Bruins history, I’d rather be remembered as the guy that had enough character to go back in the trenches, dig my heels in and help turn this organization around.”
One area where the Bruins coaching staff will have changes: longtime assistant coach Doug Houda was fired after working primarily with the Bruins defensemen over the years, and the other assistants – aside from goalie coach Bob Essensa, who is under contract – have their contracts up for renewal amid discussions between Julien and Sweeney. So it’s a possibility that Doug Jarvis and/or Joe Sacco might not be retained as assistant coaches as well as Julien and Sweeney began building up toward their second full year of working together.
GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy.
BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand.
TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.
BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.
DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.
A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.
The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.
The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.
Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.
In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.
Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.
Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.
Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.