Bruins

Haggerty: Julien returns to 'great city' and deserves one more moment

Haggerty: Julien returns to 'great city' and deserves one more moment

BOSTON - Claude Julien will get his rightful moment of adulation tonight in his return to the building he called home for a decade.

Similar to the long, warm and appreciative ovation he received after passing Art Ross for the all-time victories in Bruins history, a video montage in appreciation of Julien’s 10 years leading the B’s will be playing upon his first trip back to the Garden as coach of the hated Montreal Canadiens. 

MORE BRUINS:

Another ovation from Bruins fans will undoubtedly follow and, true to his classy nature, Julien will surely acknowledge it in some way before jumping back into rivalry mode. He’ll also get stick taps and appreciative nods from his former players even in the middle of a hard-fought, divisional showdown with Montreal’s playoff lives on the line.

“He’s a great coach and a great person. He taught me a lot about how to play the game the right way in certain situations,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He was a great teacher. Anytime you have a teacher, you want to learn as much as you can.

“He was here for a long time and he did a lot of great things for the team, the organization, the community and everyone. So he should be recognized for that definitely.”

In the days leading up to his return for the first time since being fired last February, Julien has made no secret about the good feelings he still holds dearly from his time with both the Bruins and living in the city of Boston.   

“It’s a great city. People that come and visit the city love it. I liked it. I think as a family this is where our roots really grew. With a young family and stuff like that, I think there is lots to be said, and I’ve said it before and I’m certainly not ashamed to say that this is a great sports town that supports its teams. The fans are great,” said Julien, who finished his Bruins run with an incredible 419 wins, four division titles, seven consecutive playoff seasons, two Stanley Cup Finals appearances and the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. “There’s nothing to dislike about this city and right now, unfortunately, it’s about coming in here and hopefully making them not like you so much.”

Clearly, it didn’t end well for Julien with the Bruins missing the playoffs in his final two full seasons and then headed that way again last season before he was replaced by Bruce Cassidy. The B’s then ripped off an 18-8-2 stretch to get back into the postseason. The Bruins are playing an up-tempo hockey and utilizing five or six rookies in their nightly lineup this season and it’s difficult to imagine Julien, a conservative, defensive-minded coach, implementing those kinds of changes had he stuck around.

It was probably wise, then, that Julien wasn’t going to go down that hypothetical road when asked about Boston’s new style of play on Wednesday morning.

“We can dissect all we want and I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. I think you move on, and that’s not for me to say. People can decide on their own. All I know is there’s a lot of new faces here and a lot of faces that are gone that would deal with me,” said Julien. “So that’s just the team that was rebuilt, and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve rebuilt, and they gave some young players some time to develop in the minors, and those guys are paying off right now. But as I said, when you have a good, strong leadership group, it’s the best thing for a young player coming in. They have that here.

“I think when you look at this team, they made some room for young players to come in, and they cleaned up some situations here in the last year. They allowed some of their young guys to grow in the minors. You look at [Jake] DeBrusk and stuff like that, you look at [Charlie] McAvoy that’s come in, and their leadership group is still the same. They have a strong leadership group and they tweaked certain things. They’re trying to play with pretty good pace, but when you looked at us against them [last weekend], I don’t think there’s a very big difference in the pace of the game. Sometimes it’s about bounces and sometimes it’s about certain teams making certain adjustments.”

The record, however, says that there is a big difference between the Bruins and Canadiens this season and that Boston’s plan of attack, personnel and coaching style are all flowing into one, big growing Black and Gold success story. This season, the B’s have shown that they have truly moved on from a very solid 10-year run from Julien behind the bench. 

The 42-18-9 record since the coaching change pretty much speaks to that. Still, Julien will get one more well-deserved moment on Wednesday night before he truly becomes the double-agent coaching enemy behind the hated Montreal bench for the foreseeable future. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

B's last chance to send message to likely playoff opponent

B's last chance to send message to likely playoff opponent

TORONTO – The Bruins might be saying all the right things, and certainly, anything can happen with 24 games still left in the regular season, but they also know the laws of probability say that the Toronto Maple Leafs will likely be their first-round opponent in the playoffs.

The Bruins are just three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with three games in hand and three games head-to-head vs. the Bolts down the stretch, so nothing is set in stone, of course. But the Black and Gold also know tonight’s date with the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre is the last time the two divisional rivals will face each other prior to any postseason meetings.

The Leafs took the first two in a home-and-home series against a very different Bruins team back in mid-November. The Bruins got payback last month against a weary Toronto bunch at TD Garden. For the third time in the four meetings, the Leafs will also be without superstar sophomore Auston Matthews, out with a shoulder injury sustained on Thursday night against the New York Rangers.

Either way, the Bruins are wary that this will be a final bit of message-sending to a team they’re very likely to see at some point in what they hope is a long Stanley Cup playoff run. They’re treating the important, late-season game accordingly.

“Now I think you can forecast that this may be a playoff matchup at some point, maybe not the first round but maybe the second round. But at some point, it looks like we’ll probably have to play them, so you’d like to leave a reminder of how good of a team we can be,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think they’re probably thinking the same, so I’m expecting a really good hockey game with the atmosphere on a Saturday night in Toronto and our guys with a few days off. Both teams have been winning a lot lately, so it should be a good game.”

It will also give a good window into what lies ahead for some of Boston’s rookie players in what should be as close to a playoff matchup as they’ve seen this season. With that in mind, all Bruins players are gearing up for their best while also knowing there’s a Sunday late afternoon trap game waiting for them in Buffalo against the Sabres.

“There are still lots of games left, but we’re aware of what’s going on with the standings and that this could be a possible [playoff] matchup,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We know it’s always tough games against them and very tight-checking hockey. We’re still trying to approach it as we’ve approached it all year, which is taking it one game at a time while pushing ourselves to be better. [Saturday] is back at it and then it’s a very busy schedule to the end, so these were our last few days of rest, I guess.”

Starting on Saturday night in Toronto, it’s 24 games in 44 days to end the regular season in one last major test of the resiliency, depth and mental toughness. It all starts with a big one against the Leafs in front of a Hockey Night in Canada audience with a final parting message on the minds of everybody.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

germany_hockey_olympics.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

For the Bruins, watching Olympic hockey "stings a bit"

TORONTO – It’s no secret that NHL players weren’t happy about being barred from participating in the Winter Olympics wrapping up in South Korea this week. 

Instead the NHL continued their regular season with business as usual while skipping the Olympics for the first time since 1998, and college hockey players, minor league players and players already playing overseas in Europe were utilized to comprise the teams for the US, Canada and others participating in the Olympic Men’s Hockey tournament. 

MORE BRUINS

The lack of NHL participation has made for a wide open tournament at this month’s Olympics, and led to the major upset of Canada actually losing to Germany on Friday in a match to play for the gold medal game this weekend. That was bad news for former Bruins forward Chris Kelly as the captain of Team Canada at the tail end of his hockey career, but great news for fellow former B’s forward Marco Sturm as the head coach of Team Germany. 

Naturally one couldn’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of players like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, who certainly would have both been on Team Canada, watching Hockey Canada fall short of the gold medal game. 

“Obviously you cheer for your country and that’s what we were all doing. I got up early to catch a little of the game,” said Bergeron. “It’s too bad. I thought Germany played a really good game, and there’s a part of me that’s very happy for Marco [Sturm] since he’s a friend of mine. We played together for a long time.

“It was tough. You wanted to be out there and you wanted to be able to compete. It’s too bad that we didn’t have a say in it. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. That’s my biggest disappointment that we had no say in being a part of it. It was different. The last two Olympics I was in it, and now being able to watch it on TV it’s actually been a lot of fun to be able to watch different events at any time of the day.”

MORE BRUINS

While Bergeron has his two gold medals from each of the past two Olympic Games to go along with his memories, Marchand might have missed his one chance to be a part of Team Canada at the Olympics during the peak of his hockey career. Coming off last season’s stunning performance from Team Canada at the World Cup, Marchand would have been close to an automatic for the Olympic roster, but instead it’s an experience he may have simply missed the boat on given that he’ll be 33 years old the next time around. 

“Obviously you get over it, but it was more about it being an opportunity lost, I think,” said Marchand. “It was a potential opportunity lost, but it allows other guys to have opportunities. I couldn’t be any happier that a guy like Chris Kelly gets to be there. It’s a huge opportunity. A lost opportunity for us is a huge opportunity for other guys…but it would have been nice to be there and be a part of it. It’s the biggest stage in the world.  

“The biggest reason it stings is that I never thought I would even be potentially be looked at for a team like that. With how things have played out the last couple of years, I might have been able to crack that [Olympic] lineup. So I think it stings a little more for that reason…to have the rug pulled out from under you for no reason. It does sting a bit, but that’s how it goes.”

That stinging feeling from the league pulling out of the Olympics will no doubt be revisited the next time the NHL and NHLPA go to the bargaining table for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that’s a different story for a different day as the first Winter Olympics without NHL players in 20 years finally goes into the books this weekend.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE