Bruins

Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue

Sounds like some Bruins players suffering from Claude fatigue

BRIGHTON, Mass – The resume for Claude Julien speaks for itself in terms of greatness in Boston, so he certainly will get a warm ovation from the TD Garden crowd in his first visit back to Boston since getting fired last February. Julien coached the Boston Bruins for 10 years, won a franchise record 419 games over that time span, made it to the Cup Finals twice and of course hoisted the Cup in 2011.

It won’t matter that he’s now the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens when Julien gets his video tribute, and basks a long ovation similar to the one he received when he was recognized for passing Art Ross on the B’s all-time wins list a couple of season ago. The warmth will be a little weird in the middle of a Bruins/Canadiens rivalry game, but it’s clear that Bruins fans appreciate the job done by Julien for such a long period of time.

The mutual respect was also clear when players like Patrice Bergeron spoke warmly of their coach ahead of last weekend’s showdown in Montreal, which the Bruins eventually pulled out in a shootout at the Bell Centre.

But it would seem the Bruins are starting to get a little tired of tossing verbal bouquets at the guy that’s now behind the Habs bench. It all started with Tuukka Rask’s postgame reaction on Saturday when asked if there was any extra emotion going up against his old coach for the first time.

“He was not playing a shift on the ice, so it doesn’t really matter. He was coaching, so it was nothing special,” said Rask, matter-of-factly.

So there wasn’t any added emotion for Rask going up against Julien’s new team for the first time?

“Nope,” said Rask.   

That line of questioning continued again after Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena with Julien coming back to the Garden for the first time.

“Well, I can tell you what’s going to happen,” said Rask. “We’re going to start the game, at some point there’s going to be a video montage, we’re going to tap our sticks and the crowd is going to clap their hands and give him a warm welcome. Then the game is going to continue.”

Does Rask expect either he or some of his longtime teammates will get emotional if they see Julien showing some emotion during his ovation?

“No,” said Rask.

Is it really that cut-and-dry, the Bruins goaltender was asked?  

“It’s just another game,” said Rask, who improved to 8-15-3 lifetime against the Montreal Canadiens after last weekend’s shootout win. “It’s probably special for him to come back and be on the other side, but for us it’s just another game.”

Similarly, Marchand was much more understated speaking about Julien on Tuesday after speaking enthusiastically last weekend about the many discussions player and coach had about “becoming a better a pro” early in his career. But the Bruins winger wasn’t about to get all warm and fuzzy when asked about any greeting that his former coach is expected to get while the legendary Bruins/Habs rivalry plays out on the ice.

“I’m not really looking forward to it, but I’m sure he is,” said Marchand, when asked about the fan reception from Bruins fans awaiting Julien on Wednesday night. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me, but I’m sure he’s excited to come back. He’s deserved that video and I’m sure a lot of people will be excited to see him again. I’m sure it will be a memorable game.”

Marchand went on to say he "learned a lot" from Julien during their time together, and clearly still has a high level of respect for his former coach. 

 Maybe it’s the very nature of the Bruins/Habs rivalry, or maybe the Bruins players are suffering from a little Claude Julien question fatigue with the two teams playing three times in a span of eight days. Maybe we're even finally seeing some of the Bruins players that had tired of the longtime coach's methods by the end of his long-running tenure in Boston. 

But it sure sounds like some longtime Bruins players might be over it when it comes to the “Claude Bowl” aspect of the ongoing rivalry week between the two storied rivals.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

cp-caps-smith-prelly-fans-taunt-021918.jpg
AP Photo

Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- This wasn't the first time Devante Smith-Pelly has had racial taunts directed at him during a hockey game.

And the Washington Capitals forward knew immediately what the intent of the message was when a few fans began chanting "basketball, basketball, basketball," while Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a 7-1 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. Smith-Pelly, a black player in a sport dominated by white athletes, heard a similar taunt years before while playing in a tournament in British Columbia.

"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday. "Whether it's that word or any other word, I got the idea. And I'm sure they got the idea, too. Just one word, and that's really all it takes."

What stunned the 25-year-old is how incidents such as these keep happening.

"It's disgusting," Smith-Pelly said. "You'd think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working toward it, I guess, and we're going to keep working toward it."

The Blackhawks and United Center officials reacted swiftly by ejecting four fans shortly after an off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly - serving a fighting major for a scrap with Chicago's Connor Murphy - notified building security.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday, saying the league condemns the fans' behavior as being "unacceptable and reprehensible."

"While this was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games," Bettman said.

The Capitals released a statement saying they are "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" by a select group of fans in Chicago.

In thanking the Blackhawks and arena security, the Capitals said: "It is crucial to confront such appalling conduct."

The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they "are committed to providing an inclusive environment."

Video shows Smith-Pelly seated in the penalty box while looking and pointing to his left. He then gets up with his stick and gets into a verbal exchange with a male fan on other side of the glass.

Smith-Pelly said he stepped forward publicly to call out the fans for what they said because he didn't want to "brush it under the rug."

"I guess I'm trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people were their true colors," he said.

Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players' fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad.

"We've had this conversation before," said Smith-Pelly, who is from Toronto. "So he said, `It's just a few idiots being ignorant.'"

Smith-Pelly has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games is in his first season with the Capitals. He has 40 goals and 53 assists in 320 regular-season games with in seven seasons with Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey and the Capitals.

Capitals rookie defenseman Madison Bowey said what happened in Chicago made him "sick to my stomach."

Assistant captain Brooks Orpik said: "I wish I could say it's surprising but it's probably not all that surprising."

"I think no matter what you do, you're going to find pockets of ignorance anywhere you go," Orpik said. "Devo is as well liked as anyone in this room. I think it's important for him to know that, and to know that everyone respects him a ton in this room."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz reiterated his post-game comments by saying there's no place for racism in hockey or the country.

"For the 22,000 people in Chicago at the game last night, there were a lot, a lot, a lot of good people," Trotz said. "And a few individuals keep bringing the ugly part of society out, and that was unfortunate."

The fans' taunts occurred during the NHL's monthlong "Hockey is for Everyone " campaign to promote the game as being inclusive for all players regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or gender. February is also Black History Month in the United States.

The NHL has had to previously deal with racial insults.

During the 2014 playoffs, the Boston Bruins denounced fans who posted racial comments on social media targeting then-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black, after he scored in double overtime.

In 2011, a fan was fined $200 after pleading guilty to engaging in a prohibited activity for throwing a banana on the ice at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who is black, during an exhibition game at London, Ontario.

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Takeaways from the Bruins' 6-1 blowout loss to the Canucks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins Saturday night 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Centre. 

1)  The young players for the Bruins are responding very differently while knowing they’re front and center in trade rumors going on this month. It’s a funny time of year when the rumors and the whispers kick up to high gear in the final weeks ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and it’s no different this season with the Bruins heavily involved with the deadline little more than a week away. Brandon Carlo has been mentioned early and often as a young D-man that’s drawn interest around the league, and it’s no surprise given that the 6-foot-5 defenseman has been a constant top-4 guy during his two seasons. He’s accomplished plenty at 21 years old and holds plenty of value around the league even if he’s never going to be a puck-moving demon like fellow youngster Charlie McAvoy. All that being said, Carlo responded to hearing and seeing his name kicked around by having one of his worst games of the season. Loui Eriksson basically backed him into the front of the Boston net on Vancouver’s first goal against the Bruins, and Carlo was an adventure with both defensive zone coverage and gap control all night. He finished a minus-4 in the blowout loss, and he was every bit that bad. Conversely, Jake DeBrusk has seen his name come up recently in the Ryan McDonagh rumors, and it’s clear other teams would hold him in high esteem given his solid NHL debut as a 21-year-old rookie this season. DeBrusk responded to the rumors by enjoying one of his best games of the season even if he didn’t end up on the score sheet. DeBrusk finished with four shots on net, hit a post in the first period on a nasty shot from the high slot and was turning pucks over while playing active, engaged hockey all night. DeBrusk was Boston’s best player, and that’s impressive given the circumstances. But then again, DeBrusk has shown early in his career that he responds in a very good way when he’s challenged by the circumstances around him. That kind of character is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to give him up in a trade if I were Don Sweeney. Either way, it’s interesting to see how both of these young players are responding under the microscope. 

2)  Leave it to Loui Eriksson to pick his spot against the Bruins. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years covering Eriksson, it’s that the Swedish winger can be a very good NHL player when he really wants to be. Like when he’s playing for a big contract in his final year with Boston, and posted 30 goals and 63 points while playing grittier and tougher than he ever had in his previous two seasons with the Bruins. After signing a huge six year deal with the Canucks, he responded with 11 goals and 24 points last season and is once again just “meh” this season as a minus player that’s pacing for much less than 30 goals and 60 points. But he rose to the occasion against his old Bruins team and scored a pair of goals while attacking the Boston net, and generally playing with an urgent approach that I’m pretty sure Vancouver hasn’t seen much of over the last two seasons. One of the best things that Don Sweeney did was take a pass on the passive, play-when-the-mood-strikes Eriksson, and instead replace him with a bigger, tougher and more consistent – if not quite as offensively gifted – winger in David Backes. Good luck with four more years of Eriksson, Vancouver. Yikes. 

3)  Once again Thomas Vanek gave Bruins fans a reminder that he is a certified Bruins killer and that perhaps they could use a player like Vanek at the trade deadline. Vanek didn’t even have a shot on net during the game, but it was his play attacking the Boston net that freed up Daniel Sedin for a wide open goal during the four-goal, first period onslaught against the Bruins. The 34-year-old Vanek has 16 goals and 40 points this season along with a minus-13 rating, and definitely stands as one of those second tier wingers that could be available to Boston if they strike out on Rick Nash as the top rental winger that’s going to be available at the deadline. It’s interesting that both Vanek and Patrick Maroon, who are both on Boston’s trade radar, will be available to the Black and Gold if they want them after tormenting the Bruins pretty much every time they play against them. The current tally: 33 goals and 68 career points in 63 games, and a plus-21 mark against the Black and Gold. That is some serious damage against the Bruins over the years, so maybe it bodes well for what he could do if the notoriously streaky forward donned the Black and Gold.  

PLUS

*Loui Eriksson – Credit where it’s due to the Swedish winger that stepped up and probably had his best game of the season against the Bruins scoring a couple of goals and doing some of the things that allowed to put up a massive final season in Boston. The two goals and constant pressure around the net were a big factor in the win for Vancouver. 

*Jake DeBrusk – The Bruins rookie winger didn’t end up scoring any goals, but he was all around the net with four shots and one post on a Grade-A chance from the high slot. It was an impressive performance in an otherwise gross effort from the Bruins, and it also came in front of his dad, Louie DeBrusk, who was working the color analyst gig between the benches for Hockey Night in Canada’s crew covering the Canucks/Bruins game. 

*Anders Nilsson made 44 saves, so credit where it’s due in the victory over the Bruins. But the backup goalie was shaky throughout while not making any clean glove saves, so the best thing the Bruins ever did for him was fall way behind early in the first period. That took the pressure off Nilsson, and he was able to keep it simple with a big cushion and ride that to victory. 

 

MINUS

*The minus-4 for Brandon Carlo was literally and figuratively the biggest minus for the Bruins in defeat. Carlo wasn’t nearly tough enough in front of the net early in the game, had some coverage issues in the defensive zone and really was a liability with Torey Krug as a pairing. Credit Carlo for stepping up and dropping the gloves with Darren Archibald after a big hit on David Pastrnak, and in doing so displaying a little toughness midway through the game. But it was too little, too late at that point.

*One shot on net and a minus-1 rating in 20:03 of ice time for Brad Marchand, who was clobbered early with a high stick that went uncalled and remained pretty silent in the game after that despite logging over 20 minutes of ice time. Marchand has had some pretty eventful games in Vancouver during his NHL career. This was not one of them. 

*The defense was dreadful in front of Tuukka Rask, but he also gave up four goals on nine shots before getting pulled after the first period. His rebound control was poor while he was in there in the first period and the Bruins only gave up a couple more goals the rest of the way, so it certainly feels like it was a combination of a bad night for the B’s and their goalie when they’ve both been so brilliant this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE