Bruins

Claude Julien lauds Canadiens fans for honoring Zdeno Chara despite ugly history

Claude Julien lauds Canadiens fans for honoring Zdeno Chara despite ugly history

Claude Julien could have seen it going either way.

The Montreal Canadiens head coach was with the Boston Bruins when defenseman Zdeno Chara dangerously checked Habs winger Max Pacioretty into a stanchion during a 2011 game at the Bell Centre.

Chara's hit made him Public Enemy No. 1 in Montreal, with some even calling for his arrest. But when the 42-year-old returned Tuesday night to play in his 1,500th career game, Canadiens fans gave him a much different welcome.

The moving moment wasn't lost on Julien, who praised Habs fans for showing Chara love while adding a defense of his former player for that 2011 hit.

"I think I've got to give the most credit to our fans," Julien told reporters after the Bruins' 5-4 loss, via Sportsnet's Eric Engels. "I remember when I was on the other side of that incident with Pacioretty. I know I can stand here today on the Montreal side and say there was never any intent to injure that player. That's not his style. It was an unfortunate accident.

"He was not a very well-liked player here in Montreal. But the class of our fans to do what they did tonight in giving him not necessarily a standing ovation but clapping and looking at what he's accomplished in his career, (it) just says a lot about our real fans.

"I was really impressed and I was glad they did that. I know him personally and I think what he got tonight from our fans was well-deserved."

Julien coached Chara for nine-plus seasons in Boston and won a Stanley Cup with the ironman defenseman in 2011, so he certainly knows his history.

For his part, Chara seemed humbled by the fans' kind reaction.

"Obviously that felt really nice," Chara said, via the Bruins' website. "I really appreciate that. It was very classy and it's something that I will definitely remember."

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Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

Rask knows he 'can't be too satisfied' with the way his game his taken a slide

BOSTON – There’s no denying the single biggest common thread through the Bruins' four-game losing streak.

The same Tuukka Rask that was brilliant in the first month of the season has hit a rough patch in November and that tough stretch continued as he coughed up four goals in the third period of a 5-4 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Rask is 1-2-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in four November starts and played a starring role as a liability in losses to Montreal and Florida the past week. It was Rask who was beaten in the first minute of the third period on a long-distance Aaron Ekblad shot where the goaltender admitted he was too deep in the net and it was Rask who didn’t shut off the post on Florida’s third goal scored by Mike Hoffman as Florida was storming back in the final 20 minutes.

“I should have been sharper in that third period,” lamented Rask. “There were a couple of soft goals and I let [the Panthers] kind of get some momentum. It’s a 60-minute game and we’ve been on the other side of it.”

It wasn’t quite as bad as the three soft goals he gave up that all clanged off his glove hand last week in Montreal, but it was far from vintage Rask at a time when a few different things are going wrong for the Bruins. Rask is still top five with a 2.16 GAA and eighth in the league with a .926 save percentage, but it’s a far cry from the .951 save percentage he racked up in 10 games in a red-hot October.

Clearly, Rask is going through the same kind of tough stretch that used to greet him the first month of the season, but this time, it’s hitting him after a brief, dominant stretch out of the starting gate. Perhaps the Bruins coaching staff will get a quicker hook with Rask the next time he shows signs of trouble as in the losses against Montreal and Florida, or Jaroslav Halak will be used with a little more frequency until Rask works out the kinks in his game.

At least the B’s No. 1 goaltender isn’t under any illusions about the way he’s played the past few games.

“In Montreal, I sucked. In Detroit, I felt okay. Today, in the last period there were a couple of soft goals, so I can’t be too satisfied,” said Rask. “But, hey, there’s a lot of hockey left.”

While it’s refreshing to hear the kind of accountability  Rask is putting out there, the Bruins aren’t going to go very far if Rask is talking too much about sucking and giving up soft goals. The B’s better hope that their top goalie gets locked back in pretty quickly so both the team and Rask can leave their early-season mini-slumps behind in the rear-view mirror.

 

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NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Power Rankings: Big shakeup in the Top 10 this week

Sure, the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs are months away, but it's never too soon to look ahead, right?

The competition for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference could be tight, as several teams have surged forward recently, including the Flyers, Panthers and Canadiens — all of which missed the playoffs a season ago.

The picture is also crowded out West, where not many teams have started to separate from the pack as of yet.

How are the Bruins stacking up after a four-game losing streak? And which teams are making leaps forward?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's NHL Power Rankings.>>>>>>

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