The Coach Remains the Same!

From the time he arrived in Boston back in June 2007, many, (including yours truly) have questioned his decisions. Why is this player not playing? Why has this player or that player been sent to the minors? Why have you sent your most prolific scorers to other teams where they do continue to score? But Bruins Coach claude Julien has never wavered. Always remaining true to himself and to the team and management staff philosophy. You can play in the offensive zone, but if you choose not to play in the defensive zone as well, no matter who you are, you might as well not be here because you do not fit in.

The results are not to be argued. In the playoff year 2011, and down 0-2 to hated rival Canadiens, and heading up to Montreal, just about every hockey writer in this city had their Julien fired column already drafted. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum, er Bell Centre.

Demanding that his team play better defense is nothing new. If you look at this 10-game winning streak the team hit Tuesday night with a solid 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, yes it’s good defense most times and solid goaltending, but it all starts with the forwards. Playing defense in the neutral zone and then coming back to help out when the play is in the Bruin end, this is the foundation of the Julien system. This system is what paid off in 2011 & 2013 and what has made Boston the perennial team to beat in the east. It’s the system that has the Bruins leading the league in goals against despite, or is it the result of, being tied for second in goal scoring. 41 goals in that 10 game stretch Boston has scored while yeilding a mere 15. This is not an accident.

Defense and hitting have long been the reason you wore the Spoked B. No matter how efficient you were in putting the put behind opposing goalies, you stay in Boston would be measured by your willingness to pay the defensive price. In his tenure, there have been some headscratching moves that had me and others instinctively asking why is Claude doing that? But when you analyze and look at the whole, nothing has really changed with how he manages/coaches the team. Like the players, we in the media either get it, or we don’t. As of June 15, 2011, I got it. I still get a quizzical look with some of his decisions, but as the Coach remains the same, this current edition of the Boston Bruins look as good, no wait, better today than they have at any other time since Claude Julien took the helm.

~DieHard
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Time for Bruins to put up or shut up!

After beginning the month with a lackluster and listless 4-2 loss against the Washington Capitals, the Bruins have gone on to dispatch the New York Rangers, Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers, those same Caps, and a weekend Florida sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning and this time, newly acquired Roberto Luongo and his band of Panthers. They played pretty solid in once again beating the teams that they should beat.

Wednesday, it’s time to put up or shut up. Rivalry night and one of the biggest games of the year. Boston will be in Montreal to face the Canadiens and they had better show up this time. When last they met at the TD Garden, the Bruins were posting a 5-0-1 record and Montreal had been reeling, losing four of their last five. The Canadiens toyed with the Bruins and skated away with a very easy 4-1 win as Boston seemed have no interest in playing them. Since that last meeting, the Canadiens acquired “Bruin Killer”, Tomas Vanek who in 53 against Boston, with the Buffalo Sabres, and a few with the New York Islanders has merely put 30 goals behind various Bruin goaltenders. 61 total points and now plays for the team Boston cannot seem to beat.

Since February 6, 2013 when the visiting Bruins edged Montreal 2-1, Boston has lost five consecutive to the hated Habs and with the way the division and conference is now set up, the Bruins will most likely have to play the Canadiens in the first or second round of the playoffs. And unless something changes tonight, they don’t match up very well against the speed of Montreal. Oh, and one more thing, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a career record against Montreal of 2-10-2, the most losses he has against any opponent by far. The Sabres and Penguins have tagged Rask with five losses each.

So, it really is time to put up or shut up tonight for the Bruins and their goalie. If not, no matter how many “other” teams they rack up wins against, if they can’t beat the Montreal Canadiens, I can’t see them going very far into the spring!

~Diehard
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Six, Two, and Even Weekend for the Bruins

Six, two and even was a common saying of former Boston Red Sox Coach Walpole Joe Morgan. It could sort of apply to the Boston Bruins weekend. Six being the first time in nine seasons that the team has been able to put that many pucks behind New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist Sunday night in Manhattan, winning 6-3. The Bruins previous high was a mere three goals. Two is how many points they salvaged this weekend after their lackadasical showing Saturday afternoon in a 4-2 loss against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden. Two would also be the number of games off the hellish March calendar which leaves 15 games in 28 days.  And even, well that would NOT be how the Bruins played in said weekend games.

Intensity, hard-working, hitting were non existent against the Caps which made for costly penalties and Washington, in particular, Alex Ovechkin made them pay with two power play goals. Passive and mistake prone defense led to opposition breakaways and goals by Eric Fehr & Joel Ward.  To a man, the Bruins say they have to be better defensively. Hard to believe the Bruins recorded five hits Saturday afternoon.  Obviously the Bruins defense has suffered a bit since Dennis Seidenberg tore up his knee, but its definitely time for the corp to bring some of his intensity and stalwartness to the blue line if Boston has plans of going where they went last year once the season ends.

Sunday, the Bruins seemed to pick up where they left off when the Rangers J.T. Miller picked off an errant David Krejci pass at the New York blue line for a beauty of a breakway goal just over three minutes into the game and had control of that first period outshooting Boston 20-9. But it was the goaltending of Tuukka Rask and Jerome Iginla’s goal off a Krejci pass late in the period which seem to put the Bruins on track, getting back to Bruins hockey and a solid, if not too comfortable 6-3 win.

Even consistency is what the Bruins need from not just their defensive corp, but from all players. Goaltender out.  Sunday night Rask was as brilliant as he has been on most night. He has to maintain that level of play to allow for those mistakes that the young defensemen will make and not cost the team. Consistency from the forwards to play hard hitting and discipline hockey. This weekend saw the Bruins taking too many ill-advised retaliatory (Chris Kelly) penalties. Not a good thing at any time, but especially when your penalty kill is as bad as its been since the Seidenberg injury.

The Bruins have played SIX months of the season with TWO monthes to play. It’s that EVEN keel thing they would like to maintain as they continue the race to seed themselves for the playoffs.

~Diehard

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Hockey has become Ugly!

I love hockey. It’s a beautiful sport to watch and I find myself still playing it three times a week. I hate what my sport became Saturday night at the TD Garden. The Bruins hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins and from the start of the game, things were, shall we say, not right. The Pens Brooks Orpik knocked Boston’s Loui Eriksson out of the game 13 seconds into play. There was no penalty call on the play. Earlier this season, Eriksson was recently concussed by the Buffalo Sabre’s Meathead, John Scott and when Orpik plowed his shoulder into Loui’s head, it was no contest.

The Bruins resident tough guy, Shawn Thornton immediately tried to engage Orpik in a retaliatory fight. Orpik would not and did not drop the gloves and play continued. Things would get very nasty and dangerous very soon.  At the 11:06 mark, after a no call on what should have been a Sidney Crosby tripping penalty on Brad Marchand, as Marchand was prone, looking up ice, James Neal did a fly-by knee to his head. The ref was calling a penalty but play continued into the Penguin end of the ice where a scrum ensued and this is where more ugliness happened.

With Orpik part of the scrum, Thornton comes up behind and slew-foots him down to the ice and then proceeds to punch him in the face twice while on his back on the ice. Orpik was knocked unconscious and was taken off the ice on a stretcher and to Massachusetts General Hospital. Thornton was given a Matched Penalty which carries a Game Misconduct and an automatic suspension by the National Hockey League, to be determined my league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. The guess here is that Thornton will sit for at least five games, maybe more.

Vigilante justice in a league that has come under fire recently for allowing fighting and many players going down with head injuries, is not gonna be tolerated. James Neal should also face Mr. Shanahan for his dirty work as well.

Last nights ugliness spurred a bunch of emotions from opponents of fighting, proponents, and the apathetic. Proponents think that if Orpik had engaged Thornton initially after the Eriksson hit, all would have been settled right then and there. They would have fought, message sent, code not broken, game continues (hopefully) without further incident. But that did not happen and Thornton, the atypical “goon”, not only broke the code, he smashed it and rewrote it, attacking the defenseless player.

Opponents say there should never be fighting allowed in the NHL calling it barbaric and has been the cause of many head injuries and and rumored to have been the cause of death for some players and recently a lawsuit has been filed against the league with those claims.

For his part, Thornton too full responsibility for his actions saying “It’s always my job to defend my teammates. I’ve prided myself for a long time to stay within the lines. It’s hard for me to talk about it right now. I can’t say I’m sorry enough. I’m sure I’ll be criticized for saying it. But it’s true. I hope he’s doing all right. I heard he’s conscious and talking. I’m happy to hear that.”

Over the years, respect in National Hockey League has gone the way of the Dodo bird. it used to be that if someone gave a good hit, or even an illegal hit, you’d bide your time and eventually things would even out. Hockey is a contact sport and so many players do not like to be hit and when that hit comes, said player immediately wants to fight. That is not the way it was and shouldn’t be now, unfortunately it is and has been for a while and unless the league and its players change their ways, it will remain.

Oh yeah, the hockey game. After having two first period leads on goals by Chris Kunitz and the aforementioned James Neal, sandwiched around the Bruins Reilly Smith goal, Boston trailed late in the the third 2-1. They pulled Goaltender Tuukka Rask and David Krejci took a pass from Milan Lucic from behind the net and beat Marc-Andre Fluery to tie the game with a minute and a half left. Patrice Bergeron  would later win a defensive zone faceoff against Sidney Crosby and Boston would make it to the Penguin end and set up their Captain in the high slot where he wristed a hard shot just over the glove of Fleury for the late 3-2 comeback win.

Boston will face the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Sunday, while Shawn Thornton will be facing some major discipline from the league.

~Diehard

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Bruins “Reunion Week”

Saturday night ended “Reunion Week” for the Bruins as the team entertained three teams in which former marquee players now come to town with their new team. Tuesday saw the first meeting with the Dallas Stars in at the TD Garden since the July 4 trade of Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley for Loui Eriksson & Reilly Smith. Because of the hype of this years past playoffs & Stanley Cup Final disaster for Seguin, and subsequent trade, there were mixed feeling in the garden. Some fans cheered, others booed, mostly when he touched the puck. There was the ever present media and fan bashing of the Bruins former first round pick especially after NESN aired an interview Seguin had with Jack Edwards. Edwards asked all the right questions and for his part, Seguin was pretty upfront and honest about a lot of things. Tyler still has a lot of growing up to do as far as being a professional man. He didn’t fit into what being a Boston Bruin is all about and THAT is why he no longer wears the spoked B.  Oh, the game? Neither Seguin nor Peverely scored, officially, but the game went to a shootout and both players would exact some measure of revenge. Seguin with a rocket over the blocker of Tuukka Rask and Peverley putting a shot through Rask’s 5-hole for the 3-2 Stars victory.

Next up, Thursdays return of 2-time Vezina Trophy winner and Conn Smythe & Stanley Cup winning goaltender Tim Thomas with the Florida Panthers. When last we saw Thomas, he was comforting his daughter through the glass at the TD Garden after losing Game 7 of the opening round of the 2012 Playoffs to the Washington Capitals in OT. That would be Thomas’ last game in a Bruin uniform. It was a tumultuous season for both Thomas and the Bruins as it began to unravel with the Championship Trip to the White House that Thomas chose to not attend. It became a distraction with the team, the media and of course the fans. Everyone was wondering if Thomas would be in net to face his former team (he did play against the B’s in the preseason). But he was recovering from an injury and would not play, nor would he speak with the media during his visit. The Bruins did have a Tim Thomas highlight film on the center ice HDX during a break in the action and the fans did give him a standing ovation and he acknowledged them.  Personal note: I do not have children, and was very young in ’70 & ’72, June 15, 2011 IS the greatest day of my life and Tim Thomas was a very big reason for that! Oh, and after going into the third period tied at one, the Bruins put the game away with three in the third.

Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada, and the Toronto Maple Leafs return to the scene of the big disaster of May 13, 2013 where they had a 3-goal lead over the Bruins, Game 7, in Boston. And with Toronto comes their high flying, scoring machine, former Bruin Phil Kessel who usually has bad nights (maybe nightmares) when playing against his former team. During that playoff series, he had five goals, three of them game-winners. The difference in Seguin and Kessel, is that Kessel did not want to be in Boston which resonated with Bruin fans loudly. And “Thank You Kessel” was usually the chorus said fans would serenade Phil with whenever the Leafs visited. Saturday the fans didn’t pay too much attention to him, it was more about hoping the Bruins would be getting their game back to a 60-minute effort and getting the most of this current 5-game homestand. Kessel was held off the score sheet and had three shots on goal and once again, Patrice Bergeron drove the dagger in as he scored twice in a 3-1 Bruin win.

Boston garnered five of a possible six points from “Reunion Week”, but aren’t yet where they wanna be. A matinee with the division leading Tampa Bay Lightning, Monday and the Blue Jackets on Thursday wraps up the homestand. Lets hope the get the consistency that all of us are looking for.

~Diehard

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Tyler Seguin Gone, Loui Eriksson, Welcome to Boston

Happy Independence Day Boston Bruins fans.  Today Peter Chiarelli gave Tyler Seguin his version of Independence, sending the talented, but under producing forward to the Dallas Stars along with another recent under producer Rich Peverley, and minor league defenseman, Ryan Button for forward Loui Eriksson and three prospects.

The 21 year old Seguin was the second pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. In 203 career games he has 56 goals and 121 points. His best year was 2011-2012 when he scored 29 goals and 67 points. This past season he scored 16 goals and 32 points in the lockout shortened 48 game season.

One of the problems for Seguin was he had only one goal in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games in this past playoff and ran into a lot of criticism from fans, media critics and most importantly his bosses.

Eriksson, who turns 28 on the 17th of July, played in all 48 games potted 12 goals and 29 points in 48 games for Dallas. He was an All-Star last year and is considered one of the top defensive wings in the NHL. (How many of those does one team need?) The Bruins do need scoring up front and Eriksson has netted 26 or more goals the last three campaigns.

First impression is that both teams did OK and as with any trade, time will tell. Bruins having salary cap problems and New Dallas GM Jim Nill wanting to put his own stamp on his new team. However, the writing was on the wall for Tyler Seguin when this Bruins playoff year ended as he became polarizing when he could put the puck in the net, scoring just one goal in 22 playoff games and what really was probably the biggest problem was his maturity, or lack thereof.

During his tenure with the Boston Club, there were countless reports of Seguin being out late during the road trip to Toronto when the Bruins were playing the Leafs in the first round prompting team to have a meeting about his commitment to the team. Seguin did not play well at all in the Leafs Series.

At the NHL Draft last week, that and more incidents during the regular season prompted Peter Chiarelli to say that “he needs to become more of a professional”.

Rumors were circulating at the Draft that Seguin would be traded that day to the Calgary Flames but that deal never materialized.

The Bruins tight salary cap situation and Seguin’s partying no doubt led the team to keep pursuing deals for the young talent and that deal came to fruition on the Fourth of July.

~Diehard

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Bruins Shutout Chicago – Lead Series 2-1

Sometimes you just feel it.  You just know something is gonna happen for you. Everything you do is gonna make you or someone else smile throughout the day. That’s what it was like for the just about everyone on the Boston Bruins team Monday night as they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 at the TD garden to take a two games to one series lead in this Stanley Cup Final.

Home ice has been a good place for Boston during these playoffs as they have lost only two of nine games so far on Causeway Street and tonight was no different. Chicago couldn’t do much with the minimal amount of time and space the Bruins allowed, and when they did, Tuukka Rask continued his out of this world goaltending.

Daniel Paille, show scored the overtime game winner Saturday night in Chicago, also got the game winner Monday as his line with Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin proved once again to bring the energy the the Coach Claude Julien is always looking for. It’s part of the system that he has employed from day one and no matter how maddening outsiders seem to think he should change, it is simply not his way. He believes in what he does and he believes in his players to carry out that system and tonight they worked it to perfection. The ‘Hawks had 28 shots but most were from just over the blue line which made it easy for Rask to see and rebounds were cleared.

There is a saying in hockey that if you win faceoffs, you start off with possession of the puck and the other team has to chase you for it. The Bruins veteran center Patrice Bergeron not only score a power play goal for insurance, but at the faceoff dot he won an amazing 24-of-28. Eighty six percent of his draws, he won. Think about that. You win the faceoff and your opposition spends the next 20-30 seconds trying to get the puck back and that made for a frustrating evening for the Chicago forwards.

A solid, top to bottom win for The Bruins from start to finish.  They scored first which is always key, especially at home and they never let down.  Chicago had a flurry at the end of the game when they pulled their goaltender and even got a puck past Rask, but it hit the left post and bounced out behind him on the right.

So there where smiles all around the Bruins locker room after the game, however, Coach Claude says,”yes, we will enjoy this tonight, but never lose sight of the future and put our minds right back to the next game because, the Hawks have are a good team”. He knows what he is talking about as they and came from 3-games to 1 deficit early in these playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings, “so lets refocus and continue with we are doing” says Julien.

There was a thunderstorm before the game and a double rainbow hanging over Boston just before puck drop. Rainbows usually bring smiles to everyone that sees them and last nights victory brought smiles to the 17, 565 fans that saw the Bruins win their 14th playoff game. two more rainbows and….well, you know!

~Diehard

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