Chiarelli looking for Bruins to kick the hangover

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Chiarelli looking for Bruins to kick the hangover

BOSTON -- The level of outrageous rumor-mongering and crazy speculation tossed against the wall when the Bruins called off practice Tuesday -- and instead announced a conference call with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli -- was off the charts Monday night right on into Tuesday afternoon.

Its a testament to the new level of interest in the Black and Gold, and to the honking creativity of those inside, outside and around the team.

Some thought Marc Savard might be announcing his retirement on a conference call which on its face is ridiculous for multiple reasons, not the least of which is the six years and 24 million hed forfeit by calling it a career.

Others started tossing out rumors that Ray Whitney or Keith Yandle were getting dealt to the Bruins after their 3-5 start to the season, and Chiarelli was shaking it up again as he did two years ago dishing Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild just seven games into the 2009-10 season.

Not even close.

Theres a big difference between a salary cap-strapped hockey team coming off an anti-climactic second-round playoff defeat, and finding solutions for a battle-tested, playoff-hardened nucleus that now has a Stanley Cup victory on their resume. There arent that many truly valuable trade chips on the Bs roster that come without no-trade provisions, and the Bruins arent about to deal a Milan Lucic, David Krejci or Tuukka Rask to simply make a change.

Chiarelli isnt there yet, and nor should he be.

Weve got a Stanley Cup-winning team. When you want to create competition on the roster and I do believe competition is healthy its hard to create it, said Chiarelli. Weve got roster space and weve got cap space. We could do it. But its hard to meddle and tinker with a Stanley Cup team.

I know it requires luck and it requires things happening at the exact right time to win the Cup, and by no means did we have an incredible regular season last year. But I also know the makeup of this team. The main obstacle to creating competition is that you have a team thats won the Stanley Cup. I have to get over that. But Im just not at that point yet. Its a broad picture, but at some point if I dont like the way things are going then I have to do something.

The Bruins crowed about having 18 players returning from last years Stanley Cup-winning bunch, but also fully acknowledged that the Cup hangover was something theyd have to face on. Chiarelli felt that malaise was too strong a word to describe his teams difficulty focusing and finding that extra gear, but hes also self-aware to realize that his team is amidst some level of a hangover.

The offensive explosion against the Maple Leafs and the golden scoring chances enjoyed against a quality team in San Jose are signs that perhaps the Bruins are coming out of their Cup haze. But Chiarelli wants to see his team start burying a few more of the great chances theyre generating, and display the kind of emotion the Bruins regularly exude when theyre playing Bruins style hockey.

Youve heard me talk about this hangover. Whether its been self-fulfilling or not, I believe the hangover is here in some form, said Chiarelli. I havent minded our game that much: the compete level is getting a little better and our execution is getting a little better. Were still a little sloppy here and there, but Ive got to stress this is something weve got to work through. I know our guys are working their way through this funk, and its my job to keep an eye on them.

The common denominator for me is two things: one were having more offensive chances and better offensive chances at this part of the season than we did last year, and were not scoring. That to me is the foundation of getting things back. When you score early you set the tone. The second thing is getting the proper mind frame again and I dont know how to do that. It may be more of a natural process and were working on it. This is new to us and I dont want to overreact.

Chiarelli canvassed plenty of other executives, coaches and players that have won the Cup in the past for advice heading into this season, and the feedback was unanimous. Every Cup winner told Chiarelli a letdown of some kind was unavoidable, and the Bs general manger talked about minimizing the down cycle while training camp was going on.

Chiarelli said that one Cup winner estimated it was 20 games before things felt back to normal again, so the best course of action was to simply grind through it. The hope is that an emotional home-and-home tilt against the Montreal Canadiens this weekend can snap the Bs out of it.

But most around the team would settle for two consistently good back-to-back performances that end with the Bruins nailing down four points and keeping pace with Toronto and Buffalo at the top of the division.

Its focus, execution and competition to stay in and take a hit. It requires addressing a couple of fronts. I havent minded our compete level, but I think it can be better, said Chiarelli. Weve been winning one and losing one. Ive seen that. But none of the games have been out of hand. For me that tells me that were not far off from getting it back.

Were a team that plays on emotion. To play with a level of compete that gets you wins and gets you what you want, you have to reach that emotional level. Were not there yet. We all have to get back to the way that we played and then itll come around.

Facts are fact: the Bruins averaged 2.98 goals per game through 82 regular season tilts last year, and theyre averaging only 2.25 this season good for 19th in the league. Finishing off offensive plays and full 60-minute efforts are the cure for the common hockey hangover that Chiarelli and Co. are expecting out of a hockey team that everyone knows has it in them.

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder. 
 

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

Julien sidesteps job security question with "shock journalism" comment

BOSTON -- With three crushing losses in a row at a time when results are really all that matters, the Boston Bruins are reeling at the wrong time during the regular season. The B’s tried their best to win a game 0-0 with strong defense against a sleepy Chicago Blackhawks bunch on Friday night, but ultimately coughed up a Marian Hossa goal in the final minutes for a 1-0 regulation loss at TD Garden.

The defeat continued a swirl downward for the Black and Gold over the last week, and was a second straight shutout loss on home ice for the first time in almost 15 years. The losing stretch has also kicked up the chatter that Claude Julien is in trouble as head coach of the Bruins, and the hockey club’s underperformance up and down the lineup is ultimately going to cost the NHL’s longest tenured bench boss his job.

The Ottawa Senators have passed the Bruins in the Atlantic Division, and it’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs move by them as well with both Toronto and Ottawa holding six games in hand on Boston. Combine all of this with the B’s having missed the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons leading into this one, and it shouldn’t be at all surprising that Julien is squarely on the coaching hot seat.

The B’s bench boss was asked about his job security after the Chicago loss, and clearly didn’t appreciate the tough, but appropriate question.

“Well, I’m not into shock-journalism,” said Julien in a prideful tone. “So I’ll stay away from that question if you don’t mind.”

The Bruins posted their Saturday schedule shortly after Julien and the B’s players had addressed the media following the loss, and sure enough the embattled coach is scheduled to address the media post-practice as part of the regular practice day routine. So it doesn’t seem that a move with Julien is imminent this weekend despite another loss, but both the coach and the players know something is going to happen to shake things up with this team if they continue to struggle.

“Right now it’s a results based situation, so if you’re going to keep losing games then probably something’s going to happen,” said Torey Krug. “But right now we’re just pretty down emotionally after this game, so I don’t want to look at the big picture. I just [want to] focus on what’s going on in this room, and hopefully we can come back with a good effort the next game.”

A good effort might help Julien’s standing with the Bruins in the short term, but it’s impossible to imagine the B’s bench boss making it through the rest of the Bruins regular season given all of things working against him right now.