Julien: Capitals were simply the better team

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Julien: Capitals were simply the better team

BOSTON -- Its difficult to make arguments that the better team didnt win in a playoff series that set a league-record with each of the seven games ultimately being decided by a one-goal margin.

So the Bruins didnt try that after falling to the Washington Capitals in overtime, 2-1, on Wednesday night when Joel Ward banged home the game-winner at the TD Garden. The Bruins scored one goal or less four times in the series, dropped three games on home ice and held the lead after the first period only once in the seven games series.

Instead the Capitals frustrated the Bruins with their shot-blocking and defense around goaltender Braden Holtby. In each game, they simply packed in their defense once theyd built up a lead.

It happens a lot, right? I think both teams battled very hard, said Tim Thomas when asked if he was surprised how close the series remained up until the bitter end. They stuck to their game plan. They made it very difficult for us to generate any offense or any momentum with the style that they played.

What it says about our guys is that theyre battlers and theyre . . . well . . . theyre still champions. And they gave everything they had to the bitter end. Unfortunately this is sports and they fell short this time.

Dale Hunter deserved a great deal of credit for getting the oft-times selfish and stat-oriented Capitals players to buy into the defensive system he was selling. The proof was in the pudding during the tightest seven game series in the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Claude Julien was asked about a missed chance on a power play at the end of the third period that could have clinched it for Boston, but his answer drifted into an admission that the Capitals were the team that deserved to advance.

When you look at the whole picture, I think it was more than not scoring on power plays, said Claude Julien. At the end of the series, you look at their team, and you look at ours, and they were the better team. They had more guys going than we did, and they played us tough.

At times during the series the Bruins showed the physicality and emotion that marks their game at the height of its powers, and both Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin heated up offensively at different points in the seven game series. But Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand never truly found their way offensively, and none of the Bruins could consistently get to the net to fluster 22-year-old Caps goaltender.

Even Thomas had his moments of weakness while barely cracking the top 10 in save percentage among playoff goaltenders. Neither of the two goals scored in Wednesdays series finale against the Bruins were Thomas' fault, but the fact remains that he wasn't good enough to carry his team to the next round. None of the Bruins were. It's why they're out of the running to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

Heinen looking to show his offense in his shot on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins mixed things up with their roster a bit on Saturday after dropping a couple of games in a row to Washington and Colorado. 

Fourth-line energy winger Noel Acciari and playmaking forward Danton Heinen were called up from Providence and will be in the lineup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Saturday night. 
Acciari went to Providence the past couple of days to get some game action in after missing the past month with a lower body injury, but clearly showed he’s ready to go. 

So, Acciari is back to provide the same hard-hitting and energy he showed before he was hurt and Heinen is looking to show off a little more offense than in his first stint with the Black and Gold this season. He’ll be featured in a top role as left wing with David Krejci and David Backes and with marching orders to shoot the puck like he never shot it in his previous stint in Boston. 

For the Bruins, it’s about getting another look at a candidate to play left wing beside Krejci with both Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, with limitations to their respective games, unable to fully grasp that same opportunity. 

“My hope is that Heinen can come in and give us some good hockey. He’s a skill player and he’s been down there for a while, and he’s back up again because he’s been playing well,” said Claude Julien of the Bruins rookie, who had four goals and seven points in his past five games with Providence. “Hopefully he can play well here also. It’s about getting some confidence. When he went down to [the AHL] the pace of his game had to get a little bit better, and in the battles coming up with the puck along the walls. Those are the kinds of things we thought he could work on down in Providence.”

Heinen knows he needs to shoot the puck a bit more to show off his offense after a seven-game stint with the Bruins where he went scoreless, was a minus-2 and had just six shots on net.

“Being hard on the walls, playing fast and shooting the puck, those were all things I was working on [in Providence],” said Heinen, who has seven goals and 13 points in 13 games for the P-Bruins after being assigned to Providence. “I was doing what they told me to do [in Providence] and that’s shoot the puck. They were going in, and I was getting some good opportunities on the power play. It’s seriously tough to get chances [at the NHL level], so you can’t pass them up when you have chances. That was kind of my focus down there.”

Fellow fourth-line energy winger Anton Blidh has been shipped to Providence after three solid games with the Black and Gold. 

Julien said Blidh goes back to Providence having adequately shown that he can play in the NHL. He clearly showed the Bruins that he understands his role as a player that stirs things up a bit and gets his nose dirty on a regular basis.

“[Blidh] was fine. No issues there. He does his job. He plays with lots of energy and obviously he’s getting more experience. He’s a lot better at understanding his positioning within the game and what he has to do,” said Julien. “I thought he helped us out for the time that he was here.”

With Heinen and Acciari both in the lineup and Blidh back in Providence, that means Jimmy Hayes will be scratched after dressing for three of the past four games for Boston.

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Saturday, Dec. 10: Vegas, scoring on NHL governors' minds

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while doing some early Christmas shopping ahead of the late rush. 

*Mike Zeisberger sits down with a quartet of NHL governors and discusses a number of hot topics including the Vegas franchise and scoring around the league. 

*Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos has been removed from the NHL Board of Governor’s Executive Committee amid rumors that the Canes might be a prime candidate for relocation. 

*Pierre McGuire weighs in on Connor McDavid’s war of words on the ice and Carey Price losing his mind in the crease against the New Jersey Devils. To that end, Wayne Gretzky liked seeing McDavid get a little combative at such a young age. 

*The New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five year contract extension, and some are skeptical it will turn out well for the Isles.

*David Pastrnak is a premier scoring threat in the league, and Scott Cullen has some details behind that. I will say this: his stock falling in the draft had less to do with his size or heaviness, and more to do with him being concussed for a long stretch of time during the year leading up to the draft. 

*The Florida Panthers are really struggling to stay positive with a 1-5-0 record since the ownership group and management decided to fire Gerard Gallant. 

*For something completely different: Baywatch stars then and now.