BOSTON – After holding the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins offense to a measly two goals in over 275 minutes of playoff hockey, it might be about time to credit the Bruins coaching staff that put the game plan into effect. Claude Julien and his staff had a week to prepare for the Penguins, and they pinpointed exactly what the Bruins needed to do in order to have success against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company.
Julien might not have had any idea his Bruins would completely shut down the Penguins in a four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, and that the Boston defense would keep Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla and James Neal completely off the board.
But the Bruins coaching staff knows that their defensive system will work if executed correctly, and that it is successful even if Julien has always unfairly weathered criticism that it's conservative, or will never allow skill players to truly blossom into top drawer players. After sweeping the Penguins off their feet with Friday night’s 1-0- win at TD Garden, the Bruins will be readying for their second Stanley Cup Finals berth in the last three years.
But Julien is also very wary that things might have gone very differently for him, and his staff, if they hadn’t pulled out the first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I've been here for six years. I think I've been fired five times…You know, those kinds of (criticisms) really are not important to me,” said Julien. “What's important are the results. “As long as the people I work for appreciate what we do, that's what matters. At the end of the day, winning hockey games for our fans and for the city is what matters to me. That stuff is really no bother to me.”
Clearly Julien was kidding about the “five times”, but there’s little doubt his job security might have been in trouble had the Bruins lost to either the Montreal Canadiens in the 2011 playoffs, or the Maple Leafs little more than a month ago. But instead his Bruins have caught lightning in a bottle for the second time in three years, and they stand poised and ready to battle for another Stanley Cup while playing their best hockey of the year over the last month.
It would have been a real shame if Julien was fired any one of those “five times”, and wouldn’t have been able to enjoy another Black and Gold date with Lord Stanley destiny.