By Danny Picard
BOSTON -- Bruins players have Claude Julien's back. At least, that's what they wanted the media to believe, following Wednesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
Defenseman Andrew Ference even threw in a good old "I don't give a bleep what anyone else says" on Wednesday, sticking up for his coach when asked about Julien's job security. The team had lost four out of its previous five games -- including a 3-0 stinker on Monday night at home against the Anaheim Ducks -- and Ference made it clear he didn't fault his coach.
Nobody wearing a B's jersey was blaming their recent struggles on Julien. They were taking full responsibility.
But until the Bruins actually put those words into action, speculation about Julien's future as the team's coach -- outside the dressing room -- would continue.
Then Thursday night happened.
Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with Eric Boulton off the opening faceoff. Then the Bruins scored four goals. And to top it all off, a five-on-five old-fashioned yard sale ensued with 4:06 left to play in the game. It was the result of a Freddy Meyer "cheap shot" -- which the Bruins called it -- on Milan Lucic, which sparked Ference to throw his mitts in the air, and pounce on the Thrashers defenseman.
It was a combination of everything this Bruins team was looking for: passion, goal scoring, and the "Don't worry brother, I got your back" mentality that had seemingly escaped the same organization that was, at one point in time, all about grit.
"I think the guys came in today, and I could tell right from this morning, that they were determined to come out and play a real good game," said Julien after the win.
It wasn't because another loss would ruin their playoff hopes. It was because they had something to prove. That the team's recent slump, which included an extreme lack of intensity, wasn't about their coach, and certainly wasn't about his game plan.
"Obviously, we focused on a lot of details, going into this game," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara after the win. "We were trying to pay attention to all the details, and make sure that everybody followed the game plan."
"We watched a lot of video, about what we should be doing," said Ference. "But before the game, I told the boys that the most important thing is, let's walk out proud, win or lose. You have to be proud of what you do on the ice. And that was what I think was missing, even from some of our wins."
Julien's game plan was was perfectly executed on Thursday night against the Thrashers, a night in which all eyes would have once again been on the Bruins' coach had things gone any other way.
"This is the way we've been wanting to play all year," said Savard. "And tonight, we talked in the room, and I think every guy in here was focused tonight. And I could just feel it going out there. We were loose, but we were excited, and we wanted to prove to our fans, and everybody, that this is the way the Boston Bruins can play. This is the way we were built."
"We played hard for 60 minutes, definitely," said Lucic. "We had all 20 guys going. Everyone had each others' backs from the start. It all started with the big fight with Thornton. We're all definitely happy with how everything went today."
So is Julien.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.