Claude Julien: 'I intend to keep the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry going'

Claude Julien: 'I intend to keep the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry going'

BOSTON – Claude Julien came to Boston ten years ago as a picture of class, character and principles while taking over as head coach of the Boston Bruins, and that never really changed through 419 wins and a glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. That continued when he sent out a first class, thankful statement following his firing as head coach of the Black and Gold last week, and it was at the forefront again on Wednesday as he hosted his first conference call as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. 

Before answering any questions, he wanted to acknowledge the work done by the man he was replacing, Michel Therrien, behind the Habs bench. Julien admitted he still holds a respectful, soft spot for the Bruins team after he was unceremoniously dismissed. He watched portions of the three Bruins games following his ouster as head coach, and said he couldn’t bring himself to root against wins for the players he battled with for the last ten years.

“Any time a coach doesn’t get a chance to finish a season then there’s disappointment. [Don Sweeney] came in, and he had certain things in mind and I had to respect that. You have to respect that your boss is your boss,” said Julien. “So far who could say he didn’t make the right move with three wins in a row? Certainly it had an immediate impact. But at the same time, do I feel bad? Yeah. When you look at the things we did well: puck possession and defensively. I think we were first in all [puck possession] categories, and spent the less amount of time in our own end, and gave the least amount of shots from the slot. We had a lot of good things, but at times it seemed like we just couldn’t get it together on certain nights. 

“We were starting to score, and we’d already been scoring quite a bit. I thought it was close. We can predict whatever we want. The Bruins are obviously on a pretty good roll there now, so for me it is time to move on. You don’t spend ten years here, and even watching the games, I wasn’t sitting at home hoping that they would lose. I have too much respect for all those players that had been enormous for me during my career in Boston. Having won Stanley Cups with the Bergerons, the Krejcis, the Charas and the Marchands to name a few, Tuukka was there as well. There are a lot of good people. I’d say every guy in there was a good person. I never had issues with any of them. So you sit here and you want them to succeed. Having said that, I’m with another team now and I need to succeed with that team. There’s obviously a rivalry that exists between those two organizations, and I intend to keep that rivalry going. But on the ice, not off the ice. I have too much respect for those [Bruins] players.”

Whether Julien wanted the bitter on-ice rivalry of the past to return or not to Bruins-Habs, the wick has been lit for an explosive clash, or two, after Julien immediately jumped from the Bruins to the Canadiens his week. He signed on to coach Boston’s most hated rivals for the next five years before he’d even had a chance to decompress on his bye week vacation in Vermont. Julien has already explained things are going to be deliciously heated between Boston and Montreal for years to come. 

It’s the way it is always supposed to be, and now Julien will have an entire chapter all to himself after heading back to Montreal after spending a decade winning with the Black and Gold in Boston. 

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.