Haggerty: Reality is Julien deserves more credit

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Haggerty: Reality is Julien deserves more credit

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Claude Julien might be the perfect example of perception outweighing reality within the world of Boston sports.

The perception is that Julien is slow to change, conservative by nature, and unwilling to be bold when the situation screams for it.

There are moments, of course, when Julien has made mistakes, just as his players have during their 18-game run through the playoffs a journey thats ended with the first Stanley Cup Final berth of his coaching career.

The power play is a living, breathing black hole on the team and kills momentum with the cold-hearted precision of an assassin. An 8.2 percent success rate through the playoffs will become a fatal flaw against the Vancouver Canucks, and could eventually cost the Bruins a member or two of the coaching staff when all things are reviewed after the Finals have concluded.

Contrary to popular belief, however, there have been more good moves than bad in Julien's tenure.

There have been adjustments and alterations made at the perfect times. For instance, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have been the best lockdown defense pairing in the entire NHL during the playoffs, and it was a staff decision to place them together when things started getting dark in the Montreal series. The Bruins are 12-4 since that point, and Seidenberg is playing the best hockey of his NHL career with Chara by his side.

Also, the Bruins found themselves in a seven-game dogfight in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Lightning and their coach, Guy Boucher, whose 1-3-1 trap was lionized as an innovative system that confounded the rest of the NHL. In the end, though, it was Boucher who blinked in Game 7 and slid back into his comfortable, predictable motions rather than become bold and daring at the moment of truth. The Bruins had broken through Bouchers trap during the series -- their problem was an aggressive two-man forecheck that pressured the Boston defensemen -- but Boucher slid back into the passive trip for the entirety of Game 7. And it was Julien who switched forwards up and down his lines, utilized Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Patrice Bergeron to take key face-offs throughout a game that dictated their hockey fate.

Julien has also made an excellent adjustment with Mark Recchi as the playoff games have piled up on the 43-year-old, and hes begun alternating shifts between Recchi and Peverley on the BergeronBrad Marchand line. Its a move that reaped the most benefits out of both Recchi and Peverley, while allowing all the forwards to keep their chemistry intact.

Its a double-edged sword when you hear all the water-cooler talk about this and that line combination, we should do this and that, said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. Well, often times, the momentum, the capital, that youve accumulated on a certain line, you can throw it all away by making a certain change too.

I understand that you dont always have to stick with the same lines . . . But its a fine line and I thought Claude did a good job.

Most fitting of all, it was the steady plan employed by Julien and his players that busted through the 1-3-1 zone on the game-winning goal in the third period of Game Seven. Instead of rimming the puck around, as theyd done throughout the series, Andrew Ference lulled Tampa Bay into anticipating a chip attempt into the corner. Instead he teamed with Krejci to enter the offensive zone with puck possession and speed, and the rest was history once Nathan Horton stormed toward the net and created another game-winning goal.

The Horton goal was preparation, inspiration and execution all wrapped into one beautiful package, and thats all about coaching players to be ready for those moments and veterans following through on them.

This playoff has been about poise. This is the message the staff has been delivering about poise, confidence and composure, said Chiarelli. And theyve stuck with that, from up above.

As far as the game plan itself: we had success against their neutral-zone system. I think its fitting that they way we scored the Game 7 goal was to slice through the way we did. Right through that 1-3-1. What I saw the last two games -- talking about game plans and adapting -- is that they changed how they rimmed it. They stopped rimming it. They made a lot of adjustments to address that one-three-one last night. And ultimately it resulted in a goal to win the series.

A key adjustment on the fly that won the Bruins a key playoff game to catapult them into the Stanley Cup Final?

Imagine that.

Certainly sounds like some pretty smart coaching to me.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.