Boston Bruins

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

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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