BOSTON – Claude Julien stressed in the hours preceding puck drop on Saturday that he “hadn’t said a word to his players” about the Olympics leading up to the matinee against the Ottawa Senators.
It went without saying that vacation plans and Olympic aspirations for his players could have very easily been a distraction against a Senators team that should have been ravenous for points. The coach’s hope that a veteran group could keep their concentration focused on the task at hand paid off when the Bruins potted a season-high seven goals in the 7-2 embarrassment of the Sens at TD Garden.
Afterward the B’s bench boss was impressed and pleased with his team’s ability to finish up strong before a 2 ½ week break for the Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament in Sochi. It was pretty clear from the opening period when the Bruins outshot the Senators by an 11-6 margin and outscored them 2-0 that the Black and Gold were taking a business approach to a tricky date on the schedule.
“I was pretty impressed with our whole approach to this game where there could have been a lot of distractions and everything else,” said Claude Julien. “Our guys just played so well today. Puck was moving well, good decisions all around. It was a real solid game for us, and a great way to finish.
“We finished 8-1-2, right? I like the way we handled that. Those two losses were either in overtime or a shootout, I think it was, but St. Louis could’ve easily turned into a win. It’s not like the games we lost we weren’t very good. Throughout that stretch, I thought the consistency we were looking for was there, and more.”
Now Julien, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the four Olympian players join Zdeno Chara in Sochi, Russia, and can switch up their focus to the short term tourney where a playoff mindset is key. And players like Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton and Carl Soderberg can retire to a vacation destination someplace warm with beaches and sunshine amid a rare winter break in the action for NHL players.
Julien assured his players that if they finished the final 11 games strongly with consistent, winning hockey that their time off would be that much more enjoyable. Now the B’s players can test out that theory in their 11 days of idle time before Bruins practice starts up again on February 20.