Bruins back up their defense of Julien

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Bruins back up their defense of Julien

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

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.

Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

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Bruins having 'very, very productive talks' with D-man Liles

The Bruins still hold high hopes for what free agency might bring them for a defenseman when the market opens Friday at noontime, but it also feels like Bruins GM Don Sweeney is under-promising while hoping to over-deliver. Either that or the Bruins really don’t have many good prospects at significantly improving their blue line group headed into next season.

For the first time Sweeney made a “defenseman-by-committee” reference during Thursday’s conference call to announce the four year contract extension for Torey Krug, and talked up positive contract talks with 35-year-old John-Michael Liles.

Yes, that’s the same Liles that was a minus-7 in 17 games with the Bruins after coming to Boston at the trade deadline for draft picks and Anthony Camara. One would expect it to be a one year deal at a very reduced rate along the lines of last year’s $2.75 million to bring Liles back in Boston if the Bruins can’t somehow land a bigger free agent fish like Jason Demers, or Brian Campbell.

There’s also the possibility of something shaking loose with Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler in trade discussions, but Liles was the only available defenseman that Sweeney addressed by name during his chat with reporters.

“We’ve talked to free agent candidates. I’ve mentioned John-Michael [Liles]; I think that we’ve had very, very productive talks there. We’re looking for balance; we’re looking for younger players to have an opportunity to emerge and grab a hold of that,” said Sweeney. “Whichever we can improve our team internally or externally, we’re going to continue to evaluate and pursue. The trade market … whether that materializes remains to be seen. And it’s not an easy process, nor is the free agency process.

“So we’re going to do the work to try and improve our team but it starts internally with our group. And our coaches are excited about what our young players are going to bring to the table.”

After signing Krug to a four year extension that will pay him $5.25 million per season and buying out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract, the Bruins still have $19 million to play with headed into Friday’s open of the free agent market. So the Bruins have the capital to be players on July 1 if they want to make a big splash.

It just remains to be seen whether the Bruins will be capable of making a big splash given the available players, and how many of the big named ones seem to be leaning toward NHL destinations other than the Black and Gold. 

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Wyshynski: Eriksson is looking to really cash in

Greg Wyshynski joins Michel Felger on Sports Tonight to discuss the recent Boston Bruins moves and other potential landing spots for free agents Loui Eriksson and Milan Lucic.

Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

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Bruins view newly signed Krug as an emerging leader

With Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in the fold for four more years, a Thursday afternoon conference call with the 25-year-old defenseman and GM Don Sweeney was about what the young puck-mover can accomplish over the next few years. With Krug coming off a four goal, 44-point season and offseason shoulder surgery, it will be a slow and steady progression to begin next season once he’s cleared to play.

What isn’t in question is Krug’s leadership, toughness and gritty attitude to go along with his considerable offensive skill set, and those all made the $21 million contract a no-brainer from the Black and Gold end of things.

“Torey’s got a very, very unique skill set that’s important to our hockey club. He’s had a very, very productive three years. His role this year and his time on ice, in all situations, increased significantly. He was able to shoulder much, much more responsibility in all parts of the game. As a young player who is invested in the Boston Bruins organization, he wants to win, he does things the right way every time he comes to the rink,” said Sweeney. “He wants to get better; he’s not satisfied. All the things you want out of a young player to identify with, which is something we also acknowledge, that Torey has really been identified as an emerging part of our core leadership group.

“I think he’ll help tremendously to help all of our young players that hope to fall in similar fashion with the success that he’s had up to this point. We have a lot of work to do in front of us and Torey’s going to help us get back to where we want to be in trying to win a Stanley Cup.”

Krug has averaged 10 goals and 41 points over his first three seasons in the NHL, and averaged a career-high 21:37 of ice time last season as a de facto No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. It was a big season because Krug survived, and continued to put up points, as a legit top-4 defenseman in the NHL, but the 5-foot-9, 181-pounder also needed his shoulder repaired after his first season of heavy duty usage.

So it bears the question of whether Krug will stay in one piece with the heavy top-4 duty over the next four years. Whatever the answer is to that question, the puck-moving defenseman will be a leader, a feisty character on the ice and somebody that’s going to serve as a good professional role model for the flock of young players expected to come through in the next couple of seasons.

The Michigan boy couldn’t be happier to be a part of all of it in Boston for the next four years.

“I think [the leadership thing] has been something that was instilled in me in a young age, you know, coming from my father. It’s always been authentic. If anyone tries to force it then people see right through that, and it just doesn’t happen. But for me and this team and this locker room I think I’m able to bridge that gap from the young guys to the older guys,” said Krug. “I relate to every single person in that locker room, which I think will help our team as we grow and we mature bringing in younger guys from Providence. Or guys that are just signed and helping them develop and helping them feel comfortable within the locker room because it can be intimidating.

“It’s tough to walk in the locker room, you know, when you have Stanley Cup Champions and Norris and Selke Trophy winners. So it can definitely be very intimidating and hopefully I can serve as that bridge to kind of ease that gap for those guys. As far as young defensemen goes, the one thing that Claude [Julien] helped me with when I first came up was making sure I was myself. I was here for a reason. I was able to do the thing I do well, and I wasn’t straying away from that to try to be someone that I’m not. So I think young defensemen, once they realize that and they realize that everyone in this organization is there to help them then they’ll begin to improve. They’ll become themselves as they will at the NHL level.”

With Krug having experienced a couple of years of late season collapses as one of the young leaders on this Bruins team, even more will be asked of him next season as the Black and Gold push hard to right the ship.