Haggerty: Here we go again

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Haggerty: Here we go again

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

TAMPA, Fla. The Bruins have been here before, and it wasnt even that long ago.

They carried a 3-2 edge over the Montreal Canadiens into Game 6 during in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but couldnt get the deal done in a 2-1 loss at the Bell Centre.

The story was similar here Wednesday night when the Bruins took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning but wound up losing, 5-4.

Anytime youre playing against a team thats fighting for their lives its always harder to win, especially when youre on the road in their building, said Brad Marchand. With the crowd and everything else, the crowd can get to you a little bit. That was a tough atmosphere . . . Both games against Montreal and against Tampa Bay were a couple of tough scenarios for us.

That Game 6 in Montreal was an eminently winnable one-goal affair that the Bruins couldn't capitalize on because of an avalanche of mistakes, frayed concentration, a stagnant power play, and multiple man-advantage situations for the Habs. It was a similar story in Game 6 against Tampa Bay.

Now the series heads back to TD Garden for the win-or-go-home matchup Friday night.

Weve had the experience of it," said coach Claude Julien. "We need to take the experience and utilize it again."

That experience also gave the B's a taste of the pressure they'll be facing Friday night. A first-round loss to Montreal would have been the Bruins' third consecutive postseason disappointment under Julien, and speculation was rampant that jobs -- Julien's certainly, but perhaps even general manager Peter Chiarelli's -- were hanging on the balance of that game.

"I think we had a lot of pressure on" against Montreal, Julien said.

Everyone is probably safe no matter what happens Friday night, since a berth in the Conference Finals is a fairly noteworth achievement. But the way this series has played out -- Bruins unable to hold a 3-0 lead in Game 4, unable to hold a 2-1 lead in Game 6 last night -- would still leave a sour taste if the B's are unable to close the deal in Game 7 on Friday.

Also disconcerting is the fact that we're now 17 games into this playoff run, and the problems the Bruins have had from the beginning have yet to be resolved. The Bs shot themselves in the foot again Wednesday night with a power play that -- despite scoring one goal -- only mustered five shots on net in five different chances, and similarly couldnt get it done one more time on the penalty kill despite shutting down Tampas PP 11 straight head times coming into the game.

"I thought tonight our guys competed fairly well, but those penalties ended up costing us," said Julien. "Our power play ended up costing us. We need to minimize that stuff and come out hard next game."

They also need to maximize their discipline. The Bruins were hit with too many avoidable penalties, leading to four Tampa Bay power plays . . . and the Lightning capitalized three times.

Now it's another elimination game.

This is it. This is a chance that many of us will not see for a long time, said David Krejci, who led the Bs with a hat trick Wednesday night. Its there for us, but weve got to go get it. Theyre not going to give it us."

The Bruins, need we remind you, are only 3-7 in elimination games under Julien. Still, they've proven theyre a different team this year. They've responded to challenging situations all season -- they shook off the Game 6 debacle and finished off the Canadiens in Game 7 -- and will need to summon that spirit and mental strength one more time against the Lightning.

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

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault, then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder.