Haggerty: Reality is Julien deserves more credit

191545.jpg

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

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

boston-bruins-tuukka-rask-sabres-120316.jpg

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.