The Detroit Red Wings present plenty of problems for the top team in the East. But Claude Julien isn’t worried about his Bruins being overwhelmed with the many challenges they’ll see from Detroit starting Friday at TD Garden.
The one characteristic that will be brought up often this week will be the speed of the Red Wings, namely Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, David Legwand, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen.
“We’ve played fast teams before,” Julien said, referring clearly to teams like Montreal and Ottawa. “And again, we can look at their record whichever way we want and see us 1-3. I look at the games we played against them and there was one game, the first one in Detroit that we didn’t play very well. The other three, we could have won the two that we lost, I mean, we had the lead in that last one.”
Julien brought up the three regular season losses because he is more than aware that there are those who think this is the worst possible first-round match for his team that finished with an NHL-best 117 points. But then Julien offered perspective, specifically that it’s the Red Wings who have to be worried about containing the weapons of a team that won 54 games.
“So I don’t think that it is going to be that big of an issue as much as we may be an issue for them,” Julien said. “Teams have strengths and it’s how you counter those things. I think our team can certainly skate, I don’t think we’re a slow team whether people underrate our skating or now, I don’t know. But we’ve shown that we can skate with these guys but certainly close the gap quick on those guys too. And that’s what you have to do, you have to make sure you don’t give those guys too much room because they will make plays and they will take the ice that you give them.”
With a team like the Red Wings loaded with offensive firepower, Julien was asked if he sees similarities to his young team that fought the 2007-08 Canadiens team tooth and nail before losing in seven games.
“I don’t know, they’re not all that young,” Julien said. “They have some young players but so do we. I’m not sure that that’s the same situation to be honest with you. You know, you have the [Pavel] Datsyuks and [Todd] Bertuzzi will be in there, they have some veteran players. And I know the [Gustav] Nyquists and [Tomas] Tatars, those kinds of guys have carried their team when they needed it the most but I think our young Ds have done a pretty good job the same way when a guy like [Dennis] Seidenberg went down.
“I think there are a lot of similarities there and I don’t think they’re as young or that much younger than we are, I haven’t done the math yet when it comes to the age of both teams because that’s not the important thing to me. But again, like I said, I don’t think that is going to be comparable to what we went through against Montreal. We had some real key players who had to grind it out, you just have to look at our roster now and look at where those guys are, a lot of them aren’t seen any more. So it was just one of those years where, to us, talent was fairly low for whatever talent we had was extremely young. But we had a really good work ethic.”
Here is the rest of Tuesday’s press conference from Julien:
On how Zdeno Chara has been as a teacher to Dougie Hamilton: “He’s a good teacher because he is a good example. You know, how he prepares, how consistent he is throughout the year, all the stuff that comes with it, stuff that goes on in the dressing room whether it’s off ice workouts, all that stuff. He’s a great example, and Zee [Zdeno Chara] talks a lot on the ice, talks a lot on the bench so he’s had a good mentor, let’s put it that way, to work with at times this year.”
On the young guys being a good thing to be on the top line considering the speed of Detroit: “Again, I don’t think we’re overly worried about any of them. I’m going to sound like I’m a boring coach again by saying I expect us to go out there and play our game. We know their strengths, they know ours, we’re going to both adapt to those situations and we’re going to more than likely make it an interesting series. But as far as getting in to all the little details, I’m certainly not about to start doing that here.”
On how Zdeno Chara’s confidence in Dougie Hamilton by being able to jump up in plays: “I think you’ve seen them both support the attack. Everybody in the back end loves to support the attack, the other guys job is to make sure he sees that, respects it and our forwards have to do the same thing when they see a D going up they have to make sure that somebody is ready to cover up for them. So none of that has changed through all our Ds or all our forwards but I don’t know what more to say about those two. They have played together and have played well and I have been happy with that pair. No whether we decide to go with that or not, I don’t think that’s a given yet.”
On if it is easier with the experience of the team in which he doesn’t have to manage the nerves and emotions of the players: “I think it’s just a, you know, when they are calm it doesn’t mean they’re not necessarily excited and it doesn’t mean they’re not intense about the whole situation. I think they’re just having the whole, I guess, hoopla before the first puck drops in a more calm manner. And to me, it’s just one of those things that with time ‘ this is seven years for a lot of these guys in a row so you get that experience but you also take the lessons that you had along the way, how some of the series have been tough and how you’ve had to climb back in to them because of a certain situation. So you hope that all that experience is also going to pay dividends for them.”
On how he balances teaching the young defenders while keeping their confidence up: “I think a lot of it is communication. Players today need to know where they stand and there was a time a long time ago where you didn’t have a conversation with a coach, you just kind of sucked it up and the next time you were in you just played. But as everything else, this world changes as does the game and your approach with players. Right now, I think communication is a big thing between players and coaches. And our young players sometimes sat out not because they weren’t playing well but because we had a bunch of young players and we want to keep everybody going. You make sure that they know that so they don’t start questioning themselves whether it’s because of their play when they are playing well. So that was one of the things but at the same time, you have to give them the opportunity to play and they are going to make mistakes but you have to keep working with these guys to help them get better. We’ve seen guys make mistakes and then go back on the ice a few shifts later. So you don’t take their confidence away, especially when you see the effort and the determination is there. So you develop that way and although it’s the NHL, it doesn’t mean you can’t take that approach because in the long run, to me, it ends up being enough.”
On if working with Mike Babcock in Sochi will influence the series: “No, I think we’re on even grounds there. We all got to know each other a little bit better but I don’t think ‘ there’s no secrets in this game anymore and I think at the same time I know his tendencies, he knows mine. It’s just going to make for a more interesting series but I don’t think there’s that big of a difference between the two of us because we worked together or if I was going against someone else that I didn’t work with. We do pretty well with tendencies, not just with players but also with coach’s tendencies. How certain guys are hard matchers, other guys don’t and that kind of stuff. This is all the stuff that we have to do as coaches.”
On the guys that weren’t on the ice this morning: “I don’t know for sure, I would like to think so but as you know, the flu bug has hit our team right now. So we’re trying to manage that the best we can and the best thing right now is to keep those guys away from others. But a few more have gotten that, started off I think just before Saturday’s game for certain players and it just kind of evolved from there. So we’re trying to manage it right now and as far as more is concerned, keep your fingers crossed and hope that that is the end of it and that your players come back.”
On Daniel Paille: “We’re not discussing injuries, remember?”
On having extra time to prepare for the series: “Well, I am today when you see what is happening to our group here with flu bug going around, they’ll take the extra days. It’s a blessing in disguise there.”
On if he can separate the guys who have the flu: “Not really.”