Claude Julien

Claude Julien

WILMINGTON — There’s a common enough chain reaction in sports.

Management spends money. Management believes in money it’s spent. Team misses playoffs. Coach gets fired.

Claude Julien is in his ninth season as Bruins head coach, and he is a loss or two away from missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. He is not the primary problem with the team — there’s a very strong argument to be made that he’s ultimately one of its strengths — but canning the coach is often the perceived solution when things go wrong for a team with (at least some) good players.

Julien, who was fired by the Canadiens and Devils prior to coming to Boston, said after Wednesday’s practice that the possibility of losing his job with the B’s is not on his mind.

“I’m not answering those questions,” Julien said. “Every year I get the same thing, so I’m not even thinking about that.”

Julien has led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Final appearances, a Cup championship and a Presidents’ Trophy in his time with the B’s. He’s also an assistant coach for Team Canada and is regarded as one of the handful of best hockey coaches in North America. If the Bruins were to move on from him, there’s a very good chance they would downgrade with their replacement.

Yet teams that lose seek change and it would be hard to expect the Bruins’ management to pass on picking their own guy two years in a row. Julien was a hire of former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who was fired after the B’s missed the playoffs last season.

Furthermore, management’s moves at the trade deadline (keeping Loui Eriksson and trading for both Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles) made it clear that the intention for this season was to make a playoff run. Whether primarily Julien’s fault or not, a failure to do so would likely leave president Cam Neely looking to hold someone accountable.

General manager Sweeney declined an interview when approached by WEEI.com Wednesday, saying he’ll presumably speak on team matters toward or after the end of the regular season.

Julien was signed to a multi-year contract extension in November of 2014. If the Bruins fire him, they will have to pay him the money owed on his contract until he takes a job with another team. There is no longer draft pick compensation for fired coaches and executives, meaning the Bruins would not get a pick or picks if they were to move on from Julien.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

WILMINGTON — The Bruins recalled center Max Talbot from Providence on an emergency basis Wednesday. The ailing players to which the recall was tied seem to be Jimmy Hayes and Tyler Randell, neither of whom were on the ice for Wednesday’s practice.

Both Talbot and Brett Connolly, the latter of whom has missed the last three games due to a lower-body injury, practiced Wednesday. Dennis Seidenberg, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, did not practice. He was last on the ice Monday, but got off the ice early.

All other defensemen were on the ice. The forward lines looked as such:

Marchand-Bergeron-Stempniak
Spooner-Krejci-Eriksson
Beleskey-Talbot/Kelly-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Acciari-Ferraro/Connolly

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

Claude Julien went with statistics when choosing his participants for an important shootout Tuesday night. It’s easy to argue that he trusted different numbers than he should have.

The Bruins no longer control their destiny for a playoff spot.</p>
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The Bruins came one point short of their goal on Tuesday. That might ultimately be the story of their season should they miss the playoffs.

Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand

Claude Julien went with statistics when choosing his participants for an important shootout Tuesday night. It’s easy to argue that he trusted different numbers than he should have.

In what ended up being a five-round shootout, the Bruins did not use Brad Marchand, who leads the team with 36 goals on the season. Marchand is 0-for-3 in shootouts this season and did not score on a second-period breakaway against Cam Ward, but his two penalty shot goals this season and supreme confidence with the puck in what’s been his best offensive campaign would seemingly make him a go-to guy when an important goal is needed.

Of the five shooters the Bruins used — none of whom scored — only Patrice Bergeron entered the game having fared worse than Marchand in shootouts this season. The B’s used used Ryan Spooner (who entered the game with three shootout goals on three attempts this season), David Pastrnak (his first attempt), Bergeron (0-for-4), Loui Eriksson (his first attempt) and Torey Krug (1-for-1).

Asked what factors into his selection of shootout participants, Julien declined to say whether the player’s performance in that individual game to that point played a bigger role than the player’s shootout history.

“We do it in practice. It’s all taken [into consideration]: what the tendencies of the goaltender are. I’ve answered that question before,” Julien said. “It’s all based on that. If people want to use hindsight, that’s all there is, but we make those decisions. I think the guys that went have scored in shootouts, they’ve done a great job. Because they don’t score tonight, we can second-guess all we want.”

The Bruins, who scored 16 goals over a 10-game span prior to finding an offensive rhythm over the weekend, have also spent the season without Marchand on their first power play unit. While it was tough to question that strategy when Boston’s center-heavy first unit was performing at one of the best clips in the league, its recent dropoff led to changes when Loui Eriksson replaced Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey replaced Eriksson, but Marchand remained on the second unit.

Marchand said he does not feel held back by the Bruins’ usage of him.

“No,” Marchand said. “I’m just happy to be on the power play at all. I’m going to do whatever the team asks me to do, regardless of what that is. I’m just going to try to play my role.”

There’s a statistical argument for using or not using Marchand in a shootout. The long and the short of it is that the Bruins’ best scorer was sitting on the bench as a massive point was squandered.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

The Bruins came one point short of their goal on Tuesday. That might ultimately be the story of their season should they miss the playoffs.

In suffering a 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes, the Bruins ceded the ability to control their own destiny. Even if the Bruins win their next two games, including a regulation or overtime win against the Red Wings, Detroit can still reach the playoffs by winning its other two games in regulation or overtime.

The B’s are now tied with the Red Wings with 91 points on the season, though the Wings have one more game remaining and they hold a one-game advantage in regulation and overtime wins, the first tiebreaker for playoff positioning.

The Red Wings will come to Boston Thursday after playing the Flyers on Wednesday.

Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:

HAYES, MILLERS RETURN

Jimmy Hayes was back in the lineup after sitting Boston’s previous two games as a healthy scratch.

Hayes skated on the Bruins’ fourth line and attempted to get engaged by dropping the gloves in the first period. The bout didn’t go particularly well, as Hayes was taken down by Brad Malone.

As expected, Colin Miller and Kevan Miller were also in Tuesday’s lineup, while the injured Dennis Seidenberg and Brett Connolly remained out. The lineup looked as such:

Marchand-Bergeron-Eriksson
Beleskey-Krejci-Pastrnak
Vatrano-Spooner-Stempniak
Hayes-Vatrano-Ferraro

Chara-Kevan Miller
Liles-Colin Miller
Krug-McQuaid

Rask

Claude Julien switched up his lines in the second period, changing the top nine to the following:

Marchand-Bergeron-Stempniak
Eriksson-Krejci-Pastrnak
Beleskey-Spooner-Vatrano

MISBEHAVIOR PAYS OFF

Loui Eriksson’s only involvement in penalties is drawing them, killing them and making opposing PK units wish their team didn’t take them.

On Tuesday, Eriksson took part in the rare act of committing penalties, as his second-period calls for goaltender interference and then tripping marked the first time all season that Eriksson was called for multiple penalties in a game.

Eriksson ended up redeeming himself, as he raced out of the box following the expiration of his tripping penalty early in the third (the penalty was taken with 29 seconds left in the second) and took advantage of a bad line Carolina line change to score a breakaway goal.

The goal was Eriksson’s 29th goal of the season.

FIRST BLOOD

The Bruins had two first-period power plays and spent many of the game’s early minutes in Carolina’s zone, but the tide began to turn as the period went on. Tuukka Rask came through big with consecutive saves on Jay McClement and Nathan Gerbe from in close, followed by a lengthy stay in the defensive zone from Ryan Spooner’s line. The Bruins managed through it, but minutes later Carolina scored the period’s only goal on a wrist shot from Jaccob Slavin.

Slavin’s shot from the left point was contested by Brad Marchand, and it appeared the puck may have changed direction on its way past Rask’s glove side. Whether Rask saw it cleanly or not, it marked the fifth straight game in which the B’s allowed the first goal.

CHANCES ALLOWED BUT, CHARA SAVES THE DAY

The opponent entered the game 25th in the league in goals per game and the Bruins still gave up a lot of chances, but they still saw an improvement from their two-game west-coast road trip that saw them allow 11 goals.

In one of the instances in which the Hurricanes did capitalize on their chances, the B’s still managed to bail themselves out. After a Brett Pesce shot trickled through Tuukka Rask with less than two minutes to play, Zdeno Chara sept it out of the crease to save the Bruins at least a point.

The Hurricanes also hit a pair of posts, including one on a bid that Slavin that could have ended the game in overtime.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean
Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Ryan Spooner wants to avoid a run-and-gun game. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Even at less than 100 percent, Kevan Miller’s expected return to the Bruins’ lineup Tuesday will help improve the defense from what it was on Sunday. With Dennis Seidenberg still out, the B’s need whatever they can get to avoid the issues they had when trying to defend the Hawks of the first 40 minutes of their final road game.

So with Colin Miller also entering the lineup, it’s natural to wonder whether the youngster’s return is a step in the right direction for the Bruins defensively.

It isn’t, but then again they weren’t going to much better off with Joe Morrow or Zach Trotman in the lineup instead of him. If the younger Miller can bring his skating and offensive ability, it will be worth what he lacks in his own end.

This is because the banged-up Bruins aren’t positioned to defend particularly well. The offense, however, can be a strength after recently bouncing back from its most dormant 10-game period of the season. It might need to be if the Bruins want to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight year.

“The offense is there right now again,” Claude Julien said Tuesday morning. “We just have to tighten up a little bit defensively, which we’ve gone through a couple of times this year. We’ve gotten loose a little bit and then we’ve tightened it up and when we’ve tightened it up we’ve been able to have success, so if we can tighten it up tonight and continue to take advantage of our opportunities to score, that should help our chances quite a bit.”

Coming off a road trip that saw the B’s score 10 goals and allow 11, they will look for similar offense in the season’s final three games while crossing their fingers on the health and play of the defense improving. That might mean some high-scoring games, which are not the type Claude Julien teams have been known for playing.

“I think we can. I don’t think that we want to,” Ryan Spooner said of winning potential track meets. “If you look at our team, just this team as a whole in the past 10 years, they’ve taken a lot of pride in being a good defensive team first. I think if you ask all the guys in the room, they would rather win a game 2-1 or 3-2 than they would 6-5. At this time of the year, you don’t want to get into those run-and-gun matches.” 

That starts Tuesday night, when the B’s will play a Hurricanes team that recently gave Boston’s offense what should be considered one of its more frustrating performances of the season. The Bruins’ two goals on 32 shots on March 10 might not have seemed particularly bad on paper, but Cam Ward’s sloppy performance begged for more goals that the B’s didn’t get because of their struggles to get to rebounds.

The Hurricanes are not the Blackhawks offensively. In fact, they’re pretty terrible offensively (25th in the league with 2.4 goals per game), so the combination of Miller’s return and the easier opponent should help the B’s in rebounding from Sunday’s defense performance.

The Red Wings, Boston’s opponent in a must-win contest Thursday, have also not been a particularly strong offensive team this season. The Bruins might be able to hold up with the group they have now against teams like Carolina and Detroit, but even at full health, the Bruins’ strength this season has been its offense. It might need to be now more than ever.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean

The Bruins have recalled Colin Miller and sent Seth Griffith to Providence in anticipation of Tuesday night’s game against the Hurricanes.

Colin Miller

Colin Miller

The Bruins have recalled Colin Miller and sent Seth Griffith to Providence in anticipation of Tuesday night’s game against the Hurricanes.

Miller’s recall comes amidst injury questions on the Bruins’ blue line, as Dennis Seidenberg (lower-body) has missed the last two games and Kevan Miller has not played since suffering a lower-body injury in the first period of last Friday’s game against the Blues.

By bringing Miller up, the Bruins used their fourth and final callup allotted to teams between the trade deadline and the end of the regular season.

After starting the season with the Bruins and playing 39 games in the NHL, the B’s sent Miller to Providence to improve his defensive play. Miller has thee goals and 12 assists for 15 points in the NHL this season; he’s scored four goals with eight helpers for 12 points with the Baby B’s over 19 games.

Griffith played both games of the Bruins’ recent road trip in place of Jimmy Hayes, but his status as an extra forward in Monday’s practice suggested the B’s would play either Hayes or Tyler Randell on Tuesday.

Blog Author: 
DJ Bean