The Bruins held an optional skate on Thursday at TD Garden, with optional being the key word. David Krejci and Dougie Hamilton were among several Bruins in the tunnel outside their dressing room playing soccer but other than that there was no on-ice activity as the Bruins rest after their Game 4 victory over the Leafs that leaves them one win from the second round.
Coach Claude Julien confirmed that Nathan Horton is OK after taking a vicious body blow on a forecheck from Dion Phaneuf that led to Krejci’s game-winner in overtime Wednesday night. Horton is expected to be ready and play Game 5 Friday night at TD Garden.
Julien covered a number of topics on Thursday, including the play of Krejci, the nerves of steel of Tuukka Rask and what makes the Bruins so much fun to coach at this time of year.
Here were his answers in Thursday’s Q & A with reporters at TD Garden.
On if after the game he realized how good of a game last night was: “Yes, I do. I said it [Wednesday] night, I said it this morning to the guys. It shouldn’t be looked at who’s an experience team, who’s a young team, who’s this, who’s that; it should be viewed as two teams playing really good hockey right now. There’s a lot of teams that Leafs squad would have beat playing the way they did and we’re, when I say fortunate, that we played well enough and found a way to score that overtime goal to get that win, because it was a real good game that could have gone either way.”
On the mentality heading into a possible clinching game: “You’ve got to play your best game because we know how hard it to close. That’s the thing you hope your players realize extremely well after all the experiences we’ve had throughout the years. We now know how hard it is to close and no reason for us to come out tomorrow and not play as hard, if not harder, than we did last night.
On how important it is to come out hard and set a tone Friday night: “No matter what, we came out, I thought we came out well last night and we were down 2-0. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good period, it was circumstances that one was a bit of a missed assignment, but a nice good goal on their part. The other one was just an unfortunate break on our part because Tuukka [Rask] was screened until the last second. I really felt we played well enough and came out in the second and regained ourselves and got ourselves back in the game.
“It’s just a matter of making sure you’re ready, you know how hard to start. Everybody says, ‘Well, you’ve got to come out hard,’ both teams have to come out hard. The most important thing is you’ve got to be ready to play, not just a period, or have a good start, but play the whole game, not just in a physical way, but a mental way.”
On if the other lines are way behind the David Krejci line right now: “I think it’s pretty obvious that that the line is leading the way right now. Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] scores a goal last night, it as on the power play. I think Bergy’s played well, I thought Tyler [Seguin] played extremely well here in Boston and that line was actually good, but I don’t think Tyler played his best, and neither did Brad [Marchand], in Toronto. They’ve got a chance to redeem themselves here, but the other lines have, at some point, produced, as well. But Krejci’s line is, no doubt, the dominant line, I think that’s the biggest thing. We saw that – I feel like I’m repeating myself – a few years back when I thought [Chris] Kelly, [Rich] Peverley, and [Michael] Ryder were a dominant in the Montreal series, and then other lines picked it up afterwards. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of always having somebody doing something to help us win hockey games and, so far, that’s what’s been happening.”
On what changes occur in Krejci’s game when the postseason comes around: “Well, some people like playing in these situations and we’ve seen those in the past from other players on other teams. He’s a playoff performer, he loves the intensity, the excitement of it. He comes up big in those kinds of situations. It’s always nice to have those kinds of players on your team and, so far, David’s always been a good playoff performer for us. It’s a good thing he’s on our team.”
On what it is about Tuukka Rask’s temperament that allows him to shine in situations like overtime: “Well, I think right now that Tuukka is calm, he’s in the zone, he’s not getting too high, not getting too low. All he wants to do is stop the puck. He’s been pretty good and he is temperamental at times, we’ve seen that side of it, too, when he’s not happy with either a situation or himself. But at the same time, right now, he understands how important it is to stay focused and he’s done a great job of that.”
On how much more dangerous Krejci is when he is shooting the puck: “It makes him unpredictable. When he’s not shooting and he’s not, maybe, at the top of his game, often you’ll see him looking to pass, now he’s taking whatever is given to him; sometimes it’s a pass, sometimes it’s a shot. He’s confident. Right now, everything about David is good; he’s been good on draws, he’s been good at scoring goals, he’s making great plays, he’s involved in the gritty areas, he’s been physical, he’s been all around such a great player. That’s what makes him good. Maybe, everybody would like to see him do that for 82 games, unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
On if he gets a chance to watch any of the other series: “On off days, yeah. Between our games, absolutely, that’s what I do at night in the playoffs. We’re engulfed in this playoff hockey thing and we hang on to it right to the end. I do for professional reasons and also for the enjoyment of it. I’m as caught up in playoff hockey as any fan is.”
On if he finds himself cheering for certain teams or scenarios: “No, I cheer for the Boston Bruins.”
On the difficulty of getting second opportunities after an initial shot: “I think both teams, actually, have done a pretty good job of that throughout the series. It’s been really hard for the forwards to get in there after the original shot is taken. Our guys have done a good job, so have theirs. Both coaches seem to be harping on net-front presence and finding those loose pucks in front of the net. Teams have done a good job and the D, specifically, have done a good jobs on both sides, of clearing that puck or not letting the opposing team get to it. That’s what’s really taken away some of the scoring chances from teams in those gritty areas. Most of it has been from screens or, as you saw here in Game 2 or last night on the winning goal, a few outnumbered situations, it hasn’t been easy to score goals.”
On if he has seen the Maple Leads take their game up even more throughout the series: “Absolutely. Again, I say it because I mean it, there’s certain things you do as a coach for your team, but there’s also the acknowledgement of the other team; they played well. Whatever approach they’ve taken, I said that yesterday, maybe they’ve got that everything to gain, nothing to lose mentality, whatever they’ve taken it’s worked for them. We understand that we’re the ones that maybe a little bit more under the microscope because of who we are and what we’ve accomplished, that’s why give our guys credit, as well so far, for handling that situation extremely well. At the end of the day, it’s like every other series in the NHL right now, nobody’s running away with anything. Teams are pretty even when it comes to playoff time and I think the Leafs, there’s no doubt I hear it, and I agree with them, they’re growing at a big pace right now.
On if Nathan Horton is OK and if he held his breath on the play that Horton got hit: “Yeah, absolutely. You always kind of…but he got hit in the body, so he’s good.”
On if he is overwhelmed by the way his team is embracing the playoff mentality: “Yeah, absolutely, that’s why I kind of answered the way I did earlier. As much as our opponents have been really good and given us a real good challenge, I’m also proud of the way our guys have handled themselves, they’ve done a great job. We’ve found ways to win, we’ve blocked shots, we’ve taken our bumps and bruises like everybody else and we’ve just gone about our business.”
On if he was trying to both look at Nathan Horton and the goal at the end of the game and if he just takes the injuries as they come during the game: “You’ve got to take it in stride, I guess. One guy’s in, you’re told somebody’s in getting stitches and so on, so forth. Same thing with Looch [Milan Lucic], he got the stitches in between the first and second after he got hit, as well. Johnny Boychuk leaves the bench, you’re just hoping that you don’t get the news that they’re not coming back. So far, our guys have been pretty good warriors. That winning goal was one of those where you’ve got one eye looking at that outnumbered situation, the other eye looking at if your other guys is going to be getting up. It’s a little bit of both, but when that goal was scored the first thing I did was really look if Nathan was still on the ice or if he was up. He’s fine, it was just, like I said, a bit of body blow from an aggressive forecheck on [Dion] Phaneuf’s part and it ended up playing in our favor.”