The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have fired Claude Julien. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins have had several opportunities to fire coach Claude Julien this year. There were several times where the team probably should have ended their night or began their morning with the severing of the ties between themselves and their coach of a decade.

But Tuesday morning, just hours away from a parade to celebrate Boston’s 10th championship since 2002, this one after another massive Patriots Super Bowl comeback, was not the time. Unless you’re the Bruins, of course, who specialize in this sort of piss-poor timing.

“I didn’t pick this day to take away from the great accomplishment of the New England Patriots,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said to begin his press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

(No, of course not, but it sure helped you guys get this one out there.)

Make no mistake about it, this was a move that anybody and everybody knew was coming.

Firing Julien wasn’t a matter of if, but rather when.

But the Bruins’ when showed more cowardice than anything else.

There was zero doubt that Julien was a marked man once Sweeney decided to bring Bruce (Butch) Cassidy, the coach of the P-Bruins during Sweeney’s run as the B’s assistant GM (one of Sweeney’s biggest duties in that role was managing the day-to-day operations of their AHL club), into the mix as an NHL assistant coach. Like Sweeney was team president Cam Neely’s guy to begin the changes that Neely wanted in his front office, Cassidy was Sweeney’s guy to kickstart changes behind the bench.

Then when Julien was forced to go to bat for his own job and explain himself to the media while Sweeney and Neely — you know, the two people actually in charge of Julien’s future and the ones that could put the media firestorm out with just a few comments — stayed silent only, the idea that Julien was a goner was by all means confirmed. I mean, why back the guy and corner yourself into a situation where you’re going to have to lie through your teeth or go back on what you said a few weeks or months later?

Why say anything? Why do anything?

After all, this was your scapegoat all the way.

You didn’t fire this coach last year, and then you sat on your hands while the team hemorrhaged points left and right until almost the 60th game of the season, not because you believed in the coach (because that’s somebody you could have said but didn’t when given ample opportunities — and don’t think for a second that the Bruins media corps have not been requesting to hear from either front office head), but because it would have put more blame on you when that next guy went through the same struggles.

It was the perfect divvying of a blame pie that this front office never wants to eat.

When the Bruins came up short in 2015, it was then-GM Peter Chiarelli’s fault. He paid the price and took the fall. When they repeated the feat in 2016 and found a way to take their fate out of the hands like a week after being close to a total lock for the playoffs, it was the leftovers of the Chiarelli era of incompetent drafting and bad trades haunting the team for one final collapse. Nothing happened to the staff or front office, and a roster overhaul with an injection of more heart than skill became the go-to fix. And now, when this team fails to make the postseason on the backs of no-showing, aging and overpaid stars and fourth-line muckers, it will somehow become Julien’s fault and this front office will be given another year to ‘fix’ things in their image.

It’s too late to fix what’s broken with this group, too. The B’s loss to the Maple Leafs last Saturday likely sealed their fate as a playoff miss for a third year in a row, and it’s hard to imagine that changing with Cassidy inheriting this same roster. Whether or not there’s a long-term fix, either, remains to be seen, especially with this group in change.

But today, with the timing of this move, the only guarantee is that this will further irritate an already disgruntled fanbase.

To can your franchise’s all-time winningest coach in such a callous way on a day of city-wide celebration, and with the idea that a million Boston sports fans will be in the streets and with their minds elsewhere is the best way to avoid a news cycle entirely, is low. Even for this embattled franchise whose E-Z Pass has paid a near yearly toll on the low roads towards irrelevancy.

And just another turn closer towards their apparent wish to be out of the news cycle entirely.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Claude Julien's time behind the Bruins bench is over.</p>
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Claude Julien is out after nearly 10 seasons as Bruins coach. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)A Friday news dump is one thing. A Patriots parade news dump is quite another.



#NHLBruins relieve Claude Julien of coaching duties: https://t.co/t6zczxyE0X

— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 7, 2017

Many were wondering not if, but when. Not they know.

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Many were wondering not if, but when. Now they know.

The Bruins finally made the move so may have been anticipating, firing coach Claude Julien Tuesday morning. They will be replacing Julien on an interim basis with assistant coach Bruce Cassidy.

Julien, who was in his 10th season with the Bruins, compiled a record of 419-246-96 in Boston, with the B’s making the playoffs in seven of his previous nine seasons. He led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011.

This will be Cassidy’s second stint as an NHL head coach, having served in the same capacity with the Washington Capitals from 2002-04.

The Bruins are currently on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, sitting in the ninth spot with a record of 26-23-6.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE SATURDAY SKATE GUYS TALK ABOUT JULIEN’S JOB

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are rooting for the Patriots tonight. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are sports fans, too.

And decked out in Patriots gear delivered to the team on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena, it’s no surprise who the Patriots are pulling for tonight in Super Bowl LI between the Pats and Falcons.

It was in 2015 that Milan Lucic picked the Bruins to beat the Seahawks 27-24 (the final score was 28-24 in favor of the Patriots), so I had to ask this new group of Bruins who they picked and the final score.

Matt Beleskey: Patriots 35, Falcons 27. 

An Ontario native (and a noted Blue Jays fan), Beleskey is all in on Boston, and the Patriots are included in that. The hard-hitting winger is confidently picking the Patriots, and expects Julian Edelman to score the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Jimmy Hayes: Patriots 35, Falcons 21. 

The Dorchester native is obviously a Patriots fan, and when asked about who he’s picking for this game, he without hesitation said, “Oh, the Patriots.” When asked for a score, Hayes wanted to try and line it up with his squares, so he’s taking the Patriots by 14 in a 35-to-21 final.

Tim Schaller: Patriots 31, Falcons 24. 

A New Hampshire native, Schaller is amped for this game and knows the importance of that fifth Super Bowl title. “If they win this one, it’s almost like I’d be content with them not winning it again,” Schaller said. But as a New Englander he knows these games are never blowouts, even if you expect them, and he expects another close one.

Zane McIntyre: Patriots 28, Falcons 24. 

A Vikings fan growing up (though he admits it’s been hard to get to games because the hockey schedule and football schedule collide), McIntyre expects a game. “The defenses will be flying around, it’ll be a good one,” McIntyre said. “Barnburner.”

Joe Morrow: Patriots 34, Falcons 24. 

A fantasy football champion this season, Morrow knows what he’s talking about when it comes to football. Well, in a way. He initially picked the Patriots by 10, but when pressed for a score he said, “34 to 24 — is that possible?” Oh yes, very possible.

Brandon Carlo: Patriots win by three.

Wearing a Patriots shirt after practice on Friday, I had to ask the Colorado native the obvious question: Aren’t you a Broncos fan? The 20-year-old admitted that he did like the Broncos when he lived back home, but that he wants to root for the Boston teams now that he’s here. In awe of what Tom Brady is doing at his age, Carlo didn’t have a score, but he did like the Pats by three.

Frank Vatrano: Patriots win by 12.  

The East Longmeadow native didn’t have a score, but he’s taking the Pats by 12.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday's loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins are not content with any moral victories from Saturday’s loss to the Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

If this loss happened to the Bruins a month ago, it stings, but they learn from it and move forward. If this loss happens against a team from the Western Conference tomorrow, they likely do the same.

But to lose this game, a 6-5 loss on TD Garden ice, to these Maple Leafs, who are now just one point behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic and with five games in hand, well that’s just plain rotten.

Entering action with a 37 percent chance of making the playoffs, and with a chance for that figure to bump up another seven percent with a win, the Bruins instead lost, and saw their playoff hopes dip over nine percent, down to 27.8 percent. The Bruins, who have not had a winning streak longer than three games this season, were already up against the percentages when it came to their playoff aspirations, are now in a situation where they’ll likely have to nab 65 percent of the remaining 54 points on their schedule.

Three-goal comeback from 4-1 down? Valiant effort, sure, but who cares, you still lost.

There are no moral victories left for this team.

It’s just the truth of this team’s situation.

Already entrenched in must-win territory in February, the Bruins lost perhaps the biggest game of the month’s rest-heavy slate.

“Yup,” Bruins forward Ryan Spooner said when asked if they’re beyond taking the positives of a loss. “I’d say 27 games left in the year, that team is now a point behind us with five games in hand. You’ve got to win games. It doesn’t matter if we had 40 shots and they had, I don’t know, I guess 27. It doesn’t really matter. We just need to win right now and we didn’t.”

The Bruins finished the loss with 41 shots on goal (the Bruins attempted 79 shots in total, including 19 misses), but were doomed by costly own-zone mistakes at key moments, twice giving up go-ahead goals with less than five minutes in the third period. The loss, by the way, gives the Bruins eight losses in games where they’ve put at least 40 shots on net this season.

“We fought back, so you like those kinds of things, but at the end of the night, it’s about winning hockey games,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “And I have to say that tonight, we found a way to lose. So that’s the disappointing part.”

It’s not just the loss, but the inevitable situation that this really puts the Bruins in. Unless the Leafs lose all of their remaining games in hand, they will at some point pass the Bruins at this rate, and leave the Black and Gold on the outside looking in.

“We knew how important those two points in that game were and it’s very disappointing and frustrating at the same time, you know, you can;t give up six goals if you want to win any hockey game,” Patrice Bergeron, who scored the game-tying goal with 2:54 left in the third, said. “The last thing you want to do is claw your way back all the time and, you know, down by three goals, it’s obviously if you prevent that it makes it a lot easier on us and then we have a much better chance to come out with the win.”

“They’re a point behind us now,” a frustrated Spooner said of the Leafs. “We kind of talked about it. If we had won, they would have been five points back with five games in hand, which isn’t terrible. It sucks but we’ve just got to move on.”

And do it as their window begins to slowly close.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

It ran long at times, but Saturday night at TD Garden had it all.

Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Bruins/Leafs. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

It ran long at times, but Saturday night at TD Garden had it all.

It was past 8 p.m. before the first period came to an end. The third period did not begin until 9:30 p.m. the home crowd didn’t wanna leave. In an Original Six matchup with meaning — the Maple Leafs came to Boston on a three-game losing skid and three points behind the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division — the Bruins and Leafs called back to the days of old with the blood feud of a near century-long rivalry. They countered with goals, agitation, and a fight.

The Leafs even blew a 4-1 lead. Playoff hockey? Yeah, it’s here.

As close as it can be in February for these desperate clubs.

The Bruins came into this game with desperation team because, well, everything seemingly working against this club. On top of their massive games in hand deficit, the Bruins looked bad in their Wednesday loss to the Capitals, and the fact that they entered play with two losses in as many games against the Leafs didn’t necessarily help. The same could be said for the Leafs, who on top of their aforementioned slide, skate with a chip on their shoulder as an underdog status needing to prove they’re a real threat.

Neither team wasted time showing that side of their situation off, too.

Bruins winger David Pastrnak scored on the first shot of the game. Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock immediately challenged it.

When it was deemed inconclusive, the Leafs took matters into their own hands and answered behind a beautiful William Nylander goal scored off a brutal David Backes turnover. What followed a three-zone commitment from each club that blocked and stymied every shot that wasn’t missed, and the two were tied up through 20 minutes of action.

But when the speed of the energetic Leafs met the brain-cramps of the Bruins in the second period, the B’s scrambled.

First came a James van Riemsdyk goal scored without a Boston defender with 25 feet of him and the Leafs’ scorer all alone in front of Tuukka Rask. William Nylander capitalized on a Kevan Miller fall in the attacking zone just 38 seconds after that, and the Leafs were up by two. Adam McQuaid was then penalized, and Nylander jumped on his third goal of the game and chased Rask.

It felt like it happened in one massive blur (it actually happened 1:46, to be exact), and the Bruins needed a response.

First came a second Pastrnak goal, and then McQuaid atoned for his penalty with a massive TKO on Matt Martin.

Just as quick as life exited the Garden, it was back, and at the loudest it’s been all year.

The Bruins cut the Toronto edge to one before the end of the second behind a Torey Krug power-play goal — complete with stick assists to the B’s equipment staff that allowed Pastrnak to keep the puck in and further gas the Leafs’ penalty killers on an attempted clear — and the stage for a furious third was upon each club.

And as the script wrote in 2013, the Bruins found the game-tying goal, this time on a Ryan Spooner net-front putaway at 10:06 of the third period. But five minutes later, and with the Bruins struggling to get back on the forecheck, Connor Brown made it 5-4.

The Bruins again responded, on a power-play goal from Patrice Bergeron with just 2:54 left in the third period.

But again, and even quicker than they did the time before, the Leafs regained the edge behind a van Riemsdyk goal 1:18 later.

It would hold as the final goal of the game, and the Bruins dropped yet another one that seemed to be theirs. It was just another night where an impossible-to-ignore inability to play mistake-free hockey when the games are at their tightest had it’s say.

If this was a playoff primer, the Bruins did everything but get the win.

And unfortunately for the Bruins, there’s no playoffs in Boston without those.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Since the last one didn’t work, here’s another reminder to the NHL: Fighting Adam McQuaid is still a bad idea.

It may even border on a stupid idea, at this point.

With the Bruins in search of a spark in a listless second period, McQuaid engaged with Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin.

In a battle of true NHL heavyweights — McQuaid is listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds while Martin checks in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds — the towering duo traded blow for blow before landed the knockout punch and sent Martin back to the room.

The fight was McQuaid’s team-leading fourth fight of the season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson