The Bruins look like they’re in trouble right now, and Boston head coach Claude Julien looks to be giving one last-ditch effort to fire up his struggling club.
The B’s lost 5-2 Tuesday night in Philadelphia in an ugly showing in which the club was sloppy in just about every facet of the game. The Bruins should have been able to take advantage of a Flyers team that had little to play for as well as a depleted defensive corps. But in many instances, there was a struggle to get the puck out of their own zone, let alone generate offense in the attacking end.
After the game, Julien let his club have it, putting the Black and Gold on blast through the media.
That was definitely a step back in our game. You know, really poor puck management and poor decision making,” he said. “To me, that’s a reflection of the guys not being ready to play. At one point, they’ve got to take the accountability of not being ready. We do a lot of work to prepare and it certainly reflects on us as well as a whole team, the coaching staff and everyone else. Too much of that lately and not enough focus.
“We’re running out of time to get this stuff going. You always hope that its’ some sort of a wake-up call, but with the way the season’s gone, you’re questioning whether it will or not. Only time will tell.”
For seemingly the first time all season, Julien got away from defending his team and started to demand accountability. It was one of the few times this season that Julien would not accept fatigue from a brutal schedule as an excuse.
“Let’s stay away from excuses because it’s not gonna work. Excuses is a lot of BS right now. We need to quit hiding behind those excuses because it’s a load of crap.”
That’s a quick 180 from what Julien was saying just two weeks ago. Following an April 8 win over the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, Julien gave a passionate defense of his players when asked about the club’s physical intensity. The schedule, Julien says, was taking its toll. Gone was the “normal” slate the team tore through to begin the season, and in its place was a buzz saw that saw the team trip through March and into April.
“I’m going to tell you again, like a lot of teams, those players aren’t robots,” Julien said after that win over the Canes. “The schedule has been as tough as it could ever be on an athlete. We got to be careful of how hard we push those guys, because they are tired. I don’t know if anybody’s been through that schedule before of every second day including traveling, and [travel], and the expectations of coaches, and you guys and fans. That’s not an easy situation.
“So it’s easy for us to criticize, and I say us I include ourselves as coaches, but you have to take the time and analyze what’s really going on here. It’s been a real tough schedule and those athletes are put through a grind that they’re not normally put through in a regular season. A regular reason was the first two months that was a regular schedule. You saw how well we played and what our record was so you have to look at what the schedule has been in the last two months, or last month plus this one and understand that has an effect on our game there’s no ifs and buts about it.”
So what has changed in the last two months that suddenly demands accountability from the Bruins? Maybe, just maybe, Julien thought his team was capable of turning things on down the stretch. Maybe he saw his team at that point, battered and bruised, poised to get hot once they started to get healthy. That hasn’t happened yet, and the Bruins are now running out of time.
Everywhere you look, there are reasons for concern. Of course, the Bruins’ play right now, five losses in six games in April, is disheartening. But while the Bruins continue to fade, the majority of their Eastern Conference rivals are starting to surge. The Penguins have won seven of 10. Washington has won nine of 10. The Maple Leafs are 6-3-1 in their last 10. The Islanders haven’t lost in regulation since March 30.
If the Bruins have mailed it in and are waiting to turn things on once they reach the playoffs, that’s a risky, risky proposition. The last five Stanley Cup champions were a combined 30-15-5 in their respective 10 final games. The best the Bruins can do by winning their final three games is to finish the season on a 5-4-1 stretch, which is admittedly what they did in 2011 on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. With the way they’re playing right now, though, there’s not much that inspires confidence they can do much by the end of this weekend.
The Bruins look like a toothless bunch right now both in terms of production and physicality. Milan Lucic has been criticized for his play for much of the year, but right now, he’s nothing more than a microcosm for the team as a whole.
Something needs to change in the next week or so if this team wants to play deep into June. Julien may have gotten the ball rolling with a few sharp, critical comments after Tuesday’s game. Hopefully, for the Bruins’ sake, it didn’t come too late.