The personnel decisions are piling up for Claude Julien, from how to fill possibly two vacancies on the Boston Bruins defence for Game 6 on Sunday night to lighting a fire under his first forward line.
Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference did not make the trip to Toronto for Sunday night’s game against the Maple Leafs. Julien would not say if Ference was injured or ill, only that his status was “day-to-day.” That is the same as defenceman Wade Redden, who missed Game 5 with an injury, but skated in practice on Saturday and again Sunday in the game-day skate.
Julien has the same philosophy as Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle, that lineup changes are state secrets that cannot be revealed until game time.
“Randy doesn’t talk about his roster, I don’t talk about mine either,” Julien said. “We’re sewn at the hip.”
The only thing that appears certain is that Matt Bartkowski, who was recalled from the Bruins’ American Hockey League farm team last Thursday and played in Game 5 for Redden, will stay in the lineup. Then it’s a matter of either Redden or rookie Dougie Hamilton, who replaced Ference when he was suspended for Game 2, going into the lineup.
In the meantime, the Bruins’ No. 1 line of centre Patrice Bergeron and wingers Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin knows their strong defensive effort in the series isn’t enough. As Julien noted after the Leafs won Game 5 to force Sunday’s game, the Bruins need them to start scoring.
“We both know we have to be better and be more accountable and we’re looking to start up tonight,” Marchand said, referring to himself and Seguin, who was sitting beside him in the Bruins’ dressing room. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities. They just weren’t going in and we had a goal called back.”
There was also the save of the series so far, when Leafs goaltender James Reimer saved their win in Game 5 by robbing Bergeron in front of the net midway through the second period. A couple of minutes after that, Leaf centre Tyler Bozak scored on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who had been outstanding up to that point, and the game swung the Leafs way, although they had to weather an all-out assault by the Bruins in the third period.
“You really have to dig down,” Marchand said, “especially against this goalie, he’s very good. You have to hold on to the puck for that extra half-second to create an opportunity.”
With Bergeron’s line limited to one goal and two assists collectively for the series, the bulk of the scoring was handled by the second line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. But the Leafs managed to shut them down as well in their 2-1 win Friday night, although Julien thinks the damage to the line was self-inflicted.
“[The Leafs] should be proud of shutting down the Krejci line but I’ll tell you, their least-effective game was probably of their own doing,” Julien said. “They’ve been a good line for us and can be better.”