The NHL coaching fraternity is a small one, so perhaps it was a sort of homage, maybe even a gesture of solidarity.
Whatever the reason, the Boston Bruins’ Claude Julien channelled the prickly former Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella in his final pregame news conference ahead of his Bruins’ second-round series with eternal rivals Montreal (7:30 p.m., CBC, RDS).
In April of 2012, Tortorella famously held a 54-second playoff news conference as coach of the New York Rangers – during which he uttered a mere 73 words – and on Thursday, Julien was in a similar yes-no-I-can’t-recall mode.
Julien’s session lasted an efficient 4:18, during which he offered such insightful gems as: “I don’t know, I really don’t. We just figure it out.”
That was in answer to a question as to why it is the Bruins have a propensity to play better in the postseason against teams they struggle with in the regular season.
When asked if he could talk about influential winger Brad Marchand’s absence from the morning skate (fourth-liner Daniel Paillé took his spot at the morning skate), he said “no I can’t. He took his option.”
A producer for TSN Radio strung all of Julien’s English answers together, the total time: 22 seconds. A transcript pegged the word count at 86 – the fact French generally requires more words to express a thought than English carried Julien out of the Tortorellian realm, but not by much.
The Ontario native can get as terse and businesslike as anyone, but it would be easy to interpret his body language and general demeanour as tense – it can only feed the perception the Habs are in the Bruins' psychological kitchen.
The contrast with Montreal coach Michel Therrien – the two have been friends and rivals for years, dating back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – was striking.
Therrien was just as cagey about his lineup, but a lot sunnier about the challenge ahead.
“We’re lucky to be here, in this position, to have this experience,” he said when queried about the rivalry between the teams and whether it infuses the dressing rooms.
The subtle and not-so-subtle air war that characterizes the playoffs makes for fascinating watching – Therrien has evidently learned from being out-gunned in the psy ops department by Ottawa’s Paul MacLean last season.
He was effusive about Boston being “the best team in the NHL” and laughed off a question about whether coaches need to choose their words more carefully in the playoffs.
“We’ve talked enough, we can’t wait for it to start,” he said.
Maybe none of this means anything in terms of where the teams are at – and the relaxed atmosphere in the Boston room, for what it’s worth, was more or less the same as Montreal’s – but coaches are leaders, so maybe it does.
We’ll know soon enough.
In terms of lineup news, the Habs’ Travis Moen is available, and can be expected to slot in for rookie winger Michael Bournival on the fourth line. Max Pacioretty, who also skipped the skate, will take up his usual station on the top unit.
Though Therrien wouldn’t confirm that he will stick with his third defensive pair of Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon, it would be a minor surprise if he didn’t. There are beefier options, however, in the shape of Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi.
Carey Price gets the start, obviously.
For the Bruins, the swift-skating Paillé should make his return to the lineup – he’s been out for more than a month as a result of a concussion. Marchand is expected to play, it remains to be seen if Boston can find a spot for forward Jordan Caron, who had an effective first round.
Tuukka Rask will start in goal. Obviously.