Claude Julien got off a pretty good line Friday morning when someone pointed out that in his time as head coach of the Boston Bruins he is a mere 3-6 in series-clinching games in the playoffs outside of Game 7.
It was a few hours before the Bruins, with a 3-1 lead, hope to finish off the Toronto Maple Leafs in their first-round series.
“I'm going to try and make it 4-6 tonight,” Julien said. “How’s that?”
But behind the humour was a valuable lesson the Bruins learned in 2010, although it was awfully painful at the time. And it represented four of the six losses Julien has in that 3-6 record.
In the 2010 NHL playoffs, the Bruins had a 3-0 stranglehold on their second-round playoff series with the Philadelphia Flyers. Then they started losing and the Flyers tied up the series.
Then the Bruins got a 3-0 lead in the seventh and deciding game and started to breathe easier. A little too easy it turned out. The Flyers came back and tied the game, and then, 31 years after Don Cherry and the Bruins lost a seventh game in a famous series with the Montreal Canadiens on a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty, the Bruins were caught with a sixth player on the ice. The Flyers scored on the power play and went on to the Eastern Conference final and Stanley Cup final.
That is why no one in the Boston room is taking anything for granted, even though the Leafs lost Game 4 in demoralizing fashion when Dion Phaneuf made a big mistake and goaltender James Reimer couldn’t cover up for him.
“Experience is something that you use to your advantage,” Bruins centre Chris Kelly said. “It’s an important tool but if you’re not learning from your experiences it’s just a word, I think.”
The Bruins learned well enough to come back and win the 2011 Stanley Cup and have a decent shot of at least making the conference final this time around. So they aren’t about to mess with karma, sticking to the tried-and-true philosophy that you say nothing your opponent can use for motivation.
Due respect was paid to a young and speedy Leafs team which has showed promise but has been undone by mistakes and a lack of talent in certain areas. The worst anyone would say was when Julien wondered aloud if the people keeping track of the hits in the games in Toronto were completely accurate since he thought their numbers were a bit high.
Even Bruins agitator Brad Marchand, who has the ability to get under opponents’ skin with his verbal jabs as well as his stick and elbows, was playing nice.
“We’ve got our hands full with them,” he said. “They are a great team. We can’t let up at all.
“They’ve got a lot of speed and offence. The skills they have over there, they create a lot off that. They are really tough to pull down. At same time, they jump three and four guys in the rush and create stuff the other way. It’s not normally the way we play but it’s tough not to play that way with Toronto because they have such good speed.”
The Bruins will make one lineup change for the game, as defenceman Wade Redden sustained an injury in Boston’s 4-3 win Wednesday night that was not disclosed until today. Julien would not say anything about the injury other than Redden’s status is day-to-day and he cannot play Wednesday night. It is expected Matt Bartkowski, who was called up from Boston’s American Hockey League team, will replace Redden.