UNIONDALE, N.Y. — If it seems like every time you see Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien makes a switch of personnel on his lines the move pays off, you’re eyes do not deceive you.
Moving to David Krejci’s line helped awaken Marco Sturm and then Michael Ryder. Moving to Stephane Yelle’s line jump started Milan Lucic, and the subsequent switch of Chuck Kobasew to Marc Savard’s line made an impressive impact.
Whether by design or forced by injury, Julien’s shuffles have all brought money-winning hands. In the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the New York Islanders tonight at Nassau Coliseum, Julien’s swap of two players on his third and fourth lines paid off handsomely.
Vladimir Sobotka started the night on a line with Yelle and Petteri Nokelainen, while Byron Bitz began the night flanking Martin St. Pierre along with Shawn Thornton. When the second period started, Sobotka and Bitz switch spots — a change that remained for the rest of the evening. With the Bruins still protecting a fragile 1-0 lead early in the third period, Sobotka rifled a shoot-in off the lively Coliseum boards from the left wing. The puck rebounded out the right side, where St. Pierre beat Islanders defenseman Mark Streit to it and beat goaltender Yann Danis for a 2-0 lead. The goal proved to be the game-winner.
“I think it was like a 50-50 battle. I think I kind of whacked his stick … as far as I knew his momentum was going towards the puck. I didn’t think he saw me,” said St. Pierre after the game. “Maybe he didn’t think I was that close. But obviously, with my reach, my stick, that helped a little bit I think.”
St. Pierre is famous for his extra-long stick, and it came in handy. It also helped that St. Pierre was back in a comfort zone with a couple linemates he’s had a history with.
“I think we’ve just got to keep our focus if he wants to juggle lines – whoever’s going and whoever’s not going. Me and Vladi and Thornty played together when I first got called up and I think we’re comfortable and I think you saw that tonight. Obviously we had a lot of good shifts to create momentum and stuff,” said St. Pierre, who skated with Sobotka in Providence this season and with Thornton in the AHL a few years back.
Julien deflected credit for the fortuitous switch, as he always does. After all, it’s the players that score the goals and make the passes. But he admitted he was ready from the first puck-drop to make any moves necessary to get his team to generate something.
“There wasn’t much going on with both those lines, and I figured putting Vladi back with St. Pierre – who they played together in Providence – and even Bitzy, who I’ve liked his game – he’s strong along the walls, and he’s been very decent for us,” Julien said. “I made that change and it worked out. Nokie again had an opportunity to play with Yeller. But those two lines, I knew I could mix and match if I wanted to.”
Just like his players, who have shown versatility and a willingness to play different positions and with different linemates, Julien has shown an openness to making any moves necessary to help his team earn a victory. That’s the type of coaching that’s not only going to drive the Bruins far but also earn some Jack Adams Award talk down the road.