WILMINGTON, Mass. — Teams that blow 2-0 leads in the third period at home and settle for just an overtime loss on the heels of losing six of their previous nine are usually due for some severe punishment when they report for practice the next day.
And Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien admitted he contemplated a barf-inducing practice before instead settling on a 5-on-5 scrimmage that lasted a little more than 30 minutes today at Ristuccia Arena.
A shootout then capped off the enjoyable, but instructive, day of work.
“I think everybody expected a pretty good skate today,” said the coach. “And I even thought about it, to be honest with you. But that’s where you have to look at the situation and say, ‘OK, what is the best situation for us right now?’”
Julien said that he and his staff could tell his team was too wound up, so the scrimmage was meant to loosen things up. He went as far as to say that the club’s play in the scrimmage was better than their performance against Los Angeles last night. While the players might not have gone that far, they definitely felt a scrimmage was the way to go.
“I think guys worked hard. As long as you approach it the right way, and I think guys did. They worked hard and made some good plays,” said defenseman Mark Stuart, who was voted First Star of the scrimmage by veteran teammates Aaron Ward and P.J. Axelsson. “We weren’t just sort of throwing it around. I thought it was good for us. It was also a little bit of fun too — something we haven’t had for a little bit.”
Added defenseman Matt Hunwick: “I think it was fun but at the same time we played hard, we played smart. It wasn’t just a goof-off scrimmage, that’s for sure. It was probably the most game-like scrimmage I’ve ever been a part of. So it’s good for us. I think we played pretty well out there to be honest with you. It was a lot of fun and guys were making good plays and the players were skating hard.”
Of course, the players had to be pleased that Julien didn’t go the crack-the-whip route. Nonetheless, if the Bruins respond Sunday against New Jersey, they’ll avoid Julien taking the alternative approach.