WILMINGTON, Mass. — The San Jose Sharks were going back and forth with the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the NHL for the better part of the last three months until both were recently passed by the Detroit Red Wings.
The Sharks’ victory slowdown precipitated a 90-minute organizational meeting — with front-office personnel, coaches and players — earlier this week, and the club actually went out earned two points against a desperate Nashville team last night.
Although the Bruins haven’t done anything that dramatic, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli said his organization is taking steps to rectify a situation that has had the Bruins on the wrong end of seven of their last 10 games.
“We’ve had those meetings this week, unbeknownst to you,” Chiarelli told a small gaggle of reporters as his team practiced at Ristuccia Arena this morning. “I have exchanged notes with (Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson, actually. There’s nothing magic to it guys. … We know we can perform at a level that will produce great results in this league. We’ve got to get back to it. There’s an element of complacency. The players know it.
“It may be that they’re 98 percent ready to go and that two percent (they’re not), but you have to be at 100 percent.”
“We are doing a lot of things behind the scenes — I won’t tell you what they are — but with the players and the staff. At the end of the day though guys, it’s work ethic, puck battles.”
That’s right, work ethic and puck battles. But not the coaching. Chiarelli was quick to shoot down any notion that he’d resort to the old Bruins organizational trick of firing the coach.
“It’s not possible,” said Chiarelli about his head coach Claude Julien. “It’s 100 percent not possible.”
For one half of the Bruins’ loss to Los Angeles last night, Chiarelli saw the things he’s talking about. But in the second half, things went south. The Bruins’ inability to constantly move the puck up ice quickly through the 60-plus minutes was a prime example of what’s infecting the entire team in a number of different areas.
“You look at last night’s game for example, you look at it closely, especially in the second half, there were a number of times when we’re moving the puck out of our end and we regroup. So what does that say? That says to me that we’re not confident.”
“We regroup well, but we’re not moving the puck up the ice. So …”
Although he’s trying to keep his and his staff’s efforts to break the team loose somewhat secret, Chiarelli revealed that last week he addressed the team for 10 minutes on a practice day. He said that, as is his personality, he did not get overly emotional. And that’s the approach he’s taking down the stretch here. With 10 games left and Washington and New Jersey storming the gates, Chiarelli’s confident that there’s plenty of time for the Bruins to get their act together before the postseason.
“There’s time. … But we want it back now. But we also recognize — it’s like last night’s game — short of the penalty and the power play in the first period, I thought we came out well. And we were moving the puck efficiently,” Chiarelli said of the Bruins’ hints of returning to their December and January form. “We weren’t regrouping. We were battling. We were hitting well; we finished our checks well. I don’t know what the chances were, but I thought our chances were good.”