BOSTON – If any member of the Bruins’ roster had the proper training and was then asked to defuse a bomb as the time ticked down toward explosion, you’d want him to be coached by Claude Julien.
Even if there were fireworks going off, a streaker running across the room and a Julio Iglesias record eating away at the player’s eardrums, you know he’d be able to focus.
Because whenever the Bruins have faced the type of obstacles that would drive mere mortals to distraction, to the point where they shouldn’t be able to perform up to their potential, there’s Julien keeping everyone on the same page, looking forward and blocking out all the outside noise.
The Bruins are tied in the Stanley Cup Final heading to Vancouver for Game 5 because of Julien’s leadership and mastery of his team’s psyche.
“He knows how to handle the guys, how to keep them on an even level, to be grounded and just stay focused,” says defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “Again, he knows how to handle us and he does a great job.”
The latest reason for the Bruins to throw up their arms and give up was Nathan Horton’s injury. Not only did the Bruins power forward suffer a season-ending concussion in Game 3 Monday, he did it as the result of a cheap shot by a bottom-pair Vancouver defenseman. Julien’s response to the hit was to let the league handle it – no lobbying, no begging, and no diatribes against the Canucks or Aaron Rome.
Sure, he called the Alex Burrow bite in Game 1 as classless move. But who wouldn’t? Other than that classification, Julien again said he’d let the league decide what to do. When there was no suspension for Burrows, Julien moved on and his team followed. Except when asked by the press, he wasn’t still talking about it three days later and looking for a clarification from the league on the matter.
Some people think about Julien’s reign behind the Bruins’ bench and the first thing that comes to mind is a “conservative” system, an emphasis on defense, a rigidity when it comes to the lineup and lines. I think about how many obstacles the Bruins’ franchise has had to overcome over the years since 2007, and how Julien has steered his team forward toward success every time a road block appears.
There’ve been major injuries to the likes of Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference and now Nathan Horton. Matt Cooke doesn’t get suspended, other culprits don’t’ get long enough suspensions and then Daniel Paille gets a four-game suspension this season for an illegal hit.
Dropping a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series was probably the biggest roadblock possible. Never mind the physical toll it took to overcome that, how the Bruins were able to block that out of their minds – especially once this postseason started and they eventually faced those Philadelphia Flyers – is difficult for me to wrap my own mind around.
The list goes on and on as far as whirlwinds that could’ve swept the Bruins away. The Zdeno Chara affair after the Max Pacioretty hit in Montreal could’ve sidetracked the star defenseman’s career and in turn sent the team into a downturn. Instead Chara’s played his very best since that March night.
Guy Boucher tried to pump up the Bruins players’ egos, he tried to manipulate the officiating and do any other number of things to wage psychological war on the Bruins. Over seven games, however, he and his Tampa Bay squad proved no match for Julien’s well-programmed super soldiers.
Now the Bruins are two wins from the Stanley Cup. If they can clinch a series victory, the bomb of euphoria that will go off in Boston and throughout New England. That’s when the Bruins will finally be allowed to release their focus and look backwards.
Julien won’t be able to keep control of the team at that point, and obviously he wouldn’t want to. Even Julien will look back if his team defuses the Canucks for the ultimate victory.