Boston, MA --
|The B's celebrate. (Photo by Babineau)
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. And after the Bruins 30th victory in the 41st game of the season – the exact halfway point of the 2008-09 campaign – at first, head coach Claude Julien had mixed emotions.
“I guess the win itself was important,” he said in a disappointed tone. “The way we won wasn’t so good.”
The admittedly uneven effort, which broke a short two-game losing streak, put the Bruins seven points ahead of the Washington Capitals for the lead in the Eastern Conference and 10-points in front of the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Northeast Division.
“I think we’ve got a lot of things here that are challenging us,” continued Julien. “We’ve talked about some of them the other day.
“We certainly have some of our better players that are really struggling, finding their groove again. And with the amount of injuries we have and with some of our better players not playing as well as you’re used to seeing them, it certainly makes for a struggle.”
Despite that struggle, postgame, the Bruins veterans were actually talking about a big win in the Bruins locker room.
“This was a very important game, more important than everybody thinks,” said Bruins All-Star Zdeno Chara
. “It’s the kind of situation where you lose a couple games and the team starts questioning their talent or their play.
“It was a good way to bounce back.”
Fellow All-Star Marc Savard
had similar feelings.
“A win’s a win,” said Savard. “Especially now, after we lost two, we’ll take it.
“We know we have things to work on and we’ll go from there.”
During his press conference, Julien’s sentiments seemed to soften, as he was able to digest the club’s turnaround during the evening.
“I thought our first six minutes or so of the game and the first half of the first [period] were pretty good and I thought after the fight (which featured the Bruins Shawn Thornton
vs. Ottawa’s Chris Neil at 8:47 of the 1st period), Thornie stood in there and did a great job for us,” Julien explained. “Where I was disappointed is that we didn’t respond, they did.
“They kind of took the rest of the period over and came into the second and [there were] a lot of bad mistakes.”
But after thinking on the evening while talking to the press, a question about Blake Wheeler -- who was a little too cute in his stickhandling for his coach’s taste in the B’s loss to Minnesota -- led to an admission by Julien.
“I sometimes have the tendency [to remember] those little mistakes,” he said. “[They] stick out in your mind as coaches.
“You have to be hard on him at times, and at the same time you have to let him go through those learning curves as well and be patient a little bit with him.”
And those feeling seemed to sum up his view of his club as a whole as the Bruins coach came full circle in his thinking.
“It was [an important win],” he said in the end. “We had talked about that also before the game…that it was either as we say, ‘stop the hemorrhaging,’ or ‘continue to slide.’
“You lose three in a row and your confidence takes an even bigger beating.
“Losing this game would have certainly hurt us a lot more than we think. Winning it might hopefully be what we needed to get back our game.”
After all, it’s hard to compare the everyday struggles of a hockey club to the high-flying days of a 10-game winning streak.
“I think we’re at a stage where we have a tendency to be highly critical of our team and ourselves because of what we have done so far,” said Julien. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going through some tough times with some players that are maybe a little ‘under performing’ right now.”
Boston practices at the TD Banknorth Garden on Friday and will begin the second half of the season on Saturday afternoon against Carolina.