But after two straight wins over the Penguins and the Devils, it’s getting closer.
“We won two games — I think we’ve got to continue to work and prove that we are turning the corner, and that’s a work in progress right now,” Julien said following Friday’s practice at TD Garden. “I liked our game yesterday, obviously. [On Wednesday], we played a pretty good team in Pittsburgh that was well-rested, and again, in our situation, we showed some good flashes, and there were times when we were on our heels a lot.
“Yesterday was a step in the right direction. I’m more willing to go one game at a time, here, and see where we are.”
After two straight wins, the Bruins are definitely progressing. Against Pittsburgh, they did not get off to the start they wanted and fell behind early, but they managed to come back and win in overtime. Then, despite the road back-to-back, they were dominant against New Jersey at home, holding them to a mere 14 shots — and just three in the first period — while overpowering the Devils in all three zones en route to shutout win.
“Obviously, we feel pretty good, but we know we still have some work in front of us,” said forward David Krejci. “We’re heading in the right direction. We had a good couple of practices before the game in Pittsburgh, got a big win, got a big win last night and had a good practice today, so we’ll try to get three in a row [Saturday].”
With the two straight wins, Boston has certainly seen its confidence grow.
“I think it’s more fun now,” said defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re setting a positive attitude or it just comes from winning, or maybe a little bit of both, but I think it’s definitely a better feeling in the locker room.
“We look energized and everything, so hopefully we can just keep it going.”
Now, the Bruins will attempt to carry over that confidence into Saturday’s matinee at Philadelphia in the hopes of doing something they haven’t done since November: string together three straight wins.
“I think tomorrow’s obviously going to be a little bit tougher game,” Hamilton said. “Just keep focusing on the same things. I think when we’ve got good focus and attention to detail and everything, I think it makes it easier for our team.
“I think when we’re putting the pucks in deep and forechecking hard and limiting turnovers and everything like that, I think we’re more effective. We just have to keep focusing on little things that Claude tells us.”
The Flyers — though they sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division at 16-18-7 — are coming off two straight wins against Ottawa in a shootout and against Washington in overtime. The Bruins know better than to underestimate them because of their record.
“They’ve played some good games; I know they’ve had some tough games,” Julien said. “I look at the roster, and there’s some talent there. I think right now — and you guys get tired of hearing me say that — but right now, my focus has to be on our team and how we’re going to play, not so much what the opponent is going to bring to us, but what we’re going to bring to them.
“I’m doing my homework, obviously, on Philadelphia and where I think we could exploit them, and where we have to be careful of certain strengths. You go with that. But I think right now, the majority of my focus is trying to continue to get this team going in the right direction.”
On Saturday, that will start with a strong effort the second the puck drops. The Bruins victimized themselves by coming out on their heels against the Penguins on Wednesday night, and they rectified that on Thursday. Now, it’s about keeping that going.
“We have to have a good start,” Krejci said. “In Pittsburgh, for the first 10 minutes, they kind of took their play to us, but after that, we regrouped and we played better hockey, and yesterday — 42 shots, and we only allowed them three shots in the first period. So we had a good start.
“[Saturday], the start’s really important, and we’ll go from there.”
Forward Loui Eriksson missed Thursday’s game against New Jersey with an injury to his right hand after taking a slash in the second period of Wednesday’s win over Pittsburgh. Eriksson missed chunks of the second and third periods of Wednesday’s game in addition to all of the overtime.
Eriksson participated in Friday’s practice at the Garden and rotated into drills. After the skate, Julien announced that the winger will be a game-time decision on Saturday.
“[He’s] obviously better than yesterday,” Julien said. “Still questionable for [Saturday]; he still has some swelling there, so we’ll see how he progresses tomorrow and make a decision game-time.”
Line Changes Pay Off
Julien has juggled his lines over the last couple of games, and it has paid off on the score sheet. Milan Lucic started Thursday’s game on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Daniel Paille, and though his first goal of the game came on the power play, there was obvious chemistry on the new-look line.
The trio generated chances throughout the game, and Lucic’s assertiveness seemed to grow with every minute that ticked off the clock. One night after assisting on Bergeron’s overtime game-winner, he finished the night with two goals (one empty-netter) on three shots and a plus-1 rating in 16:41 of ice time.
“I just think [it’s] kind of not doing anything real fancy — it’s just playing that straight-line type of hockey that I can play that’s really effective,” Lucic said on Friday. “That’s kind of gotten my game going in the right direction. I think not just for myself, individually — I think as a team, we’re starting to get things going in the right direction by playing the right way.
“When the whole team is playing the right way, that’s when individuals start having success, so we need to stay focused on what we’ve done to get these last two wins. We talked about [it] in Pittsburgh — it probably wasn’t the prettiest win, but we got it done, and it was something to build off heading into the next game.”
Paille, too, has been a bright spot on that line. He finished Wednesday’s game with Bergeron and Lucic and he started Thursday’s game there, generating chances for himself and his linemates while remaining strong on the forecheck and submitting the kind of solid defensive game Julien expects of him.
“I have a lot of confidence in Dan Paille,” Julien said. “[His] line, a few years back, [was] able to hold the Sedins [in the Stanley Cup Final], for example. They know how to play defense, and Dan knows, and Dan’s a great skater. When you give Dan that responsibility, he takes it to heart. Looch — when he’s on his game, that’s not an issue.
“So I felt I had a real good, reliable line there. They showed that last night. Not an issue. I don’t think Dan Paille’s a weaker defensive player than if we put [Reilly Smith] on the right side, or Looch, when he’s on his game, compared to [Brad Marchand]. So those guys are reliable, and I like to be able to feel like I can rely on a lot of guys in those situations. Not having a last change, that’s certainly another line you can count on as well.”
Paille skated on that same line during Friday’s practice, and though there has been no indication of what Saturday’s lines will look like against Philadelphia, Julien has certainly been pleased with the job Paille has done over the last two games.
“So far, in two games, I think Dan Paille’s done a great job on the right side,” Julien said. “That’s the best he’s skated in the last two games this year. You say, listen, he deserves to be there, so that’s where he is right now.”
Though line changes may have been uncommon on this team in years past, Julien has certainly been willing to switch things up this time around when he has felt like his players needed a change.
“Sometimes — [it’s] not a bad thing, either — guys that have been together for a long time, it does get to a point sometimes where it may be stale,” he said. “So you split them up, put them up for a long time or a short time. That’s where coaches have to use their instinct and maybe reunite them at one point, and maybe keep them separated for a while as well.”
Olympics Coming to Boston?
On Thursday, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Boston as its nominee to host the 2024 Summer Games.
While a final decision won’t be made until 2017, Julien made his preferences clear on Friday.
“Certainly, I think it’s exciting for this city,” he said. “I’ve said that before. I love this city; it’s a great sports city. Every sport that’s here is well-supported, and the fans are great. I think to have the Olympics here, people would realize how great this city is when it comes to sports, and how it embraces everything else.
“I’m wishing the city good luck, and I’d love to see them have it.”
Though there has been some speculation that Boston, given its size, lacks the infrastructure to host such a massive event, Julien disagreed wholeheartedly. After all, he said, Sochi was small, too, and Sochi could handle the 2014 Winter Games.
“The Olympics I went to were based in a small town; they made it work,” he said. “There was a lot of good facilities and everything else. I think the one thing that maybe lacked at the last Olympics was the amount of people coming in because it was so far away. They’re going to pack the Olympics here, with the amount of people in this city, and how close it is to so many other big cities — whether it’s Canadian cities or American cities.
“I think this is a great location, personally, and I think if you’re wondering if this city could handle it — absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind. If they get picked, they’ve got lots of time to prepare.”
Friday’s Practice Lineup
Brad Marchand — David Krejci — David Pastrnak
Milan Lucic — Patrice Bergeron — Daniel Paille
Chris Kelly — Carl Soderberg — Reilly Smith
Jordan Caron — Gregory Campbell — Craig Cunningham
Zdeno Chara — Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg — Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug — Kevan Miller
Extra Forwards: Loui Eriksson, Seth Griffith
Extra Defenseman: Kevan Miller
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg