He knows what is at stake. The players know what is at stake. At this stage, all they can do is execute, and then hope for the best.
“We know we’re playing against a great team, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against; it’s what you have to do,” Julien said following Boston’s pregame skate at Amalie Arena on Saturday morning. “You have to get the result. You have to have a win. It’s about winning a hockey game, and you have to be able to go out there and not be tight, and play with energy.
“That’s the challenge for us tonight, is not to be tight and have the energy that you need in order to succeed. If we can accomplish that, I think we’re going to give ourselves a good chance.”
The Bruins could be playing scared on Saturday night in the regular-season finale against the Lightning. They could be playing tight, knowing that their chances of extending the season further are nil if they fail to get two points.
But what good would that do them at this stage? Their only option is to strike a balance between playing loose and playing with intensity, and above all, to execute the game plan.
“Obviously, it's not the situation we want to be in, but still, some good things can happen, and if things happen the way they can for us, our mindset is, we've got to win a hockey game tonight,” said forward Milan Lucic. “We know how to play in order to have success, and we've got to bring that here tonight, and hope that things go our way.”
Leading up to their most recent game — a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Panthers on Thursday night — the Bruins repeated over and over that they were not paying attention to what other teams around the league were doing. They weren’t focusing on Ottawa, or Pittsburgh, or anyone else.
Now, they do not have that luxury. Now, they have to pay attention. In order to make it into the postseason, the Bruins are going to need some help from the teams facing off against the Senators and the Penguins on Saturday, and they know that.
“We have to take that mentality into tonight, that there's still a lot on the line and we need to win a hockey game in order to hopefully end up in the playoff picture,” Lucic said. "But obviously, some things have to happen, and [it’s] not the situation we want to be in. But again, some good things can happen.
“Obviously things happen; we always have to do things the hard way, and here's one of these situations again.”
That’s why the Bruins could derive a little bit of energy, a little bit of hope, out of Pittsburgh’s loss to the Islanders on Friday night. That result means that no matter what happens on Saturday afternoon — whether or not the Senators win in their matinee at Philadelphia — the Bruins will still be playing for something when the puck drops at Amalie Arena at 7:30 p.m.
“I think the biggest thing about last night’s results is that no matter what, you know you’re playing for something tonight,” Julien said. “Had that not been the case...maybe the game would have had no bearing, the outcome would have had no bearing on that situation.
“So I think it’s great that we have that opportunity, and like I said, when we controlled our own destiny, it was great. Now, we don’t, but what we can control is our game tonight to give ourselves a chance, and I guess at this point, you couldn’t ask for better.”
Added forward David Krejci, “Unfortunately we had to watch the game last night, and that game gave us a little help. So no matter what happens this afternoon with the Ottawa game, then we’re still playing for something tonight. So that’s obviously good, and we need two points.”
The Bruins do not have much control right now, except over two factors: Their will to win on the ice on Saturday night, and their perspective on Saturday’s game. Coming off of a crushing defeat on Thursday — a defeat that knocked them out of a playoff position for the first time in nearly two weeks — they could be downtrodden. They could be defeated. They could be hopeless.
But they are choosing not to be, because being energized is the only option they have left. Embracing the opportunity in front of them is the only option they have left. They are channeling every ounce of energy that remains in the wake of a long 82-game season into being excited to lay it all on the line.
“I think we are all excited to be in this position,” said captain Zdeno Chara. “I mean, I know it sounds maybe not as obvious, but it's such an important game, and these are the games and times that you will always remember, when you're playing for so much.
“These are the games that you want to enjoy, and make sure you do whatever you can and leave everything out there.”
There is no time to focus on what could happen if they lose this game. There is no time to even contemplate a loss.
It’s about finding a will and a way, and then hoping for the best.
“The big thing is we’ve got to worry about what we can control, and that’s having a big game tonight,” said forward Brad Marchand. “And hopefully, the stars align for us.”