BostonBruins.com – We’re just hours away from puck drop on the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and to say Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien is focused is an understatement.
|Boston Bruins' head coach Claude Julien, center, talks to his players during hockey practice in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. The Bruins face the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the NHL Stanley Cup final on Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
He’s taken the Bruins to the Final for the first time in over two decades, and he’s not about to let his concentration slip as the opening seconds draw closer and closer.
“This is a great place to be right now and we’re excited to play our first game. There’s been a lot of build-up around it, but what matters and what counts is what’s going to happen on the ice tonight,” Julien said.
The Bruins enter the series against the President Trophy Canucks as the underdogs. Finishing the season seventh in the league and muscling their way through their opening three series, the Bruins have had to battle to get where the stand today. The team doesn’t have any plans to give up the battle now.
“All I know is that we’re here in the Stanley Cup Finals because we deserve it. We’ve gone through a lot to get to this stage, and because of that we’ve got some, a lot of resiliency in our game and a lot of determination,” said Julien.
“At this stage, somebody’s got to be a favorite, somebody’s got to be an underdog.”
There are some adjustments the team has had to make. Playing against the Western Conference, they were bound to face a team they don’t see often, but the travel to Vancouver takes a toll on everybody. Six-hour flights mixed in with a three-hour time change and 5 o’clock start times all require adjustments of the players.
Julien is confident his players have made the proper adjustments and doesn’t see any lingering issues amongst his team.
“I don’t think it’s much different than afternoon games we played throughout the season, so it really doesn’t change much for us. It’s basically an eight o’clock game if we’re in our time zone. But we’ve been used to these afternoon games,” he said. “We’ve played them all year long. So I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all. “
Julien is a patient coach, open to communication with his players. He often brings players in for one-on-one conversations and develops strong bonds with his skaters. With his team about to embark on the most important series of his career, Julien has processed and thought about what he has been saying to the guys over the last couple of games.
“It’s been kind of a build-up. You don’t want to throw too much at them all at once. I think we’ve kind of worked our way through this in our preparation. And that fact of enjoying it goes without saying,” Julien said.
Enjoying the process is not only good for the players’ mental performance, but it also translates to on ice production. Smiles are contagious and so is scoring.
“It’s something that you want to cherish the rest of your life and you’ve got an opportunity here to chose how you’re going to cherish it, with a Stanley Cup win or being second fiddle,” said Julien.
“So this is up to us.”