|Boston Bruins' Phil Kessel, left, celebrates his first-period goal, in front of Tampa Bay Lightning's Jeff Halpern during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) |
It was a calmer Claude Julien who met with the media after the Bruins 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night.
And while Boston’s head coach was disappointed with the results, he did feel that his club had brought a good effort with them to HockeyBay.
“Absolutely – I think the only two things that I am disappointed in are, obviously, the outcome and the other thing is that we took some bad penalties,” said Julien. “If the effort is like that, night after night, we’re going to be able to get back on track.
“That’s what we are looking for.”
The trip was a sobering one for the Bruins. After a 1-3-1 record on their southern swing, the B’s stand one behind the San Jose Sharks for the overall league lead in points with 88, and their lead in the Eastern Conference is down to seven points thanks to the Washington Capitals 7-2-1 record over the last ten games.
But Julien was looking at the positives.
“If anything, it was a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the outcome wasn’t what we wanted,” he said.
Julien explained that his club had competed hard from the drop of the puck through the final horn and said that the Bruins were the better team on the ice, but Tampa Bay goaltender Karri Ramo had made key saves -- 40 of them, in fact.
“We got ourselves in trouble with some bad penalties,” said Julien. “That ended coming to bite us.”
Tampa Bay, who currently reside in the 28th spot in the 30 team NHL, played very, very well.
“They certainly didn’t play [like a low ranked team],” said Julien. “But you just have to look at the guys that they have up front – there’s a lot of firepower there and I thought they competed really hard tonight.
“I don’t know it if it was their best game in a while, but they certainly played us hard.”
But the Bruins were ready to play, as well.
“That made for a pretty intense game,” said Julien.
Speaking of intense, Julien spoke about Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
and the things he brought to the ice.
“It’s tough to pinpoint one guy, because I didn’t think there were too many guys who didn’t pull their load, but he’s the guy playing against [Vincent] Lecavalier’s line all night long and he continued to do the job,” said the Bruins head coach. “The message was clear that we needed to pick up our game and he picked it up as well.”
Because of the young winger’s attention to detail and obvious uptick in his physical play, much attention was also focused on Phil Kessel, who snapped a 14-game goalless streak on Sunday. However, Julien could have been speaking about his entire team when he explained the difference between Kessel on a great night and Kessel on a bad night.
“When Phil plays like that he’s a great player,” said Julien. “When he doesn’t play like that, it takes away a lot of his opportunities and he’s half the player that he can be.
“You want to build some consistency and have him compete like that every night.
“I thought he did a pretty good job of that in the first half of the season and the last month he had slipped quite a bit,” he said.
Speaking of the club as a whole, Julien said that the most encouraging factor associated with Sunday was the B’s level of competitiveness.
“We saw our team compete better than we have in a long time,” said the head coach. “I thought our game had slipped for at least a month now and if anything I thought that was one of our better games.”
But the work continues – on Tuesday – when the Bruins return to the TD Banknorth Garden following a day off on Monday.
“We’ve got to work our way back to where we were,” said Julien. “It took us a month to really slip and it’s probably going to take a month to get back to where we want to bet.
“But we’ve got to take [another] step in the right direction in the next game by giving the same kind of effort.”