- When the Bruins arrived at TD Garden for practice Sunday morning, following a 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto Saturday night, a few of the players found a different color scheme of jerseys in their stalls.
Looking for a spark from his team, Coach Julien switched up the lines for practice, with Brad Marchand skating with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, Daniel Paille alongside Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic on a line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron.
Following the practice, when asked why he switched up the lines, Coach simply said, "Because I can. Because I'm the coach. And every once in a while, you've got to do those things. Simple as that."
"Well, we've scored six goals in the last four games," he added. "So I think it's time for a shake-up."
Here were the lines and corresponding jerseys:
The only B's not on the ice were Johnny Boychuk (out day-to-day), Adam McQuaid (3-4 weeks, shoulder strain) and Chris Kelly (out indefinitely, broken left tibia).
The last stretch of games in this compact, shortened season hasn't been so easy for the Bruins, so coming off a road trip where the B's went 1-3, Coach Julien decided to start out practice with a light game of keep away, maybe to remind his team just how much fun the game can be. The only catch - left-handed players switched sticks with the right-handed players - oh, and if you have the puck, both hands have to be on your stick.
A simple game, and it brought out a lot of laughs and smiles from a team that has had to fight for their limited amount of points in the month of March.
"Yeah, we go through this every year," Coach Julien told media, on the grind even in a a regular season, when 82 games are not all that spread out. "It does weigh on guys eventually."
"We just thought we'd start off with a bit of a fun thing, loosen up the guys, put some smiles on their faces, then get a good practice out of it."
Coming off the 3-2 loss to Toronto, and the tough swing through Canada, the B's were happy for the quick switch, prior to getting into a tough workout.
"I think everyone, obviously, is a little disappointed with that last road trip," Daniel Paille said following practice. "We had a little fun there to kind of lighten the mood again and bring some fun back. Hopefully, it could really help us for tomorrow night."
"Yeah, exactly, trying to have fun with it," Patrice Bergeron said on the fun start to practice, before quipping, "I think I'll stay righty, though."
"Yeah, it was fun. I guess it put a smile on our faces for a bit, and try to relax and enjoy it."
"It's part of it," said Bergeron, when asked if relaxing and maybe not gripping their sticks so tight would help ease the pressure. "We need to make sure we have confidence in making plays. We're good players. We know we can do the job. It's just about bringing confidence in it."
Adjusting to Line Changes
While Bergeron's line with Marchand and Seguin, and the Merlot Line are two of the B's lines who have been together for some time and generating a great deal of chemistry alongside one another, they know that the switch-up in practice is to try and get the team going.
"Right now, we're struggling to score and I think he [Coach] just wanted to see a change for a little bit and just try to get guys to refresh their minds," said Paille, on joining Bergeron and Seguin in the gold jersey Sunday. "Maybe something to start kicking it up and get some goals. Right now, we'll play it how it is and see how everything goes for tomorrow."
"I think that we all need to step up."
For Bergeron, it may be tough not playing alongside a winger like Marchand he's played with all season, but the alternate captain knows whatever the lines end up tomorrow night and in the coming days, it's for the betterment of the team.
"We need a spark," said Bergeron, before adding later in the media scrum, "There's nothing you can do. It's about doing it for the team."
With the addition of Paille to his left wing, No. 37 knows that the wheels won't be lacking.
"He brings a lot of speed," Bergeron said of Paille. "He's a smart guy with the puck, and defensively he's very sound. A lot of things that can help our line and we just need to find some chemistry together."
With Paille in Marchand's place, the pesky winger was donning the white jersey with Krejci, who also commented on Coach's change-up Sunday.
"We lost three out of four games, so change it up a little bit," said Krejci. "Hopefully that's going to help. I think we looked good out there this morning. Obviously we don't get much chemistry with Marchand, or Looch with the other line, or Paille with Bergie's line. But I thought we looked pretty good this morning."
"It's a little bit different, but he's a speedy guy. He's very fast. He shoots the puck well," said Krejci on Marchand being added tot his wing. "It shouldn't be too different. I'm kind of excited of how we're going to respond as a line and as a team tomorrow night."
And for a versatile B's roster, whether these lines are the ones that stick or not, the players are comfortable with whichever combinations Coach chooses.
"We've done it a couple of times this year. Maybe just for a period or one game or something," said Krejci, referencing the times throughout games Coach has switched up lines, like in the 2-1 over Montreal back on February 6, where adding Tyler Seguin alongside Krejci and Lucic led to two quick strikes - and the win.
"Like I said, we're kind of struggling right now and we need to start winning games and get some points in the standings. Coach feels that we need to change. Hopefully we'll come out strong tomorrow."
"We're trying to do what's best for the team, and if this is for the best, I'm all for it."
Getting Through The Grind
Every team is starting to feel the grind of the compact season, and the Bruins are no different.
"Again guys, I'm not trying to make excuses, but it's a lot of hockey here," Coach Julien told media Sunday following practice, on how tough the every-other-night games have been on the team. "We've been on the road for a week and every second day, and every team in the league is doing the same thing. I don't think there's anybody that's really going out there and is not affected by this kind of a schedule.
"We're no different, we've hit a patch there where it's tough."
Paille also commented on the schedule, and how now it becomes even more important to try and take it day by day and game by game.
"Right now, I think it's definitely tough on our bodies," said Paille. "I think we talked about it before. It's just not trying to look at the big picture, and just trying to look at the one game that we have ahead of. I know for myself, I'm trying to focus more on that and I feel a lot better."
When the Black & Gold are playing three and four games a week, the nature of the game makes it harder to recover, and it has definitely taken on a playoff-type feel in terms of the grind. As a result, Coach Julien has been trying to balance rest with staying sharp in practice.
"It's about approaching it a game at a time. You can't look too far ahead," said Bergeron. "We know the schedule is pretty busy, but at the same time we're not the only team in the league. We got to battle through it."
"I think even when we aren't winning games in the past, we've had a lot of it," he said, on getting the team's compete level back to a high level. "It wasn't a successful road trip, obviously. We have to be better in all aspects of the game, so that's also one of them. It's about tightening our game everywhere."