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The Boston Bruins Stand Together

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Wilmington, MA -- Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien seemed to enjoy his regular post practice press gathering at Ristuccia Arena a little more on Friday afternoon -- the day after his club played a full "60 minute" game and announced their playoff intentions with serious authority with a punishing 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But what seemed to please Julien most, was his being able to describe the relative breakdown of distinctions between the players on his roster. No longer rookies and veterans, forwards and defensemen, or superstars and skaters, it is clear his team has gelled and 22-odd hockey players can now be simply called The Bruins.

"In the second half of the year," explained Julien, "I want the players to have the mentality that we are all one.

"And I think our veterans have done a great job of making that happen."

Case in point Vladimir Sobotka -- the youngster had one scary shift yesterday, played through pain for the rest of the game, and showed up ready to go Friday morning.

"He blocked two shots on his foot, he had another slash on his forearm and he really put himself on the line there in the third period," said Coach. "I guess that's what I like about our team -- everybody seems to be recognizing everyone's contribution.

"And that's why [Sobotka] ended up with that hat yesterday."

The "hat" is the white hardhat that has been passed around the locker room signifying the wearer's lack of regard for life and limb, and their willingness to go to the "dirty areas" in the corners and in front of the opposition's net.

Thus far, a diverse collection of Bruins have been awarded the hardhat (a tradition created by veteran sniper Glen Murray) by their teammates (in the form of the previous winner):

February 19th at Carolina: Milan Lucic
February 21st at Florida: Marco Sturm
February 23rd at Tampa Bay: P.J. Axelsson
February 26th vs. Ottawa: Shawn Thornton
February 28th vs. Pittsburgh: Vladimir Sobotka

You'll notice that the club is 5-0-0 over that stretch.

Channeling Bruins successful Bruins coaches since 1924, Julien said, "[On the Bruins] guys are recognized, not just for scoring goals, but also for doing little things."

Those "little things" are actually pretty big as is the desire to remain in the lineup.

"I think that we have a situation right here, where guys do not want to give up their spots," added Coach, no doubt in reference to the two or three skaters who watch from the press box each night, waiting for their chance to make a difference.

At 34-23-6 there is no doubt that the B's have a sincere chance, not only at the playoffs, but also to garner home ice in those playoffs.

Immediately following the game on Thursday, Julien was asked what had propelled the team, which had worked hard to shed the underachieving stigma of the 2006-07, to new heights as the 2007-08 season waned.

"I don't know if it is anything in particular, as far as our winning hockey games," said the Bruins bench boss. "The guys have pulled together and we're definitely playing with some emotion.

"We're playing with some purpose.

"And anytime you respect the game plan, work towards it…and remind each other of certain things…it's a good sign," Julien said.

It's been said often, but the "non-trade" at the trade deadline might have been the final "piece" to the puzzle.

"I said that the other day, after the trade deadline, that these guys are happy in the dressing room to remain together," agreed Julien. "They are a close knit group and, I think right now, they have the opportunity to prove to everybody in the organization that they made the right decision."

"We are doing all the little things right now," said uber-playmaker Marc Savard earlier this week. "And it's proven in our play right now. It's an amazing feeling when the ball gets rolling.

"It's a lot of fun.

"It's like we've just taken off even further than when we were playing [so well] on the road…I think the guys are just loving it."

So is most of New England, for that matter.
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