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The Hard Work Will Continue

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Boston, MA – Bruins head coach Claude Julien was smiling and joking during his usually serious postgame press conference. It was if the coach, seeing four days off ahead of him, and a pair of decisive victories over Atlanta behind him, was allowing himself to step back and enjoy the club’s twentieth victory of the season.

The Eastern Conference leading Bruins have won their last eleven games at home and are 8-2-0 in their last ten overall. Boston trails San Jose by just four points for the Presidents’ Trophy – the top point total in the entire NHL.

“We are obviously racking up some pretty important points in the standings with those wins here,” said Julien to the gathered press. “Obviously, establishing the reputation of being hard to beat in your own building (is important).

“I think every team wants that and so far we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”

Previous to the game, Julien had wondered aloud if the tensions that boiled into fisticuffs the night before would bubble up again on Saturday.

“You never know what to expect,” he said. “Obviously, when you play back-to-back, there’s a little bit more tension that was built from the game before, but I don’t necessarily think that just because there were four fights last night, it’s going to be the same.

“I’m not saying it won’t be, but you’ve just got to go out there and play and see how things go.  Last night we took a quick lead, and they tried to respond back by slowing us down and then challenging us physically, and that’s the way the game goes sometimes.”

However, for the Northeast Division leading B’s, a split is not enough and the Bruins took control of the game early as goals by Phil Kessel and Michael Ryder set the tone in the first period.

“As I mentioned last night after the game, it was such a good month of November, and we played such great hockey, that, now, anything below that seems to be unacceptable to us as players, as coaches, as fans, as people following the team," said Julien on Saturday night. “We’ve raised the bar pretty high, and throughout 82 games, unfortunately, that can’t be the case, but I think the thing for us is that every night we’ve got to go out there and see if we can improve ourselves as individuals and as a team, and sometimes it’ll hopefully work in your favor.

“And other times you’ll walk out of the game thinking there’s certain things that need to be worked on,” he said.

There’s no doubt that the Boston coaching staff will find ways to tweak the team after the 7-3 and 4-2 wins over the Thrashers, but there was not much to complain about after the sweep.

“I thought that after last night’s game, where we took that quick four-nothing lead, I knew they were going to come out a lot harder tonight and we had to be ready for that,” said Coach Julien. “They did come out harder (and) I thought they competed a lot harder tonight than they did the night before and they had some great chances and Manny (Fernandez) made some good saves. But overall, I thought our team played even better tonight.

“We were, I guess, a little better without the puck tonight and last night, even if we won or scored seven goals (on Friday), we still gave them a lot of chances in the neutral zone and weren’t quite as tidy as we’ve been in the past. And I thought tonight we did a better job.

“This was, to me, one of those games where we really wanted to establish our presence. We wanted to win every period and try to win every shift. We kind of pushed ourselves to try and be that team because I felt that we had been slipping a little away from that lately.”

The Bruins even survived without center Patrice Bergeron (flu-like symptoms), defenseman Aaron Ward (lower body injury), Marco Sturm and Petteri Nokelainen (both upper body injuries). Martins Karsums, Vladimir Sobotka and Matt Lashoff, late of the Providence Bruins, took their spots in the lineup.

On top of that, Zdeno Chara had to come to the aid of Kessel after the latter was abused by the 6’7 Boris Valabik.

Valabik, a rookie, who also weighs in at 235-pounds, had to take on Boston’s captain – all 6’9, 255-pounds of him – in probably the “biggest” fight in NHL history. Needless to say, Valabik was outclassed and outgunned by the veteran backliner.

Unfortunately, all of that meant that Chara needed to serve a two minute minor, a five minute major and a 10-minute misconduct – the instigator rule in full effect.

“You know, (there’s) no doubt that you don’t lose one of your best defensemen, your captain,” said Julien. “But I think at that stage, at that moment, what was going on, it was the right thing to do.

“(Valabik) was going after our best goal scorer and took some privileges on him and took some cheap shots.

“(There’s) definitely a size difference (between Valabik and Kessel, who is 5’11 and 180-pounds) and Zdeno decided that he was going to step in for his teammate. I thought it was the right thing to do...and playing without him for 17-minutes to me, was for the right reasons.”

These days, the Boston Bruins are expecting to win each game; however the team knows that expectations are met thanks to hard work.

“I think we should expect to win every game,” said Julien. “Whether it happens or not is a different thing…expecting is one thing, but doing the things to win is another.

“That’s kind’ve where we are at right now. Wherever we play we say, ‘We can beat this team, now we’ve gotta go out there and do it.’

“So we expect to win on every night...I know that after the Washington game, the same as we’ve said before, we had a group of guys who didn’t like losing. And that’s what I like to see.”

So much for enjoying the win. The hard work continues at practice on Sunday.
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