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Claude Julien, Bruins looking for answers

Boston coach goes 'back to drawing board' mired in four-game losing streak

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- For the first 45 minutes of their scheduled practice Monday, there was no sign of the Boston Bruins. There was just an empty sheet of ice, a silence punctuated every so often by a peal of laughter from someone in the stands. The Bruins, it turned out, were in a long, in-depth team video session, a session that -- they hoped -- might help set them to rights, might help show them their deficiencies, might turn around a season that has lately looked to be in jeopardy.

"Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board," coach Claude Julien said. "We decided that maybe a little eye-opening moment could be what we needed."

It was time. The Bruins are sinking in the standings, having lost their past four games. They have only been able to pull out a single point, from an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings last Wednesday in a game they were twice leading by three goals.

And though the Bruins still stand third in the Atlantic Division, that placement is misleading. The Ottawa Senators, three points ahead, have five games in hand. The Philadelphia Flyers, now holding the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, have the same number of points, but two games in hand. The Toronto Maple Leafs, one point back of the Bruins, have six games in hand.

The Bruins need points. They need results. They need them now. And they know what they need.

"That's commitment," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We shouldn't be, at this level and this time of the season, asking guys to work hard. We've got to make sure that everybody's working hard, everybody's used to being in the lineup and earning a spot. That's a No. 1 priority. You have to compete."

The Bruins hope that will start when they welcome the Red Wings to TD Garden (7 p.m. ET; SN, NESN, FS-D, NHL.TV) on Tuesday for a game Julien called "an opportunity for us to get some sort of revenge."

Revenge is nice, sure. But the Bruins need more than revenge. They need a reboot, a refashioning of what they've become of late. They need to become a team that can put pucks into nets and points on the board.

"We need to score," Julien said. "Enough of the excuses. We need to make it happen."

Entering Monday, the Bruins were 24th in the NHL in goals scored per game (2.42), mired among teams that are near the bottom of the standings. This, while taking the second-most shots per game in the League with 34.1, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (34.7), who rank No. 1 in the NHL in scoring at 3.63 goals per game.

But there are no easy answers there.

"That's probably the only thing we can't do for them," Julien said. "We can't shoot [for] them. Again, I'm not pointing blame for the sake of pointing blame here. … We need to put these players, give them a certain style of play that will create scoring chances.

"Now if the individual is not hitting the net and not scoring, I don't know that we can do much about it. We harp on them, we harp on them to hit the net. We show clips to hit the net. But at one point, responsibilities have to be shared."

And it won't get any easier if Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask continues to deal with the migraine issue that knocked him out of the game against the Penguins on Sunday. Julien said that Rask was seeing doctors Monday, which kept him out of practice. His availability for the game against the Red Wings was unknown.

So that was why they spent Monday watching video, watching the details, watching themselves at the start of the season and now. They saw the corrections that needed to be made, the changes that were within their abilities to make.

They tried to figure out why all those shots were not going in, why shooting percentages are down nearly across the board. The coaching staff told the players to look for space and for tips, and for the times that it makes sense to shoot on the net and the times it makes sense to shoot it wide.

"We've got to find solutions," Julien said. "Guys have to find those solutions. We show them but they've got to find them in the middle of a game. That's all part of work. It's not all on them. We need to work with these guys."

"We're looking through all that stuff," Julien added later. "We're not sitting here saying this is it. We are looking for answers. Whether we have them or not, we're looking for them."

This was not the first video session the Bruins have had, far from it. But this one, Julien said, had to be different. It had to impart a different feeling, a different level of detail, a picking apart of why exactly they are struggling and what exactly they can do about it.

As Julien said, "Desperate times require desperate measures. So that's what we're doing."

The desperation has set in on Causeway Street, as it should. The time for the Bruins is now.

"Absolutely," Chara said. "We need to play with desperation. We know where we're at. We are in a bit of a hole, but it's nothing that we are not capable of getting out of. We just need everybody committed. It's a grind and it's going to be a grind 'til the end. But we have confidence that we can do this together."

Confidence is nice. Commitment is nice. But in the end, results are all that matter.

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