Coaches' moves have been scrutinized at every turn
Not long after Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo skated off the ice last Monday night, the questions began pouring in for Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.
The Canucks had just lost Game 3, 8-1, and everyone wanted to know: How could Vigneault leave Luongo in net for all 60 minutes, especially after he finished the night allowing eight goals on 38 shots? Did he think about pulling him after the fifth goal? How about the sixth?
Yet, Vigneault sat at the podium in front of a horde of reporters at TD Garden and calmly stated his reasoning.
"At 5-1, I asked him what he wanted to do," the coach said. "He said, 'Don't even think about taking me out.' So that's what I did."
In the Stanley Cup Final, every coaching move -- every line change, every lineup switch, every decision to keep a goalie in or pull him out -- is put under a microscope.
Vigneault and Bruins coach Claude Julien have already faced plenty of predicaments through the first four games of the Final. Some decisions have generated positive results, others have not. However there is one common thread through every move the coaches have made: They've stood by their choice, no matter what.
"I don't hear [the criticism]. I really don't," Julien said. "I stay away from that stuff. I need to come to the rink with a clear head. I discuss obviously all the stuff that's done. It's not just about me. It's a coaching staff, management and stuff like that."
Throughout the playoffs, Julien's critics have been vocal. They've dissected everything from his reluctance to play rookie Tyler Seguin to the team's anemic power play.
Yet in the Final, Julien seems to be getting everything right -- at least as far as Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli is concerned.
"Everything is magnified in the Finals," Chiarelli told the New England Cable News. "But I have confidence in our coach and I have confidence in my players. Those guys have been battling and that's a testament to the team."
In Game 3, Julien inserted rugged forward Shawn Thornton into the lineup. Thornton added energy and the Bruins -- then down 2-0 in the series -- won an emotional game, 8-1.
In Game 4, Julien put versatile forward Rich Peverley on the Bruins' top line to replace Nathan Horton, and he scored twice in a 4-0 win that evened the series.
"[Julien] is doing a good job, and the players are playing too," Chiarelli said. "This is a collective thing. I'll give credit to Claude for mixing and matching, but the players are also doing terrific in accepting the roles that they're being placed in."
Things haven't been as clear-cut for Vigneault. The coach stuck with Luongo for Game 4, but ended up having to pull his goaltender early in the third period when he surrendered four goals on 20 shots.
Afterward, Vigneault insisted Luongo will be back in net for Game 5.
Meanwhile Vigneault has had to work around a depleted defensive corps. Dan Hamhuis hasn't played since Game 1 with a lower-body injury while Aaron Rome was suspended for his hit on Nathan Horton in Game 3 and won't return for the rest of the series.
Vigneault hasn't quite found the combination he likes just yet. He inserted Keith Ballard into the lineup for Game 4; however, the defenseman finished the night with a minus-2 rating. It seems Vigneault will opt for Chris Tanev to replace Ballard in Game 5.
On Thursday, Vigneault was faced with the question: Based on the way the last two games played out, does he feel like he's done everything he can as a coach to turn things around for his team?
"This is the hardest thing professionally any one of us has ever done," Vigneault said. "It's a tough trophy to win and Boston is trying real hard to win it. And we're trying real hard to win it."