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Five Questions: Julien on challenges, facing adversity

by Dan Rosen periodically will be doing a series called "Five Questions With …," a Q&A with some of the key movers and shakers in the game today aimed at gaining some insight into their lives and careers.

This edition features Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien:

While maintaining a steady pace to stay ready for the start of the NHL season, Boston coach Claude Julien also has kept close tabs on what is happening throughout the Bruins organization.

As he prepares for a one-day stint coaching a local youth team, Bruins coach Claude Julien reflects on some of the challenges he's faced and the adversity he's overcome in his career. (Photo: Getty Images)

He has traveled the short distance to Providence, R.I., to check out the Bruins' American Hockey League team, the Providence Bruins. Julien went on a scouting trip with Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli to see some of the Bruins' junior-hockey prospects. He continues to show up to the office at least four days a week to work out and go over strategies they plan to implement when the players return.

And Sunday, Julien who has won a Memorial Cup and a Stanley Cup, will get a chance to keep his coaching chops fresh by getting back behind the bench to lead a local youth team that won his services as part of a charity raffle drive to benefit the Boston Bruins Foundation and minor hockey programs in the area.

Julien's one-day job as coach of the Winthrop, Mass., Squirt B team was not the reason approached him for this Q&A, but it's as good a place to start as any.

Here are Five Questions With … Claude Julien:

Did you ever think the day would come that your coaching skills would be raffled off for charity?

"Well, I don't think it ever crossed my mind, but certainly in this situation I'm glad it did. It is something that can certainly benefit a lot of people, and certainly the kids that won the raffle. There was some good money raised for minor hockey and our foundation. So I can't say I did, but I'm happy it has happened at this time."

What has been the greatest challenge of your coaching career, and it could go all the way back to your junior days?

"There are two things that stick out and one of them is exactly what you said, in my junior days. After we had won the Memorial Cup with the Hull Olympiques [in 1997], the next year we only had three returning players and those guys were almost extras the year before, and we also had given up a lot of our draft picks to build our team to win the Cup. We had to go out and grab a bunch of guys that had been released from other teams and we were able to build a team and somehow we made the playoffs. I thought that was a challenge in itself. The year after, we ended up with 17 rookies and made it to the seventh game of the finals. Those two years combined are pretty special to me.


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"When it comes to the pro level, I still talk about the first year I came to Boston [2007-08]. We were trying to get this team back on track. We lost Patrice Bergeron in the beginning of the season with that concussion, but we managed to make the playoffs and took Montreal to Game 7 after they finished first in the conference. Those kind of underdog teams, with players that are more of the grinding, hard-working types, when you can get teams like that and make them believe they can accomplish something -- that makes me real happy."

You've been fired twice since you got to the NHL, first by Montreal and then by New Jersey. Can you explain what those days and the aftermath of those days are like?

"I guess the Montreal one, as I often mention, I think I got caught off-guard there. I wasn't really expecting it. This had been the first time I had ever been fired in my whole coaching career, so you're caught off-guard, not quite sure how to deal with it. But I was fortunate enough to get a call shortly after, while the [2006] Olympics were going on, and there was some interest right away in me getting back in the League. That was a blessing in disguise that I was at least able to sit back and watch the rest of the year knowing I had the opportunity to get back in the NHL. That's the biggest fear: 'Am I going to get a second opportunity?'

"I did and it didn't quite work out the way I would have liked it to, but we had 103 points, a first-place team and I still feel I brought the team to the level that it had belonged. At the same time, there was more expected of me. So you're fired a second time, but I've been lucky in a way that when I have been released the phone has rang shortly after, so there wasn't much time to dwell and think about what could happen next."

Take us into a rivalry, Boston-Vancouver: Is there really as much hatred as we think there is?

"No doubt. No doubt there is. And it's basically just because of the rivalry and what was at stake. Before the Stanley Cup Final we would play Vancouver once or twice a year and they were games that were well-played and respectful, but there was a lot of stuff that happened in that Final that couldn't help but create more animosity and it carried over. You saw last year when Vancouver came to Boston they were a determined team, trying to prove they were capable of beating us at home. They came in with vengeance and did a great job. It was a good game. I remember the unfortunate part when Milan Lucic got kicked out when he shouldn't have been, but that's where the animosity is and that's where it started.

"They've become big-time rivals and it just adds to the flavor of this game. You want to create some attention and some interest, and that's what we've done. They circle us [on the calendar], we circle them."
-- Claude Julien on the growing rivalry between the Bruins and Canucks

"I think it will last too. I've put myself in Vancouver's shoes. When you look at everything you have to go through during a season and everything you have to do to make it to the Final, then you make it to Game 7, you're at home and after it you're left empty-handed -- I know how I would have felt if I was on the other side. I understand their side of it.

"I get excited playing Vancouver now much more than I did before. They've become big-time rivals and it just adds to the flavor of this game. You want to create some attention and some interest, and that's what we've done. They circle us [on the calendar], we circle them."

A coaching philosophy question: You're on the road, up a goal in the middle of the third period -- do you go for it or play it safe?

"I tell our players, and my players will attest to it, I don't ever want to see our team playing on its heels. Do you tell them make sure we have a forward that is ready to come back and help? Yes. But I do not want to dump the puck in and sit back and wait. I want to forecheck, create a turnover. For me it's about creating a lead and then extending that lead.

"If we're up one goal, our goal is to extend that lead. You just can't play on your heels. Now, late in the game you can't force plays in the neutral zone either. When you dump it in, I want guys forechecking with a purpose and the purpose is to get that puck back. If we're up by one goal I still want us to attack, but I don't want us to get sloppy in the neutral zone. Chip it, dump it in, but go after it and let's see if we can score another goal."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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