The Bruins are about to embark on another postseason run, one they hope will have a much happier ending than last year's disastrous collapse against the Flyers in the second round.
By now, no one needs reminding that the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 at the Garden en route to their ignominious end. The only thing more shocking than that defeat may have been the fact that the team didn't make wholesale changes in its wake.
While there have been plenty of personnel tweaks in the 11 months since, the team's leadership remains intact. And with the Bruins set to open their next playoff series Thursday against Montreal, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli stated he never even considered making coach Claude Julien the scapegoat for that collapse.
"I didn't consider making a coaching change," Chiarelli said in a conference call on Monday afternoon. "I felt that there were a lot of variables that were mitigating, so I didn't even consider making a coaching change."
A year later, the Bruins are back in the postseason and in a much better position than the start of last year's playoffs. Chiarelli is happy to have stuck with Julien and pleased with how his coach has developed and adapted his approach this season.
"What I did see this year, as I mentioned earlier is we scored 40 more goals without compromising the defensive side of it," Chiarelli said. "Obviously Tim [Thomas] has helped that. We made a significant change going into the year to generate more speed through the neutral zone. It's called an interchange where the players come a little lower to generate more speed and curl. That was a significant change."
The Bruins entered last year's postseason as the sixth seed in the East. This year they're on the opposite side of a 3-6 opening-round matchup, having earned the third seed as Northeast Division champs. They've gone from dead last in the league in goals in 2009-10 (196/2.39 per game) to fifth this season (244/2.98 per game). At the same time, they actually gave up two fewer goals, ranking second in the league with 189 (2.30 per game).
"I think all coaches get better just as players get better," Chiarelli said. "And I feel that Claude's improved and you see it in a couple things that have happened this year – the goals for, the interchange. I like the job Claude has done this year."
Chiarelli openly campaigned for several Bruins in their quests for individual awards as he discussed why Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron were worthy of Vezina, Norris and Selke consideration respectively during his conference call. Chiarelli didn't get as explicit in promoting Julien for the Jack Adams Trophy, but did offer an endorsement when asked if Julien deserved consideration.
"I think he's had a good year coaching," Chiarelli said. "I tend to stay away from that a little bit, but I think he's done a good [job] coaching and if he's considered for coach of the year I think it would be deserved."