But breaking up what had been his most productive line all season still came as a bit of a surprise. How quickly and dramatically the move paid off was even more of a shock.
Julien moved Tyler Seguin off of his usual line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and put the youngster alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci, who slid back to his natural center position after playing the last four games on the wing.
The new combination needed exactly one shift to end Boston’s scoring drought, with Seguin flying down the right wing and feeding the puck out front to Krejci in the slot for a goal 1:13 into play. The trio finished the night with a combined seven points and scored all four goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the Devils at the Garden.
"I don't think so," Julien said when asked if it was difficult breaking up the Bergeron, Seguin and Marchand line, which came into the night first, second and fourth on the team in scoring. "I mean, it was one of those situations where we haven't scored much, and somewhere along the way, you want to try to find a spark. I thought that would be a good one. … Tyler hadn't scored in a while, so it was good to see him get on the board, and Dave went back to his position, so we had some great results from that line. They were good for us."
Krejci was particularly good. After managing just two goals and three points in his previous 15 games, Krejci broke out in a big way. He had the second hat trick of his career, including the game-winner 2:59 into overtime.
"I think he's definitely getting his confidence back when he has the puck on his stick, and that's a huge thing for him when he controls the pace and uses his wingers and is getting into those areas where he can score those goals," Lucic said. "Obviously, it's been kind of an up and down year for David and it’s been frustrating at times for him, but it's great to see him work through it. Looking back, it kind of all started at that St. Louis game where he wasn’t getting the points, but he was playing well so it was good to see him get rewarded tonight."
The St. Louis game on Feb. 22 was Krejci’s first on the wing, playing on a line with Lucic and Chris Kelly, and the change definitely helped Krejci start to snap out of his recent funk, and the new combination Thursday completed the return to form.
"I think it got me [going], I found my legs on the wing," Krejci said. "I got a little more space to skate and I tried to bring that to my role tonight when I was playing center. So it always helps me to play with two speedy guys, Looch and Siggy [Seguin]. And Siggy reminded me a little bit of Horty [Nathan Horton] tonight so, you know, I was really excited before the game and we click well together so hopefully we can keep it going next game."
While the move to wing was never intended as a permanent switch for the natural center, Julien did agree that the temporary shift benefited both Krejci and the team.
"Some of those things do help," Julien said. "He seemed to get his game going in the right direction, and now you put him back where he belongs, and he just excelled at that tonight. Again, he’s a player that we rely on a lot. We feel that he’s one of our top players, and when he produces the way he did tonight, there’s no doubt our team is much better."
Knowing when to shake things up and finding the right combinations makes the Bruins a much better team as well, and Julien has shown a knack for doing just that.
"He’s had me for a long time, so he knows how to work with me," Krejci said. "The core of the team has been here for a long time so he knows us pretty well and can sense if you can play well together. He tried it tonight and it worked. Hopefully we can keep it going."
While Krejci wasn't surprised that Julien knew the right buttons to push to snap the club out of its slump, he was a little shocked at just how quickly the new line clicked.
"You never think you're going to score a goal on the first shift," Krejci said. "It was a great start for our line and for our team. But one game doesn’t make a season. There’s 20 games left and we’ve got to keep it going."