BOSTON — It was only one loss, but given the head coach’s track record, thoughts of another all-time historic meltdown started to creep into the minds of fans and pundits alike. It is, of course, absurd to think that a team with a 3-0 series lead is doomed after that series lead becomes 3-1, but not all teams have blown 3-0 series leads before.
The Bruins under Claude Julien, however, are one of those teams. Despite some pretty good success in Julien’s time in Boston that included a Stanley Cup just two seasons ago, the memory of that collapse in 2010 is still fairly vivid. Given the fact that the Bruins were pushed to seven games in their first-round series with Toronto after holding a 3-1 series lead, the anxiety is almost understandable.
That’s life as the head coach of the Bruins, and it will likely be that way for as long as Julien is behind the home team’s bench at TD Garden. However, Julien embraces the pressure and welcomes it. Pressure to win, is a good thing, he says, and it speaks to the passion of a rich sports city like Boston.
“When it comes to that stuff, I know what Boston is all about,” Julien candidly said after his club’s Game 5 win over the Rangers. “They like their championship teams. They want to win every year. It’s a very demanding place, but at the same time, it’s a place where you wanna be. I enjoy it here. If it means taking some criticism, there’s no problem there. That comes with the territory. “
Julien’s adversary in the second round, New York coach John Tortorella, is no stranger to taking a beating in the media. In just a couple of days in Boston during the season, Tortorella was exposed to the scrutiny that Julien is constantly under from the fans and the media, and it left the Rangers boss perplexed.
“I can’t believe some of the people and how they second-guess him,” Tortorella said moments after his team’s season ended Saturday night. “Just being in the city for a few days … the type of job that he’s done here. That’s a good team, and they’re very well-coached. They’re seasoned and they’ve been through it before. I give them a lot of credit and what they’ve done with their club. They’re a good hockey team.”
Even so, there’s still going to be criticism of Julien moving forward, and whether it’s fair or not, that criticism will probably come sooner than later.
“As a coach, you do what you have to do and take the criticism that comes with it,” Julien continued. “The one thing you don’t do is dwell on that stuff and you try to avoid it. I know it’s out there. But the biggest thing I do right now is stay away from that stuff and really focus on my job. I know for a fact that when you win around here you can’t ask for a better place. I’d rather be in a city that’s demanding and loves their team and their sports than being somewhere where nobody cares, so I’m willing to live with that.”
It’s really tough to argue with the results, though. The Bruins have reached the playoffs in each of Julien’s six seasons. In just the last three seasons they have a Stanley Cup and now a trip to the conference finals. Even the most demanding of fans and media can admit that’s pretty darn impressive.