Following the Bruins’ hard-fought shootout loss to the Canadiens last Thursday, head coach Claude Julien showed why so many players respect him and, less directly, why he is the reigning NHL coach of the year.
“Right now, for the last I don’t know how many games, you answer the same questions,” Julien told reporters searching for answers to the team’s offensive woes. “Offensively, you can’t complain about your team. We threw 46 shots on net [against Montreal], and it boils down to the inability to finish around the net. But the bottom line is, we are trying. Whether people believe it or not or like it or not, we are trying.
“I am going to stick behind this group and I will take whatever heat comes my way, but these guys care and are trying.”
Well, Julien’s words did not go unnoticed. Neither did they fall on deaf ears. His players appreciated that he went to bat for them and the way he generally handles things whenever the team hits a rough patch, as they did with their recent 0-2-1 skid.
“We’re usually on the same page in this room and with the coaching staff and there’s a lot of communication back and forth,” forward Shawn Thornton pointed out. “It’s not us against him and him against us. We’re all on the same page and we all want to win.”
Thornton credited Julien for the line of communication he allows between coach and player, even if the discussion is often critical.
“It’s very open-door that way, and we appreciate that as players,” Thornton said. “There’s no gray area, and if we need to be told, he tells us. As a man, you like to be told when you’re not doing something right. And when you’re doing something right, nothing is said and you go about your business.”
Thornton said that the coach’s approach helped the players through their recent stretch of offensive futility, an 0-for-20 run on the power play and a three-game losing streak.
“We all just kept looking at the positives and it worked,” said Thornton. “We looked at the fact that we were playing very well defensively and physically and we were getting chances. So when the chances are coming and you stick with it, eventually they will go in.”
That’s exactly what the Bruins did. Even on nights like last Thursday when the B’s seemed to do everything right except putting the puck in the net, the coaching staff remained encouraging and was successful in keeping the players’ spirits high. The positive outlook and patience paid off in a 4-2 win over Buffalo on Saturday and a 2-for-4 showing on the power play.
“I think it all paid off [Saturday night] and we know we can get through stuff like that,” Thornton said. “There isn’t any doubt here or feeling sorry for ourselves. We battle together, and we win and lose together.”