Bruins: Claude Julien

Takeaways from B's OT win at Pittsburgh

January, 7, 2015
Jan 7
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The Boston Bruins actually won a game in overtime, posting a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

Patrice Bergeron scored a pair of goals, including the winning tally in OT. With the victory, the Bruins are 5-2-5 in their past 12 games.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask turned in a solid performance with 37 saves. While the Penguins outshot the Bruins 39-24, Rask made many timely saves to keep Boston in the game.

This was a character win for the Bruins given that CEO Charlie Jacobs lambasted the entire organization on Tuesday, calling this season "unacceptable."

Gun powder: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara scored only his third goal of the season when his slap shot beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at one at 17:57 of the first period. It was Chara's first goal since Oct. 18 at Buffalo. He did miss a stretch of 19 games with a knee injury, but he's been back in the lineup for 13 games and hadn't found the back of the net before Wednesday. His goal was similar to his most recent one against the Sabres. After that game on Oct. 18, Chara said there's no better feeling than scoring a goal after you step into a shot, and no one can do it like Chara. He admitted earlier this week that he's still not 100 percent.

Changing on the fly: Bruins coach Claude Julien changed his line combinations and shortened his bench as the game progressed. I really liked the line of Milan Lucic, Bergeron and Daniel Paille. Having two hard-working players in Bergeron and Paille can only help get Lucic going, which it did. Lucic played well and assisted on Bergeron's OT goal. Julien also went with Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Reilly Smith as a line, which also worked.

Hold the Pasta: Rookie David Pastrnak was a healthy scratch against the Penguins. The 18-year-old forward was recalled Tuesday from Providence of the AHL. After the team's practice Tuesday and before it traveled to Pittsburgh, Julien said he would talk with general manager Peter Chiarelli about Pastrnak's availability for Wednesday's game because he recently returned from representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship and played five games in eight days. He also played for the P-Bruins on Sunday. It's likely Pastrnak will be in the lineup Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden.

Bruins bounce back, show good side

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
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BOSTON -- On the road to the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien described his team as "Jekyll and Hyde."

That comment took on a life of its own that spring, one the players disliked, and the coach probably wished he never said it. Even now, a couple of seasons later, the mere mention of it as it applies to this year's team causes Bruins assistant captain Chris Kelly to roll his eyes.

"It is a pretty good analogy but one you definitely don't want," Kelly said Monday night after Boston's 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. "You want to be known as a good, consistent team that plays hard and plays the right way every game."

Monday's solid effort by Boston followed one of the team's worst of the season, a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Against the Red Wings, the Bruins provided a 60-minute effort and received contributions throughout the lineup.

Boston created pressure in front of Detroit's net, while also getting contributions from the back end. Overall, the Bruins generated 45 shots, including 20 from defensemen.

At times it's tough to figure out exactly how good, or bad, the Bruins are this season.

Kelly said the way the team has played for the majority of the season has been disheartening. He understands why the coaching staff is frustrated and angry with the players for their up-and-down performances.

How can the Bruins play so well one game but look like a below-average team the next?

[+] EnlargeChris Kelly
AP Photo/Charles KrupaChris Kelly hopes the Bruins can build some momentum and shake the Jekyll and Hyde label.
The Jekyll and Hyde team of 2013 played extremely well for longer stretches but would follow with a few subpar performances. The winning streaks came more often than the bad ones, but that's not the case this season.

"Our consistency hasn't been nearly what it was the Jekyll and Hyde year," Kelly said. "We were a better team that year than we've proven so far [this year]. That's not to say we're not a great hockey team, but the standings don't show that.

"If we play the way we played tonight consistently, we give ourselves a very good chance of moving up in the standings. We're in the situation we're in because of us, and the only way to get out of it is us. We've got to play more hockey games like we played tonight."

Now, with 37 games in the books and their playoff status still in question, the Bruins need a major push the rest of the way in order to secure a postseason spot.

The frustrating part is the Bruins can play like they did against the Red Wings one night, then totally implode the next game. Players around the room after Monday's win talked about the importance of being focused, which began with Sunday's practice and followed through against Detroit.

It was also important for the Bruins to produce such a performance without the services of Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, both of whom were sidelined with undisclosed injuries and are listed as day-to-day.

Boston will need more efforts like the one it gave against the Red Wings. Another identity test comes Wednesday, when the Bruins host the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are only two points ahead of Boston in the Atlantic Division.

"We played a pretty good 60 minutes, but we've done this before in the season and we followed up with a bad game," Bruins assistant captain David Krejci said. "We have to realize that and regroup tomorrow, have a good practice and make sure we're ready for Toronto."

Excuses aside, it's no secret the Bruins have dealt with injuries to key players all season. Lineup changes have become the norm. On Monday, the team’s fourth line consisted of three players who have spent time in Providence this season. Goaltender Tuukka Rask was sharp and finished with 28 saves. Boston's PK unit went 1-for-4 against Detroit's high-octane power play. The Bruins capitalized on their one power-play opportunity.

The line of Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson combined for six points. Krejci centering Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand for the first time worked well, too.

Overall, Julien was pleased with the team's determination and commitment from start to finish.

"This is one of hopefully many, and we need to understand that this is how we have to play to be successful," he said.

After the game, Kelly mentioned there were no Rudy Ruettiger speeches made before the game. No one was screaming and yelling about recovering from Saturday's ugly loss. And when asked about the Jekyll and Hyde description, Kelly said, "I'd much rather never answer that question again and just be known as a good hockey team that shows up to work every night."

It remains to be seen if that description sticks.
BOSTON -- Sometimes, one injury can derail a player's career.

For someone such as Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, missing 19 consecutive games due to a torn ligament in his left knee was foreign to him.

Until he suffered this injury against the New York Islanders on Oct. 23 at TD Garden, the only other time Chara was out of the lineup during his Bruins career was a five-game stretch with a shoulder injury during the 2007-2008 season.

[+] EnlargeChara
AP Photo/Anthony NesmithZdeno Chara is more motivated than ever to help the Bruins get back on track.
That's pretty amazing, especially for a player who stands 6-foot-9 and weighs 255 pounds at age 37 with 1,143 NHL games under his belt. He has dealt with plenty of injuries during his career, but he always plays through the pain of breaks, bumps and bruises.

Boston's top defenseman returned to the lineup last Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, and in the past two games it's been evident it will take Chara some time to return to form. After Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden, Chara was not pleased with his play, saying every part of his game needs to be better.

During the past two games, he still registered his norm of nearly 25 minutes of ice time, but he hasn't been at his best. He knows that, and the team does, too. He's been in the penalty box four times in the past two games. He's trying almost everything to slow down opponents while being whistled for hooking, interference and high sticking.

"No excuses," Chara said.

His performance is not due to a lack of effort. Everyone in the hockey world realizes how hard Chara works off the ice and how well he takes care of his body through exercise, nutrition and proper rest.

After missing so many games, it's a matter of making quicker decisions and better plays with his timing.

"He's a competitor and he pushes hard all the time," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He tries to be a good leader. He tries to rally the guys. He tries to get the most out of them but more so out of himself. He wants to lead by example and there's no doubt when you've missed two months -- I don't care who you are -- it's a process, and you've got to give yourself time."

Julien pointed out that in the two games Chara has played, he's trying to keep it simple. He's turned the puck over, has been caught pinching in the offensive zone and has been called for penalties.

Given that Chara has no history of a long, midseason absence, no one knows, including him, how long it will take him to find his game again. He's motivated to return to form, and the Bruins have zero concern.

"It depends how you want to look at it and how you want to judge him, but we're not worried about Zdeno right now, and we shouldn't," Julien said.

When he first suffered a tear to his posterior cruciate ligament, Chara's immediate focus was to find the desire to motivate himself in order to return to 100 percent. The original diagnosis was four to six weeks before a possible return, and he accomplished that in 5½ weeks.

"My motivation is to bring my game back where it was before," Chara said.

Coming back that soon from that type of injury is impressive, but to return to a game played on ice only adds to the level of difficulty, no matter how long he has played. He understands it will take some time before he's back to normal, but for now, no one knows how long that will take.

How hard Chara worked through his rehab did not surprise his teammates. They already know he's a maniac in the gym, but his motivation was more pronounced for the past month and a half.

"Every day, he's the hardest worker, and when he was hurt he was working even harder," said Dougie Hamilton, Chara's defensive partner. "It's impressive and it shows young guys just how much you have to work and keep getting better. When you see a guy like that accomplish so much and he keeps trying to improve, it makes you want to work harder."

The Bruins begin a three-game road trip Tuesday night in Nashville, Tennessee, against the Predators, before traveling to Minnesota on Wednesday and Winnipeg on Friday. Boston is in the midst of a 1-4-1 stretch, and, based on Chara's past two games -- along with the team's struggles -- the captain is motivated.

During his absence, the Bruins clawed their way to an 11-7-1 record. Chara wants to return the favor, and that's where he's drawing his motivation.

"Anytime you see your team being down you want to be there, so when you come back that's when your motivation's got to kick in and do what you can, as best you can, as quickly as you can after the injury to bring your game back to your level.

"Anytime you have motivation, you do perform better. You train better and you just become better. If you motivate yourself, or you see some kind of motivation that gets you motivated, that means you're involved. You're emotional about it, you want to do better and you want to perform."

His frustration has been evident after the past two games. It's a trend he wants to reverse. He wants the team to be stable again. Chara wants to prove this latest injury will not have a lasting effect on his career or the team's season.

"Z's always been a great leader for our hockey club. He's always wanted to step up. He's always wanted to be important for our hockey club, and that hasn't changed," Julien said.

Rask on top of game when Bruins need it

November, 29, 2014
11/29/14
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BOSTON -- Since the Boston Bruins are heading out on a four-game road trip to the West Coast, the players' lockers were empty after Friday’s 2-1 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden.

The hockey bags were packed and on the equipment truck ready to head to the Bruins' practice facility in Wilmington, Massachusetts, for the team’s skate Saturday at Ristuccia Arena before beginning the road trip.

The only thing remaining in Tuukka Rask's stall was eight pucks on the shelf. When asked the significance of the vulcanized rubber, the Bruins goaltender explained they were game pucks from previous seasons that he stored in the bench compartment.

Those pucks explain a lot about the goaltender. Rask didn't put them in his trophy case; he simply tossed them in the bottom of the locker until he recently cleaned it out, meaning he's not focused on individual accomplishments.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner hasn't been at his best this season, but he's on a 7-2-1 streak in his past 10 games. He's allowed only seven goals in the past four games, but he needed to be at his best against the Jets.

This one wasn't pretty, but the Bruins still earned a crucial two points. The Bruins were outplayed most of the game, but thanks to Rask, Boston squeaked out the win. It was evident from the start of the game Rask was dialed in, and he finished with 35 saves. Winnipeg generated plenty of shots and traffic, but Rask was focused.

Due to injuries and inconsistent play, Boston has been offensively challenged, so Rask needs to be on his game.

"He's been good, but you need that goaltender to be that good when you're in a situation that we're in," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's expected to be that good, and he's responding well."

Rask expects nothing less than to play well each game.

"It's my job to give us a chance to win. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't," Rask said.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonTuukka Rask (35 saves) gets some help from Dougie Hamilton, who would later score the winner in overtime.
It did Friday night.

He needed to be sharp because the Jets played well and created plenty of scoring chances. Julien explained after the win that he doesn't expect the team to dominate a game from start to finish with the way the lineup is currently constituted due to injuries to key players, including Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, so Rask needs to play big.

The Bruins have scored more than four goals in a game only twice this season. The once-potent offense is struggling, and it hasn't helped that top-line center Krejci has missed 13 games with an undisclosed injury.

Plus, the Bruins have had to play catch-up too many times this season, although they have a winning record (7-6-1) when their opponent scores first.

"Sometimes, I feel like if I let in a couple of goals in the beginning, it kind of wakes us up, then we start scoring goals," Rask said with a laugh. "If it's a tight game like today, we kind of hang on and we don't find that extra gear. It's a funny thing how it works sometimes. With the way the offense has been going lately, I know it's going to be tight games, and I have to be solid."

The Bruins weren't sharp at all in the first period, but they were able to survive thanks to Rask's 12 saves. Boston cleaned it up in the scoreless second period, and its goalie made seven saves, including two timely stops on a pair of breakaways by the Jets' Evander Kane.

It became a goaltending duel, with former Bruins prospect Michael Hutchinson (36 saves) playing well for the Jets. Rask's focus is not on how the opposing goalie is playing, but it was evident with the way Hutchinson was performing that Rask would need to shine.

"It's a one-goal game, and every save matters at that point," Rask said. "We're down by one, so my main focus is to shut the door and keep it tight. I'm not matching the other goalie. I'm just trying to make a save and keep it tight. A lot of times the other goalie makes a save and you know you have to make one because the opportunities are going to come. He played a great game."

Most often when a team is short-handed, its goalie needs to be the best penalty killer on the ice. Rask accomplished that after a four-minute, double-minor high-sticking penalty was called on the Bruins' Brad Marchand with the game tied at 16:30 of the third period. Boston's PK stifled Winnipeg's attack, and when the puck did get through, Rask made the timely saves.

Too many times this season the Bruins have had to grind out wins. Even with all the injuries, the team's effort has been there on most nights. When it's not, Rask has bailed out his teammates.

"He was awesome," said Dougie Hamilton, who scored the game winner in OT. "They were throwing pucks from everywhere, and scrambles [ensued] and stuff like that, and a few breakaways as well. Without him, it's a different game. That's what we need and want from him every game."

It's time for B's to take care of Krug, Smith

September, 26, 2014
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BOSTON -- The first week of training camp has come and gone for the Boston Bruins, and forward Reilly Smith and defenseman Torey Krug remain unsigned.

Both are entry-level free agents, but the Bruins are the only team they can negotiate with. It has become a difficult situation for both sides. The Bruins are in a chokehold with the $69 million salary cap. General manager Peter Chiarelli is trying to massage his options, but he has already waited too long in deciding how to proceed with Smith and Krug. If the Bruins had it their way, both players would sign one-year deals, prove their worth and then perhaps earn multiyear contracts after this upcoming season.

[+] EnlargeTorey Krug, Reilly Smith
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesTorey Krug and Reilly Smith are still seeking contracts as the Bruins enter their second week of training camp.
To be fair, this isn't a case in which Chiarelli has completely mismanaged the cap. He thought the 2013-2014 Bruins should have won the Stanley Cup, and the team went all out in pursuit of the championship. But now, with bonuses paid to Jarome Iginla for his services and production last season, along with other current contracts, the Bruins have no wiggle room to pay Smith and Krug.

So, it comes down to this: Chiarelli needs to get off his backside and quickly figure out a way to make room for both Smith and Krug. He can say all he wants about wanting to wait until training camp plays itself out to see what options he has to fill those roles, but the fact is both Smith and Krug are integral parts of the team's success.

Last week, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, his son and team principal Charlie Jacobs and team president Cam Neely put on a public full-court press, saying Smith and Krug should understand the organization's budget and deal with it accordingly.

Jeremy Jacobs said they're not experienced enough and haven't proved themselves worthy of big contracts. Charlie Jacobs said the players should accept a "bridge" contract until the team can afford to give them their deserved raises. Neely, who held out as a player, made it a point to explain how difficult it is for players, especially young players, to miss training camp and preseason games because they can fall so far behind the others once the season begins.

Regardless, Chiarelli and the Bruins should have already made a move to make room to sign both players. There has been so much talk about trading defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who is in the last season of his contract and will earn $3.36 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent. But the Bruins are built on defense, and Boychuk fits perfectly into coach Claude Julien's system of play.

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If the Bruins were to move Boychuk, the New York Islanders could be a good landing spot. The Islanders have nearly $10 million in cap space, according to CapGeek.com, and could use Boychuk's services. Maybe all it would take is a draft pick in return to free up Boston's cap constraints.

Boychuk has decent value, but he's not the only Bruins player who could settle the team's current cap issue.

Forward Loui Eriksson could be an interesting choice for Chiarelli to consider moving. He will earn $4.25 million in each of the next two seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

During his first season with the Bruins, he was hampered by a pair of concussions and never reached his full potential. The team is hopeful Eriksson will produce this season and projects him to play on the top line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. However, that scenario might represent wishful thinking.

Eriksson is considered a solid, two-way player, but he doesn't fit the mold of the typical top-line forward for the Bruins. He's more of a finesse player, which isn't what Krejci and Lucic have been accustomed to the past few seasons with the likes of Nathan Horton and Iginla. Since Iginla signed as a free agent with the Colorado Avalanche, the Bruins have been touting Eriksson as a perfect replacement on the top line. Krejci has agreed, saying he should be able to score more goals if he's receiving passes from a playmaker like Eriksson.

Eriksson is a good player. He's talented and worth what the Bruins acquired him for when they dealt Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Eriksson, Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow. Even though it's a small sample size, maybe it's time to flip Eriksson in order to sign both Krug and Smith. Krug is a decent defender, but, more importantly, he adds a lot to the offense, especially on the power play. Smith proved last season he could play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. In fact, both Chiarelli and Julien said during the offseason that Bergeron's line was the one unit that would remain intact moving forward.

The Bruins have depth within the organization to fill the vacant forward positions, including on the top line. Fraser, who is a left winger by trade, can play the right side, and he has proved in the early portion of training camp he can play with Krejci.

The Bruins have options, and they should deal with it sooner rather than later. Chiarelli should stop stalling, give Smith and Krug what they deserve and get on with it, even if it means making an unpopular move.

For a GM who has been credited with mastering the salary cap and creating a winning team, Chiarelli is on the clock and is running out of time. Let's see what he's made of now.

B's know what they need to do

April, 19, 2014
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BOSTON -- That widespread confidence in the Bruins' chances of winning the Stanley Cup might be muted a bit after the team's Game 1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night. But coach Claude Julien says there's no reason to panic. The Bruins knew the Red Wings would be a tough opponent and expect this series to go the distance.

“We’re fine,” Julien said. “It’s a seven-game series. You certainly don’t get down on yourself because of a 1-0 loss; it could have gone either way. It just shows you how close and tight it is. We just have to be better in certain areas that we talked about this morning and hopefully we’ll be able to bring it to the game tomorrow, and if we do that hopefully the outcome will change.”

Boston held a full practice Saturday afternoon at TD Garden in preparation for Game 2 on Sunday.

The last thing the Bruins want is to trail by two games when this series shifts to Detroit for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday. Of course, the B's have dealt with a similar situation during the playoffs in the past and were able survive. They erased an 0-2 deficit and beat the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals en route to a Cup championship in 2011.

[+] EnlargePavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Tuukka Rask
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonPavel Datsyuk's goal with 3:01 remaining in regulation was the difference maker on Friday night.
Still, that’s not an ideal situation for the Bruins this time around against the Red Wings.

“We’ve got to do a better job of playing our game, establishing more time in the offensive zone,” Milan Lucic said Saturday. “A lot of the times, what we talk about throughout the season that has made us successful is puck management and obviously that’s going to be an important part of this series for both teams, and that needs to get better heading into tomorrow.”

Prior to Saturday’s practice, the Bruins spent time going over video from Game 1 and discussed how to generate more quality scoring chances against a stingy Detroit defense. Too many times in Game 1 the Bruins lost the race to the puck, especially in the offensive zone, so it’s a safe bet they’ll try to be a bit more physical on Sunday.

“I think we were physical enough [Friday],” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We still had a lot of good hits, but they do a good job when it comes to our forecheck. They get there and like to have bodies in front of us on the forecheck to kind of slow us down, and we’ve got to find ways to get through that. There’s no question about that.

“That’s one of the reasons that we weren’t as effective on our forecheck [Friday] as we have in the past, so we’ve got to find ways to get through that," he added. "And if they’re going to slow us down, if we’re skating hopefully they’ll end up taking penalties. But we’ve got to work through those kinds of things and establish the forecheck that we feel is an important part of our game.”

Both teams expected this series to be a disciplined one. There were only three total power plays in Game 1.

In order to win those critical puck battles in the offensive zone, Boston needs to be more consistent with its physical play.

[+] EnlargeClaude Julien
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images"You certainly don't get down on yourself because of a 1-0 loss; it could have gone either way," Julien said Saturday, adding that his team will make adjustments for Game 2.
“We can be more physical than we were yesterday, but at the same time we did get some good hits in and we do feel that it does wear on other teams,” said Bruins forward Jarome Iginla. “As the third period went on I thought we had our best chances as a team in the third period.”

Boston’s top line excelled during the regular season. Lucic, David Krejci and Iginla were consistent for the majority of the season and combined for 189 total points. On Friday, that trio had only a combined four shots on net.

In past postseasons, it took a few games for Lucic and Krejci to start generating quality scoring chances, but this year with Iginla in the mix that production should come soon.

“Obviously, you want to figure it out sooner than later,” Lucic said. “That’s a part of a playoff series, is making adjustments and trying to figure out the other team’s system. We’re going to have to figure out, as a line, how to be better. We can’t get frustrated. We have to stick to the basics and what makes us successful as a line.”
BOSTON -- The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs can’t get here fast enough.

With a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at TD Garden, the Boston Bruins clinched the top record in the Eastern Conference, and with only four games remaining in the regular season, they have 113 points.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask improved to 35-15-5 in 2013-14.
After a two-game skid with losses to the Detroit Red Wings (3-2) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3 OT), the Bruins remain confident, and it showed in their win over the Flyers. Loui Eriksson, who replaced an injured Jarome Iginla on Boston’s top line, recorded four assists and now has nine points in his past 11 games.

Teammate Milan Lucic had a pair of goals and one assist against the Flyers and now has 12 points in the past 15 games. Top-line center David Krejci had a goal and an assist to boost his totals to six points in the past five games. And Patrice Bergeron had an assist to extend his point streak to a career-best 11 games.

After Saturday’s win, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was asked about clinching the regular-season conference title.

"Oh?" Rask replied. "That’s good. It’s something we wanted to do, but it wasn’t like really our main goal. Everybody knows what our main goal is, but it’s good to finish first. We still have a few games left, and we’ve got to finish strong and feel good going into the playoffs."

Rask finished with 24 saves Saturday to improve his record to 35-15-5 and believes the team is confident enough to beat any team in the playoffs.

"We've felt that way for a long time -- if we play our style of hockey, we’re going to have a chance to beat everybody," Rask said. "Especially this year, we’ve shown glimpses of really good hockey, and lately, we've been playing pretty well, so I think the team feels pretty confident going into the playoffs."

Boston is 19-2-4 in its past 25 games, and the players are as anxious as anyone to start the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, this week the Bruins have played three potential first-round opponents in the Red Wings, Maple Leafs and Flyers, posting a 1-1-1 record. Despite that mark, the Bruins are pleased with the way they are playing.

"It’s really hard to stop our team when we’re playing pretty good hockey," Krejci said.

Bruins coach Claude Julien seems mostly satisfied but would like to see some improvement in the final games of the regular season.

"At this point of the year, we’re pretty good," Julien said of his team’s overall consistency. "I’ve seen a little bit of our sense of urgency just dip a little bit in the last little while, but not to the point of being worried. It’s just a natural thing right now. As I’ve mentioned often, our team is an experienced team and guys know when the time comes, they will be ready. To me, they’re still ready right now and playing some pretty good hockey against some teams that are still desperate right now."

In the final four games, the Bruins hit the road to face the Minnesota Wild (Tuesday) and Winnipeg Jets (Thursday), return to Boston to take on the Buffalo Sabres (April 12, the final home game) and finish at the New Jersey Devils (Sunday, April 13).

Bergeron at center of Bruins' hot streak

March, 28, 2014
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It's no secret Patrice Bergeron epitomizes what it means to play for the Boston Bruins.

He's become one of the all-time greats for the storied organization, joining the likes of Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque. Bergeron secured his legacy in Boston when the Bruins gave him an eight-year, $52 million contract extension last summer, all but guaranteeing he will play his entire career with one organization.

[+] EnlargeBergeron
AP Photo/Eric CanhaPatrice Bergeron scored two goals against the Blackhawks on Thursday.
He plays the game the same as he did when he broke into the league as an 18-year-old rookie at the start of the 2003-04 season. His desire to win never wavers. This season has been one of his best.

Bergeron's two goals helped the Bruins to a 3-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at TD Garden. He extended his goal streak to a career-best five games, and Bergeron now has eight goals and five assists for 13 points in the past 10 games. Thursday's performance was his 13th multiple-point game of the season and his third with two goals.

Overall, Bergeron has 25 goals and 28 assists for 53 points, along with a plus-38. The 28-year-old forward has scored at least 20 goals five times during his 10-year career in the NHL. His career high is 31 goals (2005-06), and with nine games remaining in the regular season, it's possible he could reach the 30-goal plateau.

Bergeron takes pride in his all-around game and doesn't necessarily focus on his individual statistics.

"I never really thought about it, to be honest with you," he said. "It's kind of one of those things that I'm happy it's going in, but I just want to keep my same game, the same level of play, keep getting better. Obviously, that's part of my game. Also, it's to help out offensively and scoring goals and creating plays. I'm definitely happy it's going in, but, that being said, I'm happy when I defend a goal as much as scoring them."

Going to the net and outworking his opponents in the dirty areas have produced most of his goals this season, especially during his current scoring streak.

"The puck's going in, I guess. There's not much to say about it. It's just you get those chances sometimes during the year and it doesn't go in, and now, it is," Bergeron said. "Obviously, it's great any time I can chip in offensively and keep my two-way game. I'm happy with it."

A two-time Olympic gold medalist with Canada, Bergeron has played his best hockey of the season since returning from the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Both he and Bruins coach Claude Julien admit they returned with a renewed energy from the Olympics, and it has shown in Bergeron's play.

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Boston's assistant captain and perennial Selke Trophy candidate is focused on the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It's pretty clear to everyone that's watched him play that he values every part of his game," Julien said. "Whether it's faceoff percentage, whether it's plus/minus, whether he's responsible for a goal against -- he takes those things seriously, and he's hard on himself when it comes to that. He's proud of what he is. He's comfortable in the role that he's asked to play, and, at the same time, it's always nice to see guys like that get rewarded with some decent stats, which he deserves."

Bergeron is the type of player who makes everyone around him better. He and Brad Marchand have been linemates since the 2010-2011 season, and newcomer Reilly Smith has also fit in well on that line this season.

Originally, Julien had Loui Eriksson on the team's second line to start the season, but a pair of concussions sidelined him, allowing Smith to move up. When Eriksson returned, Julien put him on the third line, along with Chris Kelly and Carl Soderberg, a trio has become a potent third line for the Bruins.

Bergeron's line is producing at each end of the ice. The linemates read one another well and play a relentless style of offense and defense. The centerman is humble and credits his linemates for his recent point production.

"I'm definitely not going to take the credit for these goals," Bergeron said. "I'm getting set up perfectly by these guys. We're moving and creating plays by communicating and now knowing where the other guys are going to be, and that is something that is very important for our line."

After a slow start, Marchand has been playing well for the majority of the season. The left wing has 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points, including a plus-30 rating. Despite only one goal in the past 22 games, Smith is showing signs of coming out of his drought. He's still strong on the forecheck and hasn't been a liability in the defensive end.

Smith is a talented player, and having Bergeron as a linemate has helped his development this season, his first in Boston.

"He's unbelievable," Smith said. "You learn something new from him every day. He's a great player. He's a great mentor. He's a great teammate. To be able to play with the guy on an everyday basis, it's honestly phenomenal."

Boston's second line has created a strong synergy, and Bergeron believes the trio's success is finally paying dividends.

"It's one of those things that takes some time, and you have to keep plugging at it," Bergeron said. "The more you play together, the better you're going to feel. Honestly, it felt pretty good with Smitty right away as soon as we were put together. Also, I'm used to playing with Brad. It's just a matter of establishing that chemistry of three of us together."

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Bergeron and his teammates are in the midst of a 14-game point streak with a 13-0-1 record. The Bruins are playing their best hockey of the season, and Bergeron is leading the charge.

BOSTON -- It's not about the winning streak. It's all about the process for the Boston Bruins.

With a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins won their seventh game in a row and now own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 93 points, one ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.

With 16 games remaining in the regular season, Bruins coach Claude Julien is pleased with the way his team is playing right now. Boston is a deep team, and every aspect of its game is on display. With a crazy schedule this month not only for the Bruins but for the league as a whole, Julien believes his team knows that the name of the game is about preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs, not making excuses.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask, Shane Doan
Brian Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesTuukka Rask earned his second win in 24 hours by thwarting the Coyotes.
"I see commitment from everybody," Julien said. "It's pretty obvious when you've played the number of games that you've played, and you look at the way you've played, there's a pretty good commitment from our guys."

When the Bruins are playing well defensively, it translates into a potent offensive style of play, and that's what they've been exhibiting during this streak. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has a front-row seat and he's pleased with what he's watching.

"We're just playing Bruins hockey day in and day out and not trying to do too much," Rask said. "The schedule's tough and we're trying to keep things simple. We pretty much know we're going to make the playoffs, and we just want to get our game to a level we think it needs to be going into the playoffs."

The Bruins concluded their 12th of 17 sets of back-to-back games, and they're 9-2-1 in the first game and 10-2-0 in the second game. Thursday's game easily could have been a letdown for the Bruins, especially coming off an emotional 4-1 win over the division rival Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.

"We're playing really well right now," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "Everyone seems to be buying into the system and playing their role and not trying to do too much. When you have all four lines going, and all six D and both goalies, it's great. We're showing we've got a really good team here, and that's what we need to be doing down the stretch."

With the regular-season schedule winding down, it's going to be a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy between the Bruins and Penguins. Boston has basically secured the top spot in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins are focused on more than just the seeding in the standings.

"It would be big, obviously," Marchand said of winning the conference title. "You want to finish as high as you can, and home-ice advantage in the playoffs is huge, but it's more about the process and how you get there. I think if we just worry about playing our game every single night, things will work themselves out."

[+] EnlargeZdeno Chara
Eric Canha/CSMZdeno Chara's 16th goal of the season gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins' consistent play is what has made this team a perennial Stanley Cup contender, and it's no different this season. At times, the Bruins have been streaky, but when things are going well they are one of the best teams in the league.

Given the Bruins were facing the Coyotes on a back-to-back game on Thursday night, it was a bit of a surprise that Julien decided to start Rask in net. It proved crucial as he finished with 21 saves, many of them timely.

"I don't think we should overanalyze Tuukka, or Tuukka's fatigue," Julien said. "Chad [Johnson has] played well for us, and he's going to play and they're going to share the net. For me, it was a decision I made, and I felt Tuukka wasn't overly tired. He felt great and he can rest tomorrow because we don't play."

After the game, Rask said he didn't feel completely fresh Thursday but expected to play.

The Bruins believe there's still another level they can raise their game to, and that's something they want to reach when the playoffs arrive.

"Honestly, we've been pretty focused," said forward Jarome Iginla. "We've been trying to keep pushing ourselves to be better and to keep working on things. It's been fun winning. Guys here, it's a hungry team and a very competitive team. We want to keep winning and keep getting better. We've been able to get ourselves into a battle for the top of the conference, but even that guys don't really talk about on a day-to-day basis."

Not lost in Thursday's win was the fact that Julien earned his 300th career victory in Boston. Overall, he has a 419-249-10-84 record in 762 career games as a coach, but he always downplays individual accomplishments. His goal is to win another Stanley Cup with the Bruins.

"I had no knowledge and my guys know it doesn't matter to me," Julien said. "It's great, don't get me wrong. It's great and I'm happy it's happened here. I'm happy to have that, but at the same time, to me, I'd rather look forward to hopefully a lot more than just that. I'm proud to have accomplished this in Boston. It's great. I've really enjoyed myself here and I'm looking forward to another 300."

BOSTON -- Being perennial Stanley Cup contenders, the Boston Bruins always expect to get their opponent's best game, taking it as a compliment that other teams respect their abilities.

Whatever the Bruins have accomplished in the past means absolutely nothing right now.

Prior to the recent Olympic break, the Bruins were 8-1-2 and playing their best stretch of hockey this season. Since returning, Boston is 0-1-1 and showing the rust that comes with a two-week hiatus.

After dropping a 4-2 decision to the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, the Bruins can take solace in the fact they have 23 games remaining in the regulation season to fine-tune their play before the Stanley Cup playoffs arrive.

Before Saturday's game, Capitals coach Adam Oates held a meeting and told his team not to be in awe of the Bruins, especially not in this building. He told his players the Bruins are a team that can be defeated on their home ice, and Washington took advantage of Boston's miscues en route to victory.

After the game, Bruins players were disappointed in their effort and were saying all the right things, knowing their game needs to be better, especially against a team like the Capitals, who are fighting for a playoff spot.

"I know this team well enough, and they're not going to hang their heads and say, 'Well, it's because of this or because of that.' We've always taken responsibility for our actions, and that's not going to change," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They all know in there that we have to work and compete a little harder. The emotion of our game has to be a little bit better."

[+] EnlargeBruins Olympians
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesLoui Eriksson (Sweden, silver), Patrice Bergeron (Canada, gold) and Tuukka Rask (Finland, bronze) showed off their Olympic hardware Saturday, but the Bruins seem to be suffering something of a letdown since resuming NHL action.
During the first intermission, Julien sat in his office and reviewed the game sheet. He wasn't pleased that his team had only five hits in the opening period.

"That's not good enough for us," he said after the game. "A lot of that is putting more emotion into your game, and we need to pick it up and get better." Boston needs to bring a physical presence that frightens its opponents. The Bruins showed a little bit of bite on Saturday, erasing a three-goal deficit to cut Washington's lead to one goal in the second period, but it wasn't enough.

Reputation goes a long way in this game. The Bruins are one of the toughest teams in the league and one of the more difficult teams to play at home. It simply wasn't there on Saturday. At least the Bruins know that level exists, because they've reached it consistently in the past, which is something they take pride in.

"It's the level we expect of ourselves, the standard that's expected of us," Bruins forward Gregory Campbell said. "It's not really hard and that's what's expected when you play on this team -- to compete like that every night. Before the break, we were playing some pretty good hockey, so now it's up to us to find our game again."

The Bruins have uncharacteristically allowed nine goals in the past two games. A team built on defense needs to be better.

"It's got to be better. It's going to get better every day," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "It doesn't matter if we keep talking about it. Today was pretty crappy again, just mental mistakes. You talk about certain things in their power play, you just give them those opportunities and breakaways and stuff like that. It's just not our style. So we just have to be better."

Due to the condensed schedule this month, the Bruins have a total of 17 games in March, including six pairs of back-to-backs. For the Bruins to be successful in this demanding stretch, it's critical for Julien to be able to roll four lines each game.

"We should know that these last 20-plus games are going to be very intense," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "Every opponent is going to play their best, so we should definitely be up for these games and be better. We need contributions from every line. You can't be relying on one line or two lines every time. You've just got to be able to get production from other guys."

Since the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division, sit second in the Eastern Conference behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and have reached the Stanley Cup finals in two of the past three seasons, opponents are motivated to knock Boston off its pedestal. And when the Bruins feel that pressure, they need to fight back.

"We know how good we can be, and this definitely is not that," Rask said of the team's past two games. "It doesn't matter if we get players [at the trade deadline] or don't get players. We still play a certain system, and this -- you saw today the mental errors cost us again. That's all. We just have to be better mentally."

Julien applauds B's showing in Sochi

February, 25, 2014
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BOSTON -- While Bruins head coach Claude Julien was part of a gold medal-winning run for Team Canada, he was more than happy to shed light on the performances of the five Black and Gold players who appeared in the games.

“Our players represented us extremely well and I’m really proud of them,” Julien said after his first practice back with the B’s on Tuesday at TD Garden.

Chief among those that were heaped with praise was center Patrice Bergeron, the one player on Julien’s side during the Olympics. Bergeron’s stellar play for the gold medalists simply furthered the message that his coach has been trying to deliver for years.

[+] EnlargeRyan Callahan
Martin Rose/Getty ImagesPatrice Bergeron's performance with Canada at the Olympics earned him high praise from his Bruins coach. "He was one of our best players and I'm not afraid to say that," said Claude Julien.
“He was one of our best players and I’m not afraid to say that,” Julien said of his star, who moved up from the fourth line to make a more significant impact as the games progressed. “He came in and his line in that first game with [James] Benn and [John] Tavares was probably our best line and he played so well he ended up moving up on the [Sidney] Crosby line and basically brought some good stability to that line and they were much better from then on.

“He made a lot of highlight clips in our reviews just by how hard he worked, both sides of the coin, defensively, offensively. He did some great things, forecheck, backcheck. He’s such a complete player and it’s nice to see that he was seen that way on a bigger stage and now there’s no doubt in my mind that everybody knows how good he is.”

Crosby, the team’s biggest star, has been an admirer of Bergeron’s for years, according to Julien.

“He’s not Crosby, he’s not those kind of guys in people’s mind, but when the puck is dropped, you can even ask Sid. Sid loves playing with him,” Julien said. “He’s got a great appreciation for Bergie.”

That appreciation has existed in the Bruins’ locker room for years.

“We’re very aware of how great a player he is in this room and he definitely stepped it up there on the international stage and I think everyone got an appreciation for how good a player he is,” said forward Shawn Thornton.

While Bergeron won the hardware, fellow forward Loui Eriksson earned praise for helping to push Sweden to the medal round. Eriksson’s performance may even serve as a springboard for a better stretch run after injuries hampered his first few months in Boston.

[+] EnlargeLoui Eriksson and Henrik Lundqvist
Alexander Nemenov/Getty ImagesLoui Eriksson, with Sweden's goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist, helped push his team to the medal round.
“Loui was also one of [Sweden’s] very best players,” Julien said. “I really enjoyed Loui’s progression, going to Sochi and seeing him play with his team he was even better, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him back in our lineup. If he picks up where he left off over there I think we’re going to get a pretty good idea of what he’s capable of bringing.”

As for Julien, he admitted that he never had dreams of winning a gold medal as a kid. Those aspirations were focused only on the Stanley Cup. But the vibe surrounding the contests in Sochi had a Stanley Cup feel, which helped increase his desire to forge ahead with a Bruins team that owns a comfortable lead in its division and is within striking distance of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“When we were playing those games after the preliminary rounds, it felt like the seventh game of the playoffs. It felt like the seventh game in Vancouver, our preparation. You just couldn’t afford to make any mistakes that would cost you the game, so I think intensity-wise very, very similar [to the Stanley Cup].

“They’re both great. I’m just happy and privileged to win both.”

The quest for the Cup begins anew when the Bruins visit Buffalo on Wednesday.

Julien 'energized' by Sochi experience

February, 25, 2014
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BOSTON -- Bruins coach Claude Julien ended his meeting with the media Tuesday at TD Garden by flashing a big smile and saying, “Buffalo tomorrow, guys!”

[+] EnlargeCanada
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsClaude Julien was an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning Team Canada at the Olympics.
Julien, fresh off an Olympic gold medal-winning experience as an assistant coach with Team Canada, gave everyone an indication of just how excited he is to get back to NHL action after a break of more than two weeks. In fact, the experience in Sochi, while a successful one, just made him yearn more for the playoff push.

“If anything the competition that I was involved with was so good and refreshing that I’ve come back here energized, believe it or not. I’m not tired,” Julien said. “I’m ready to go here and looking forward to getting back with my team and getting back into games. Whether it’s different in three or four days I’ll let you know, but right now I feel no ill effects. The excitement over there really energized me. I’m back and I’m looking forward to trying to accomplish the same thing here with this Bruins team.”

“This Bruins team” will enter play at the Sabres on Wednesday with a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division and within striking distance of Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference. It plays six games in the first nine days of March and 17 games overall during the month, so the intensity is about to pick up in a big way.

That made the break in Sochi a well-timed one.

“The two weeks definitely didn’t do any harm, you’ll see,” Julien said. “Especially with 17 games here in the month of March, those two weeks will have been the best thing that happened to those guys.”

Tuesday’s practice focused largely on power plays, with some odd-man rushes and 3-on-2 work dominating the hour. That is one area in which the Bruins have made a vast improvement this season, and the team as a whole has a very positive vibe coming out of the break.

“We had all four lines, all playing well and it seemed we were feeding off each other,” said left wing Brad Marchand. “When one line had a good shift the other line would follow that and that’s what we need. We need to continue to build on every single shift.”

Marchand said the B’s will not be taking Buffalo lightly, despite the Sabres’ last-place standing. Buffalo picked up a 4-1 win the last time it hosted Boston, and rivalry games can always be unpredictable when each side is playing for very different things.

“A team that’s that far down in the standings, I’ve been there before. There’s no pressure,” said right wing Shawn Thornton, echoing the call to come out playing top-notch hockey.

Boston was 7-1-1 in its last nine games before the break. Julien knows that maintaining that momentum, or rebuilding it, is going to be a challenge.

“After two weeks they come back they got a lot of energy but we have to make sure that we’re still doing the right things on the ice,” Julien said.

At the very least, they are excited for the challenge.

B's want to keep rolling into Olympic break

February, 7, 2014
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Less than a month ago, the Boston Bruins were dealing with one of their normal seasonal funks.

There were 11 games remaining before the Olympic break, many of them against some formidable opponents. So Bruins coach Claude Julien gathered his players and stressed the importance of playing with consistency and finishing strong before the break.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Paille, Frank Corrado
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDaniel Paille says the Bruins are focused on entering the Olympic break on a winning note.
Boston enters the final game before the break playing well. The puck drops between the Bruins and Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon (3 p.m.) at TD Garden. The Bruins are 7-1-2 in their past 10 games and would like to finish strong.

The only regulation loss during this stretch came against the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 drubbing, which was Boston's worst defeat of the season. Other than that the Bruins have been solid.

The Bruins are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Boston erased a two-goal deficit before losing in OT, but gained a crucial point against one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

"Our guys have done a really good job," Julien said after the team's brief practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena. "Even yesterday, we should have been at eight wins. We really played well, and I thought we had as good an opportunity to win that game as any. There was a tremendous amount of effort and focus. From the back end, we're missing a lot of key elements there and it didn't seem to matter. I'm looking to see the same thing [Saturday], the same kind of effort from everybody.

"If we can finish with that type of a game, there's a pretty good chance we're going to win, and [it's] a pretty good opportunity for us to leave on a positive note. I always find those things are important to leave on a positive note and feel good about yourselves. No matter what, if we can give that kind of effort [Saturday], it will have been a successful segment."

During this stretch, Boston's top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla has been producing in a big way. Lucic has eight points in the past seven games, Iginla has 12 points in the past seven games and Krejci has 12 points in the past 10 games.

Basking in the glow of the team's recent success, the players understand it's been more than just one line that has contributed to the string of wins. Special teams have been better and backup goalie Chad Johnson has won his past four starts.

After Saturday's game, Olympians Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli will join Zdeno Chara, who is already in Sochi. The rest of the team will enjoy a much-needed break and won't return to the practice ice until Feb. 20.

Still, the Bruins are focused on the Senators and not yet on the sandy beaches of Florida, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

"That's a motivator," said Bruins forward Daniel Paille. "We can look at it both ways. One way is definitely not to get ahead of yourself and look at the break. The other way is kind of give it everything you have and realize you have that time to heal after, so I don't think anyone's going in there to play a soft game. Everyone wants to play and finish it out right, especially having a win under our belt going into the break."

As things stand, the Bruins are atop the Atlantic Division, and second in the Eastern Conference behind the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the Bruins return to game action on Feb. 26 at Buffalo, their schedule becomes hectic in March. Boston will play 17 games next month, including six back-to-backs.

Since the Bruins are playing well, they're not worried that the break will disrupt their hockey mojo. If anything, the rest and relaxation will prove crucial in the final 25 games of the regular season.

"We've done a good job competing at a certain level, and that was kind of missing a month ago," Paille said. "It's definitely helped us coming into this part of the season, preparing ourselves for when we come back."

Hamilton has room to be more physical

January, 31, 2014
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Once Dougie Hamilton learns to harness the fire and passion that come with playing for the Boston Bruins, and once his size and strength catch up with his natural ability, he's going to be a dangerous player in the NHL.

He's quiet. He simply does his job and does it well for a 20-year-old defenseman in the league. With a 6-foot-5, 212-pound frame, he has the size to be a physical force on the ice.

There was a time when most young players entering the league would quickly drop their gloves and prove they were more than willing to stand toe-to-toe and exchange blows. In 79 career games at the NHL level, Hamilton has yet to record a fighting major. He's been close a few times, but he hasn't had to.

"I don't feel obligated to do it at all," Hamilton said. "Now, it's more about toughness, hitting and taking hits. It's not part of my game, so I don't feel obligated to do it just because I'm [in the NHL] now."

[+] EnlargeHamilton
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesDougie Hamilton is still adding strength and growing into his 6-foot-5 frame.
After Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, Bruins players lamented their lack of emotion in the game. Even when the likes of Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton and Kevan Miller tried to get something started, the Montreal players were smart enough to back off and not oblige the invitation to fight.

At some point, Hamilton will find himself in a situation and he'll need to drop the gloves, and, when that time comes, he said he'll be ready. But it's not something he's focusing on or looking for.

"In junior, I only had two in 3½ years," he said. "It's not part of my game, so I don't think I need to do it."

Thornton has worked with teammates in the past to help hone their skills in that area, but Hamilton doesn't see the need for a tutor.

"I don't want to get beat up at practice," Hamilton said with a laugh.

Hamilton's skill set is built on his ability to move the puck and create offensive chances for the Bruins. During his junior career with the Niagara Ice Dogs, he dominated. The game was easy for him, but he was playing against boys. Now, he's going up against men.

In the one calendar year he's been in the NHL, Hamilton has made a solid transition to the pro game.

"He's got the size, and I think he's doing OK. He's also a guy that, even though he is big, he's still filling into his body and he's trying to get stronger every year," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He's stronger this year than he was last year, so it's just a matter of time. The stronger you get, the more confident you get, so in that area he's improving at the rate a young player, like him, would be."

Even though it's not part of his repertoire, it would be a step forward in his development to see Hamilton take advantage of his size and strength and unleash it on the opponent. The former first-rounder (ninth overall in the 2011 draft) will continue to hone his skills. The organization is impressed with his development and contributions.

"Doug's still young and trying to understand the game at the NHL level, and it's a very difficult position to develop at. It takes a little longer for young defensemen to develop," team president Cam Neely said. "Doug realizes his strengths and weaknesses, and if he improves on both of them, he's going to be a great defenseman in this league.

"There are areas, obviously, he's got more of an offensive bent to his game, and that's his thought process, but I know our coaching staff is working with him on the defensive side of the game. When he improves in that area -- and continues to improve on the offensive side -- he's got the size, he's got the natural ability to have a long and successful career."

As Hamilton continues to develop and mature, he's going to get stronger. That strength will help him gain confidence in the corners and in front of the net.

"Any time you have a guy with that size -- and can get stronger -- it's going to be beneficial for him," Neely said.

Hamilton has missed a total of 14 games this season due to injury. He missed 10 with a knee injury and four with a concussion. He's played four games since returning to the lineup from the concussion.

"I thought his best game was probably the first game [after the concussion]. The last two games he's been OK, and that's being honest, and OK doesn't mean bad, either," Julien said. "I just know he's a great player. He's a young player, and it's always about us pushing him to be the best player he can be. To me, he really impressed me in that first game he came back, and the last two games there's certain elements in his game we feel he can be better at. But he still brings that great playmaking ability, he moves the puck up the ice well, he's been good for us on the power play. For him, the issues right now are any issues that a young defenseman has in this league, and we're going to keep working with him on those."

Hamilton is only going to get better. Once he adds some bite to his game, he could become one of the top blueliners in the league.

Krejci weighs in on Sochi security concerns

January, 23, 2014
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Security concerns for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi continue to be a hot topic of conversation among NHL players.

In the past, many athletes have brought their families with them to the Olympic Games, but this time some are debating whether it will be a safe venue because of growing concerns of terrorist threats.

[+] EnlargeKrejci
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaDavid Krejci, pictured as a member of the Czech Republic's 2010 Olympic team in Vancouver, says he's been following the reports of security threats in Sochi.
"I told my family not to go, but my mom wants to go so I can't stop her. I would prefer if she didn't go," said Bruins forward David Krejci, who is representing the Czech Republic. "I understand everybody who doesn't want their families to go. It's a scary situation. I'm sure the Russian president is going to take care of everything and he'll make the Olympic Games safe, but we'll see what happens."

The Bruins will be well-represented during the Winter Games. Besides Krejci, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will serve as captain for Slovakia and will also carry his country's flag during the Opening Ceremonies. Forwards Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and goaltender Tuukka Rask (Finland) will all represent their countries in Sochi.

"I've been reading papers and watching TV, so I know there's been a lot of talk about it. I know [the United States] have sent lots of military people over there, so it's going to be interesting," Krejci said. "You kind of don't know what you're getting into, but I'm sure they're going to do everything they can to make it safe."

When asked if it would be tough to focus on playing, Krejci said: "That's a good question, but I guess we have to wait and see. Once we get there and see military people everywhere then it's going to be tough to focus, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be fine. All the athletes will be at the village, so I'm pretty sure it's going to be fine."

For Team Canada, Bruins coach Claude Julien will serve as an assistant coach, and general manager Peter Chiarelli as a team adviser. Julien said he and his wife are trying to figure out whether she will join her husband on the Olympic trip.

"That's still a debate right now," Julien said. "Not my family. If anything, it will be my wife, but that's still under debate right now. There is concern, like anybody else, but there's concern like that everywhere else. I think it's been exposed more because of what it represents, but it's a decision we'll make later."

As far as Chara is concerned, since he'll carry his country's flag during the Opening Ceremonies, the Bruins are allowing him to leave early to participate in the ceremonies, but it's not known if he'll miss one or two games at this point.

"We don't know the schedule yet and I don't think he knows, either," Julien said. "There's still that question mark whether it's going to be one or two."

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