Claude Julien, your time in Boston is up
It looks like John Farrell is going to keep his job longer than Claude Julien.
Mercifully, it is official: The Bruins are not a playoff team. Five years after winning the Cup, three years after getting to the finals, two years after compiling the best overall record in the league . . . the Bruins are not one of the top 16 teams. For the second straight year. And yet there is still a Preserve Claude Society that will insist Julien should be Bruins Coach For Life.
Sorry. Claude has been nothing but class and professionalism. He is the winningest coach in team history and he brought the Cup back to Causeway Street. But nine years is enough. Nobody gets to do this forever. The Bruins have to rebuild and Julien might not be the guy for a team of youngsters.
They certainly haven’t responded to him in the big moments the last two years. Saturday’s embarrassing 6-1 “must-win” loss to the moribund Ottawa Senators would get a lot of coaches fired.
“It’s unacceptable, the way we showed up,’’ admitted Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s best player.
Does this mean the end for Claude, the longest-tenured coach in the NHL?
“That’s not my decision,’’ said Bergeron. “But this is definitely not on him. It should be on us.’’
Swell. But we all know you cannot fire a whole team. Ownership does not like to blame itself. The Bruins fired their longtime general manager, Peter Chiarelli, last year. So we all know what this means. There is never any glee in seeing anyone lose their job, but this is professional sports and it’s time for Claude to take his estimable skill set to another team. It will go well. The man is a good coach. One of the best the Bruins have ever had.
The Bruins badly needed to win their final game at the Garden on Saturday. It was Fan Appreciation Day and the 294th consecutive home sellout crowd came hoping to see some urgency and some jump in the legs of the local team. It was the last chance for the Bruins to stay alive.
And so what happened?
We got another big-game stinker from the Bruins. Forced to go with backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson because starter Tuukka Rask took sick, the Bruins succumbed to a second-period, four-goal avalanche by the visitors and got spanked big time. Boos rained down on their heads as the clock bled out. At that juncture, everyone knew Boston’s only chance to make the playoffs would require back-to-back losses by the Philadelphia Flyers. Not bloody likely. The Flyers beat the Penguins, 3-1, and at the dinner hour in Greater Boston the Bruins season ended.
We know that this team lacks Stanley Cup talent. We also know the Bruins didn’t have the fortitude to do damage in the playoffs. If the Flyers had somehow lost two straight this weekend, the Bruins could have entered the tournament, but it would have been bloody. It would have been more appropriate for the Bruins to Man Up and decline the invitation — rather than be one of those phony “bowl eligible” teams that pollute the holidays on ESPN.
These Bruins were not playoff worthy. And after a long, meritorious run, it’s time for Claude to hit the bricks.
The Bruins should have changed coaches last year when they ditched Chiarelli, but they let Claude twist in the wind and so they wasted a year of their rebuilding process. Moving forward, the Bruins are going to go young and Julien is a great coach for grizzled vets. Not so much for the young pups.
Saturday’s embarrassment was typical of what this team has done over the last two seasons. When the going gets tough . . . the Bruins no-show. Two years in a row they have turtled at the end of the season. Every time they had a chance to show us something, they vanished into the Causeway Street night.
They actually led, 1-0, after the first period of the finale. The Bruins got on the board in the sixth minute when David Pastrnak broke across the blue line, gloved an aerial pass from Brad Marchand, made his move, and roofed a shot past Andrew Hammond. The goal was challenged by Ottawa coach Dave Cameron and indeed, Pastrnak was probably offside, but the camera angle and the puck’s elevation made it inconclusive, so the goal stood. Break 1: Bruins.
Still, all was not well.
“We knew we were fortunate to have that lead,’’ said Torey Krug. “We had no desperation for a team that was in our situation.”
Trouble started in the second minute of the second period when Chris Neil banged home a rebound for the visitors to make it a 1-1 game. Gustavsson is known as something of a rebound machine, but this one was not his fault.
The next one, a Zack Smith deflection of a booming slapper by Erik Karlsson, was also not Gustavsson’s fault. Hmm. A quick glance at the scoreboard showed the Red Wings had tied the Rangers. The “playing for nothing” Senators were outshooting the “playing for their lives” Bruins, 25-13. In the words of Bill Belichick, “Not what we were looking for.’’
Then it started to get ugly. With 11:21 left in the second the Senators scored a table-hockey goal as Matt Puempel took a centering pass from the right wing and beat Gustavsson. The rout was on. A minute and 21 seconds later, Mika Zibanejad scored after an Adam McQuaid turnover to make it 4-1 at the exact midpoint of the game. The Bruins were being outshot, 29-14, fans were booing, and the Bruins called time out.
Unlike his players, Claude had a sense of urgency. Down, 4-1, he pulled his goalie with nine minutes left. The last two Senator goals were empty-netters.
When it was over, there was one last cringe-worthy moment. The chagrined Bruins had to come back out to turn over their jerseys to lucky fans.
No one was feeling appreciated. Not on this sad Saturday when the Hub hockey season ended too early for the second straight spring.