When a team scores six goals in four games, it is usually a sign for coaches to make a few changes. Taking this into account, Claude Julien did exactly that during this afternoon’s practice at the TD Garden.
After returning home from a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at the end of their four-game road trip – where they went 1-3 – the Boston Bruins shuffled their front 12 in hopes of generating some more offense.
While the Merlot line (Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton) and the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin line have been the best trios all season, a change was necessary. Paille, who is an early favorite for the annual “7th Player Award”, skated with Bergeron and Seguin, while Marchand replaced Milan Lucic on a line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Lucic, who hasn’t lit the lamp since Feb. 24 against the Florida Panthers, was bumped down to the third line with Rich Peverley and Jordan Caron, and Jay Pandolfo joined Campbell and Thornton on the energy unit.
The inconsistencies of the first line (Lucic, Krejci and Horton) and the third unit are glaring and it’s why Julien, despite production from the second and fourth lines, needed to shake things up.
“Every once in a while, you’ve got to do some things,” the Bruins bench boss said after practice. “We’ve scored six goals in the last four games, so I think it is time for a shake up.”
The toughest decision for Julien was breaking up the second line. For the last year and a half, Seguin, Bergeron and Marchand have been the most productive unit and through 30 games this season, the trio combined for 73 points (31 goals, 42 assists) while compiling an astonishing plus-60 rating.
But with their current slump and the trade deadline quickly approaching, Julien thought the changes were necessary.
“The question mark is do you break up that line? It’s been a good line, absolutely. But you can’t win with one line, so we’re trying to get a spark from our team. And sometimes…as a coach, you make a change and that’s what I’m able to do,” Julien said about the Marchand, Bergeron and Seguin unit. “If it doesn’t work [then] it’s very easy to move guys around again or put lines together. It’s not a bad thing having those guys play with different players.”
“There’s nothing you can do. It’s about doing it for the team, and that’s what Claude feels its time for,” Bergeron said about the line changes. “There’s nothing you can say about it.”
Maybe its the grueling schedule in March where the Bruins play 17 games in 31 days. Maybe its the ongoing injury bug that is going around. Maybe its a combination of the two. Or maybe its something completely different that’s attributed to this slump.
In any event, Julien is looking for solutions and not excuses.
“It’s a mental grind and we’ll get through it,” he said. “We’re going to get through it, I have no doubt in my mind. It’s just that we have to fight through this right now in order to try to turn this around as quickly as we can.”