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  • Claude Julien passes Art Ross, continues to silence critics

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    Claude Julien passes Art Ross, continues to silence critics

    Tim Rosenthal March 8, 2016

    October 6, 2007. That was the date of Claude Julien’s first win as a Bruins head coach — a 3-1 victory over the Coyotes, who were coached by the ‘Great One’ himself, Wayne Gretzky.

    Julien’s first win at the helm came in the middle of another Red Sox run to the World Series, the Patriots undefeated regular season and the start of the Celtics’ ‘Big Three’ era of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. At the time, the other coaches representing the fine city of Boston were Terry Francona, Bill Belichick and Doc Rivers.

    Fast forward to 2016. A few years removed from the end of the latest ‘Big Three’ era, former Celtics coach Rivers is now manning the sidelines for the Los Angeles Clippers. A disgraceful exit from Francona in 2011 didn’t last long as he was snagged a year later by the Cleveland Indians, where he is still managing. That leaves Julien and Belichick as the two longest tenured coaches in Boston.

    Unlike Belichick, however, Julien had to endure the Boston scene hot seat quite a bit. Had it not been for Nathan Horton’s heroics against the Canadiens in 2011 or the Bruins’ epic three-goal come from behind victory over the Maple Leafs, Julien would’ve most certainly been looking for another coaching position.

    Instead, here we are now. In a year of transition, first-year GM Don Sweeney brought back Julien — amidst more speculation of his job security — to guide the Bruins in hopes of returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing the second season for the first time in his Boston tenure a year ago.

    Despite growing concerns on the blue-line and some other questionable moves by Sweeney during the off-season, the ninth-year Bruins coach and longest tenured bench boss in today’s NHL is doing just that. He’s put the Black and Gold in position to take over first place in the Atlantic Division. With a regulation win over Tampa Bay tonight, Boston will sit all alone atop the Atlantic with 14 games left in the 2015-16 regular season. Not bad for a team that started the year with three straight losses.

    “Certainly not,” Julien told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley after Monday’s game in South Florida. “And I think our guys have worked hard to get better. This team has a lot of potential. I think it’s just a matter of tapping into it and trying to get — as I always say — some consistency there in our game. … We’re a team that, from the beginning of the year to now, has really improved a lot.”

    In order to get the B’s within striking distance, Julien needed to make history. In Thursday’s win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, Julien tied Art Ross for most wins in team history with 387. No. 388 had to wait after a disappointing OT loss to the Capitals on Saturday in which the Black and Gold played another solid game against an elite team in the NHL.

    That wait for elusive win No. 388 took all of four days. Much like most of Julien’s tenure, however, the Bruins didn’t make it easy as the Panthers came roaring back from a 4-1 first period deficit to score three unanswered and force overtime.

    Trade deadline acquisition Lee Stempniak, however, saved the Bruins bacon. The veteran and Dartmouth alum scored his first as a member of the Black and Gold to give Julien that 388th win and the 5-4 victory.

    In just his fourth game as a Bruin, Stempniak sees himself skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand — two of the most consistent players on the roster. Those two, along with the even-keeled Julien, have been accommodating to Stempniak since his arrival in Boston last week.

    “That’s a huge accomplishment for him, so I’m really happy for him,” Stempniak told NESN’s Sarah Davis after scoring his 17th of the season. “But he’s pretty calm. He lets the guys play. I think he’s got a veteran group here of leaders and guys who know how to play the game. He manages the system, but he sort of lets guys control it themselves, which is good. You can’t have a coach that’s too up and too down, and he kind of has that even-keeled demeanor, which helps.”

    That leveled approach resonates in the locker room. Instead of panicking over his job security and listening to callers on sports radio calling for his head (again) after an 0-3 start, Julien has his team peaking at the right time. It’s a reason why Julien is being considered as a Jack Adams Award candidate for the NHL’s coach of the year.

    The Bruins will honor Julien’s historic accomplishment with a pregame ceremony at TD Garden on March 24th before their final meeting of the season with the Panthers.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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