The Super Bowl is tomorrow, and representing the solidarity between coaches of Boston teams, Claude Julien reached out to New England Patriots coach Bill Bellichick.
“I think I’m his best friend right now, if you want to believe that,” Julien joked. “No, but we’ve been texting back and forth. I’ve been looking forward to the game tomorrow. Whether people like him or not, I’m a big fan of his. I like his approach, I like the way he coaches, how he prepares his teams and stuff like that. What he is publicly and what he is personally is a little bit different, so I enjoy exchanging with him.”
Julien may also like the approach of the Los Angeles Kings, a team deemed by many to be similar in its systems, attention to detail and size as the Boston Bruins.
“We expect a big, heavy game tonight as we always do against them,” Julien said. “Not dirty, but heavy. It’s going to be a battle of will and strength and determination. To me this is a good test for us because this is the kind of team we like playing. This is the kind of team we feel we are as well. So, it will be a good measuring stick for both teams, I guess, at the end.”
When discussing two teams that are roughly even in many facets, Darryl Sutter referenced the expectations held between the clubs, both of which have appeared in two Stanley Cup Finals over the last five seasons.
“They play a very similar game to ours,” he said “I think everybody’s held accountable and has a really good two-way game.”
Count Justin Williams amongst those who see similarities between the Bruins and Kings.
“I think that seems to be the contention around the league, and I think obviously both teams have mutual respect, as well,” he said. “Kind of try to play a hard-nosed, old school game and they’ve been successful at it and so have we.”
Both teams have relied on standout goaltending – both Tukka Rask, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner and Jonathan Quick, a 2012 Vezina Trophy finalist, are widely viewed as among the several very best members of the league’s goaltending club – and stingier defensive play. The Bruins haven’t finished lower than sixth in the league in goals against per game since the 2008-09 season, while the Kings finished in the top-10 in goals against per game every year between 2009-10 and 2013-14 (though they rank 13th this season).
The two clubs have also been amongst the very best in the league at holding onto the puck. The Kings rank first with a 55.6% five-on-five Corsi percentage since the start of 2011-12; the Bruins rank third at 53.6%.
“Well, you look at potential when you play teams,” Williams said. “[The Bruins have] been able to rise to the challenge of everything really that has been thrown at them. We have as well. Usually when you play a team, you don’t look at their record. You look at the capabilities and the personnel that they have and how good they can be. We need to start moving ourselves in the right direction.”
It was a sentiment that was similar to Julien’s.
“Just because you’re winning doesn’t mean you’re at your best,” Boston’s coach said. “We’ve been playing much better but yet there’s still a lot—we watch videos after games and show things to players and there’s always the areas there that I think we can improve on. That allows us not to get comfortable and when you play teams like L.A. tonight, I don’t care where they are in the standings, they’re still Stanley Cup Champions. They still have a lot of the same team, it’s just a matter of time for them to turn that around as well.”
Claude Julien, on what has changed since the west coast trip earlier in the season:
Well I think a lot of things. When we were out there I don’t think we had [David] Krejci or [Zdeno] Chara. Two pretty major contributors to our hockey club, but yet having said that and I look back at the game that we played in L.A. I thought it was a real good game, it really was. What’s changed, I think, is the outcome at the end as we’re a little bit more depth and stuff like that and players are in the right places. We seem to be on the good side of the equation if I can put it that way. But yet, I felt we played well in Anaheim, really played well in L.A. as well and then we tripped in San Jose. To me it was a real good game in L.A. so I don’t think I’m going to say a big difference besides the personnel, we’re a little deeper right now.
Justin Williams, on why the club hasn’t played its best on the road:
I don’t know. If you can pinpoint those things, you nip in the bud right away and you don’t have to deal with them anymore. Success on the road has been tough to come by. We’ve had a tough time in overtime and shootouts this year, that goes without saying. Our record could’ve been marginally better because of that, but traditionally we’ve been a good road team and we’re not taking anything for granted, we need to keep going.
Tyler Toffoli, on whether it feels like a homecoming being so close to Manchester:
Oh yeah, it’s a little weird. I haven’t played here before, so it’ll be a new experience and I know it’s a good place to play and they have good fans and it should be fun.
Toffoli, on Manchester moving to the ECHL next season:
Manch is a lot of fun. Whoever moves there, it’s going to be fun for them. It’s a good city. It’s good that they’re moving to Ontario because that’s a lot of travel when you’re up and down a little bit and that’s not easy. It should be good and it’ll be good to be able to see those guys more often.
Toffoli, on whether he feels he is 100-percent healthy:
Getting there. I was a little tired after the game against Chicago and a little tired the next day. But we’ve had a couple days now. Yesterday we didn’t skate either, so it was pretty good.