The Bruins’ 4-1 win over the Panthers Thursday night at the Garden brought Claude Julien his 246th win behind the Boston bench, inching him one victory ahead of Milt Schmidt for second place on the club’s all-time list. Next in line: Art Ross at 361.
“Not even something we need to talk about,’’ mused Julien when asked about aiming for Ross’s No. 1 slot.
The ever-gracious Schmidt, who celebrated his 95th birthday March 5, sounded quite satisfied with his No. 3 standing in the Bruins history books. Not surprisingly, the Hall of Famer had only praise for the 52-year-old Julien.
“I know Claude very well and I call him from time to time,’’ said Schmidt, who still resides just outside Boston. “I saw him just the other night when the Bruins saw fit to celebrate my birthday, which was very nice.
“I told him then that I thought nothing but the best of him. He does an outstanding job.
“I just think today’s players are so much more difficult to handle than when I coached, for the most part because they make so much more money.
“And with 30 teams in the league, so many more jobs, honestly, I’m not sure today’s players realize how much more fortunate they are than players of the past. Or that they fully appreciate what an honor it is to play in the National Hockey League.’’
Schmidt played and coached in the NHL’s six-team era. Coaches in those days had the perceived luxury/advantage of being able to threaten players with demotions to the minor leagues, where there was a perpetual source of talent eagerly awaiting to be promoted.
“It wasn’t always a good situation, believe me,’’ said Schmidt, refuting somewhat the power of the demotion hammer. “I always felt that you never wanted to downgrade a player.
“Send a player down, and you never knew — you hurt a player and he might never come out of it. And I always thought, ‘If I send a player down, am I going to hurt him?’
“But, still, some I sent down and they were fine. They came out of it to be standouts.’’
Asked for a name or two, Schmidt hesitated, then laughed and said, “Well, no, I’m 95 now, so the names don’t come very easily. But I can tell you that I think Claude is doing a great job.’’
Often when talking to groups or individuals, said Schmidt, he likes to summon the memory and words of Lou Gehrig, the Yankee icon whose playing days and life were cut short by ALS. In his famous farewell speech of July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium, the faltering Gehrig told everyone that, despite his bad break, he was “the luckiest man on the face of this earth.’’
“Well, move over, Lou, because you’ve got another man here in the name of Milt Schmidt,’’ he said. “I’m one of the luckiest, too.
“To my dying day, I’ll be grateful for having played in the NHL and all the good things it meant in my life.’’
NO ROOM FOR DEBATE
Stars aren’t in the same orbit
The Bruins are back in Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee, and the Penguins, not surprisingly, are back running with the big boys (including the Bruins) in the NHL East.
Interesting contrast of careers between Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring (47 points headed into Saturday’s play), and the enigmatic Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Crosby continues to blossom and dominate, while Ovie’s production, along with his overall development, has turned decidedly ho-hum the last two-plus seasons.
Entering Saturday, while Crosby led the charts, Ovechkin’s line read 10-12—22, ranking him T-35 in goals (his raison d’etre) and T-41 in points.
When they entered the league together in October 2005, the debate centered on which one would enjoy the better career. Well, here in their eighth seasons, Crosby — his head clear of post-concussion cobwebs — is leaving Ovechkin in the dust.
Crosby is a center and not a wing, which means he should be able to make those around him better. Put double check marks in that box. Entering Saturday, he was one of four Penguins among the league’s top 20 scorers (along with Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Kris Letang).
Crosby doesn’t set up all of those guys, of course, and he often works with the benefit of some extra room when fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin is healthy and in full stride (he had missed 7 of 10 games entering Saturday). But without question, Crosby is back to being the best player in the league (he won the Hart Trophy as MVP in 2007), while Ovechkin is looking like yesterday’s news. Not good in this era of instant information.
The key difference seems to boil down to Crosby typically getting more done with less. That’s not to say he has less talent than Ovechkin. Hardly. But he plays a very refined, smart, puck-possession game, and it can be infuriatingly difficult to separate him from the puck. Like Ovechkin, he has that extra gear, and he jumps to it perfectly on the rush to deliver passes or pot relays from others.Continued...