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Claude Julien, meet hot seat ... again

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 13, 2013 10:11 AM

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On the bright side, it looks like Dallas may only be getting a second-round pick for Jaromir Jagr.

The conditional draft choice becomes a first-rounder should the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference final, but suddenly, and perhaps expectedly, that prospect has become the well of water on the desert horizon. Here we are. Seven. Again.

The Bruins are forced to host the Maple Leafs in Game 7 Monday night thanks to their inability to show any spark of life for five of the six periods they’ve played since Friday night. Only in the third period of Game 5 at a lifeless Garden did the Bruins show some spark, an energy that hoped to translate into Game 6 Sunday night in Toronto. Instead, the Bruins became the team we became accustomed to during the stretch run of the regular season; a plodding, indecisive offensive enigma, now with its back to the wall for an eighth time under head coach Claude Julien.

The Bruins are 3-4 in the Julien era in Game 7’s, all three wins coming during the Cup run in 2011. The four losses include last year’s oust at the hands of the Capitals, 2009’s loss to the Hurricanes, 2008’s disappointment against the Canadiens, and, of course, the series which most resembles this current state of affairs, 2010’s epic 3-0 collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Red Sox overcame deficits of 0-3 and 1-3 during both their World Series runs of 2004 and ’07, respectively. Can the Bruins perform the same trend in reverse over the same stretch of three years?

Julien may have his name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, but his presence on it is likely the only thing saving his job. Eight game sevens in six years might be a sign that you’re team is in the playoffs consistently. It might even serve as a sign that your team is good enough to force the opposition to the brink. With Julien’s Bruins, it serves as the ultimate reminder that this team refuses to finish off opponents until there’s no more wiggle room remaining. And even then, the Bruins have only been successful 43 percent of the time. All in 2011. All with Tim Thomas in net.

Without Thomas, the Bruins are 0-4 in Game 7’s under Julien, and Rask is 0-1 despite the 3-0 lead his teammates awarded him against the Flyers three years ago. Something about too many men as well.

If the Bruins lose Game 7 against the lesser Leafs, Julien will indeed be at the forefront of fan criticism. Chants of “Fire Claude” will sprinkle from the nosebleeds and filter online message boards with a fervency not seen since…well, last week.

Julien’s stubbornness in how he approaches each game may be one of his best qualities in that it speaks to the faith he has in certain aspects and pairings on his roster. It’s also his ultimate undoing. Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Brad Marchand will trot out Monday night together as always despite the least production of any line this side of the DMV. Marchand has been lost, and Seguin a complete train wreck against Toronto, despite the trio’s success during the regular season. What’s the harm in mixing it up when it clearly is DOA? The less-than-desirable answer? Claude.

“I have no comments on my lines,” Julien said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Game 6 in Toronto. “I’m not talking about certain lines. I’m talking about our whole team as a Jekyll and Hyde hockey club. You see when we play well how good we can be. Tonight, poor puck management never gave us a chance to win. It’s as simple as that.”

Meh, not really. You could argue that the Bruins have managed to even show up for two of the six games in this series; Games 1 and 3, both wins for Boston. The Game 4 overtime win was a thrilling game, but it too showed off many of the Bruins’ deficiencies, and took a hat trick from David Krejci, and late mastery on the part of Rask to pull it out. Since Krejci’s overtime goal on Wednesday, the Bruins have played like they lost the team dog. The Maple Leafs have life, a resurgence the Bruins awarded them by failing to put them away, by confoundingly refusing to park themselves in front of James Reimer and sink the incessant rebounds bouncing off the Toronto netminder. Now, Reimer has a confidence the Bruins are more than familiar with, instilling a similar sense in Braden Holtby last spring against Washington. Outside of the Bruins’ top line, Boston is terrible offensively, a trait that has probably reached its nadir under Julien-led squads. The call for a more offensive-minded coach to take over behind the bench isn’t a crazy thought.

Then again, remember, some thought Julien should lose his job in the waning days of the 2010-11 regular season. Many questioned whether he was right for the job, and whether Thomas was simply a nice story in sheep’s clothing as the Bruins faced the Canadiens in a deciding Game 7 two years ago. If the Bruins lost that overtime decision, we’re not debating the future of Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli. Both are already long gone, and the Bruins are still clamoring for their first Cup since 1972.

Game 7’s were kind to the Bruins in 2011. Otherwise, they’ve been a lost cause under Julien with at least one more on tap against the Leafs Monday. If they lose, it will be Claude on the hot seat, and realistically, for the first time in years of fan frustration, it may be time for the Bruins to feel it’s best to part ways.

Has it really reached that point? For all the good Julien has done for this franchise, his approach can only do so much good. Unfortunately, he can’t bottle the magic from 2011, and even if he could, the pixie dust from that run is somewhere in Colorado preparing for the Olympics in Sochi. The last time a Bruins team without Thomas in net won a Game 7 was in 1994 against the Canadiens. It's up to Rask for a second time. It's up to Julien for an eighth.

One more time Monday. Game 7. We’re used to this by now, and unfortunately, more often than not, know exactly how it plays out. Winning hides the problems. Losing creates a host more of them.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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