The highs and lows of the Bruins’ Claude Julien era

Claude Julien holds the Stanley Cup after the Bruins defeated the Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup.
Claude Julien holds the Stanley Cup after the Bruins defeated the Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup. –Mike Blake/Reuters

COMMENTARY

Claude Julien’s arrival to Boston was met with very little fanfare in 2007. His firing inspired mixed reviews midway through the 2016-17 season.

In between that time, Julien’s Boston tenure was quite the roller coaster. From end-of-season collapses and escaping the proverbial coach’s hot seat to guiding the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years and becoming the winningest coach in franchise history, the now former Boston bench boss had his share of eventful and not-so-eventful moments in his 10 years.

As the Julien era comes to a close in The Hub of Hockey, here is a look back at some of the highs and lows:

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June 22, 2007 – The era begins

Just two months prior to his introduction in Boston, Julien was removed from his gig as the Devils’ bench boss. With the Bruins’ underwhelming performances in the two post-lockout seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 under Mike Sullivan and Dave Lewis, the decision by former general manager Peter Chiarelli to tab Julien after being fired by ex-Devils GM Lou Lamoriello days before the regular season was seen to be a head scratcher at the time.

April 4, 2008 – Bruins overcome odds to clinch playoff spot

Exceeding low expectations is an accomplishment in and of itself. Doing it with a roster beset by injuries makes that accomplishment even more impressive.

With the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez — who they acquired from the Minnesota Wild in the offseason — the Bruins overcame the obstacles and earned themselves their first trip to the postseason in the Julien era. Not bad for a team that was picked to finish towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

April 19, 2008 – Game 6 vs. Montreal

Entering their first-round series with the hated Canadiens, the eighth-place Bruins weren’t given much of a chance after losing all eight regular-season meetings against their historic rivals. Instead of getting an easy first-round win, the Habs were pushed to the limit by a Bruins team that refused to quit.

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The Black and Gold avoided elimination with a Game 5 win in Montreal. Down 2-1 in the third period in Game 6, the Bruins made a furious comeback that was capped off by Marco Sturm’s game-winner to force a Game 7. The Bruins wound up losing the deciding game at the Bell Centre the next night, but the Game 6 victory at a “vibrating” TD Garden brought a sense of hope to the organization.

June 18, 2009 – Julien receives Jack Adams Award

Following that Game 6 win against the Canadiens, expectations got a little bit higher for the Bruins in 2008-09. Though the thought was they were still a little ways away from becoming an elite team in the National Hockey League, Julien and company in some ways exceeded another set of expectations.

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With Phil Kessel emerging as a top-tier goal scorer, Zdeno Chara blossoming into the best defenseman in the league, Marc Savard leading the team in points and Tim Thomas’ rise in the upper echelon of goaltenders, the Bruins finished in first place in the Eastern Conference. A year removed from their first-round loss to the Canadiens, the Bruins made quick work of their rivals in another opening-round series sweeping them in four games.

The year ended in a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Hurricanes, but the Bruins were earning respect from the rest of the league. As a result, Julien (Jack Adams) joined Chara (Norris) and Thomas (Vezina) as award recipients as the league’s coach of the year.

January 1, 2010 – A Winter Classic on Yawkey Way

Back when outdoor hockey was still a novelty, the third installment of the Winter Classic at Fenway Park provided one of the more memorable regular-season moments in Bruins history. With Julien’s team down 1-0 against the Flyers, Mark Recchi scored to even the contest late in the third period. That set up Marco Sturm’s game-winner in overtime as the Bruins became the first home team to come away victorious in the annual New Year’s Day event.

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As high as that moment was, this wasn’t the last time Julien and company would have a moment with the Flyers.

May 14, 2010 – Bruins lose 3-0 lead…twice

Much like the last few years, the Bruins fought for their playoff lives during the 2009-10 regular season. Advancing to the postseason on the second to last day, the sixth seeded Bruins upset the Sabres in six games to advance to the second round.

Eventually, injuries and depth became an issue. With guys like Trent Whitfield notching third-line minutes Marc Savard still reeling from his career changing (and eventually ending) concussion — despite his Game 1 heroics — and without David Krejci and Marco Sturm, the Bruins couldn’t hold on to a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semis. Ironically, the Bruins couldn’t hold on to an early 3-0 lead against the Flyers in Game 7.

This marked the first instance where Julien escaped the hot seat. It would only get hotter entering the 2010-11 season.

April 27, 2011 – Julien, Bruins, get Game 7 monkey off their back

For three straight years, the Bruins’ season was ended by a Game 7 loss. A fourth straight Game 7 loss with a championship caliber team — especially after failing to end the series the night before — going up against their hated rivals for the third time in four years certainly would have ended Julien’s tenure.

But it didn’t. Nathan Horton’s heroics in overtime got the Game 7 monkey off the Bruins backs. The rest, as we know, was history.

June 15, 2011 – Raising the Cup in Vancouver

This time, the Bruins were determined to make history.

Following an exciting Game 7 1-0 win against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals — thanks again to Horton’s heroics — the Bruins had to overcome a Horton injury in Game 3. Despite trailing 2-0 against the talented Canucks, the Bruins outlasted and outmuscled the President’s Trophy winners, taking four of the next five games in the series to capture Lord’s Stanley Cup.

May 13, 2013 – A comeback for the ages

With less than 15 minutes left, the Bruins were on the verge of another postseason collapse after taking a 3-1 series lead on old friend Phil Kessel and the rest of the Maple Leafs. Trailing 4-1, Julien may have been of losing his job, again.

Then history happened. From three goals down, the Bruins stormed back to even things up late in the final stanza with goals from Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron. In overtime, Bergeron capped off the comeback to send TD Garden into a frenzy.

June 24, 2013 – 17 seconds

The triumphant win over the Leafs was a springboard to the Bruins’ run back to the Stanley Cup Final. Awaiting them was another President’s Trophy winner, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unfortunately for Julien and company, they caught the Blackhawks in the middle of their dynasty. Capped off by a Game 6 win where Chicago scored twice in a 17 second span late in the third, the Bruins had no answers for the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and the rest of the talented Blackhawks.

May 14, 2014 – The last playoff game

Being the recipients of the President’s Trophy one year later, the Bruins expected to make another deep playoff run. The last team they wanted to face en route to another Cup Final appearance was the hated Canadiens.

Carey Price, P.K. Subban and the rest of the Habs stymied the Bruins en route to a second-round series victory in Game 7 at TD Garden — the last postseason appearance under Julien.

April 11, 2015 – Bruins miss playoffs for first time in Julien era

With much of the roster gone from previous seasons, including Johnny Boychuk, Shawn Thornton, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference and Jarome Iginla (to name a few), the Bruins transition process began to take place. As the depth thinned out, Julien was left trying to get the most of what he had starting in 2014-15.

The Bruins ended the year with a three-game losing streak that concluded in Tampa on the final day of the regular season. GM Peter Chiarelli wound up being the scapegoat, while his replacement, Don Sweeney would retain Julien for a ninth season behind the bench.

January 1, 2016 – A not so Winter Classic

 Six years to the day after Marco Sturm’s heroics, the Bruins completely no-showed against the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium. The downward trend only got worse following the 5-1 loss.

April 9, 2016 – Second straight late regular-season collapse

 Unlike the year before where they needed help to make it to the postseason, the Bruins had the odds in their favor on the last day of the regular season. With the Red Wings losing to the Rangers, all they needed was to beat a Senators team that had nothing to play for.

On a day where Tuukka Rask was mysteriously sick — a subject that is still debated — Julien and company suffered their second straight late regular-season collapse, this time in front of the TD Garden faithful. As hot as his seat was, Julien was retained by Sweeney to return for a 10th season.

February 7, 2017 – Julien paraded out of town

On a day where the Patriots were honored in Boston for their historic fifth Super Bowl victory, the Bruins announced the firing of Julien after 10 years. He departs as the winningest coach in franchise history with 419 victories during his Boston tenure. Bruce Cassidy takes over as interim coach.

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