GM confident Bruins can build off past
BOSTON -- Following his team's historic collapse in May -- when the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and 3-0 Game 7 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers, losing a Game 7 for the third straight season and in Game 7 of the second round for the second straight season -- Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli expressed disappointment and promised changes to correct what he felt was missing in terms of attitude in the dressing room.
"The fact that we couldn't finish it off one game in four, obviously shows that -- I don't know if you call it complacency -- but there isn't that extra whatever you want to call it," Chiarelli said then.
It's about how we play, it's about how we compete. There are a lot of variables that go in a playoff run, and I expect us to have a successful one.” -- Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli
"It wasn't there and it's happened only three times in history, so there was something missing. As far as going forward, there are player personnel moves I can make and we'll look at and there's instilling an attitude from me, through Claude [Julien] and the rest of the group. There is an issue there, but I don't know if there's one issue or [if] we can do this or do that, but we'll figure it out."
Chiarelli acted on his words during the offseason when he acquired forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. Chiarelli also made significant additions at the trade deadline in picking up defenseman Tomas Kaberle (from Toronto) and forwards Rich Peverley (from Atlanta) and Chris Kelly (from Ottawa).
After his team finished atop the Northeast Division to secure the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, Chiarelli is confident the Bruins have what it takes to finally get past the second round of the playoffs and have a successful run this spring.
"We entered this year coming off of that disappointing end against Philadelphia and that's been an underlying theme of the year, to be able to respond, to be able to build from that," Chiarelli said in a teleconference Monday when he was asked what would make this postseason a success. "So the obvious answer is get past the second round. But it's more than that. It's about how we play, it's about how we compete. There are a lot of variables that go in a playoff run, and I expect us to have a successful one."
Chiarelli sees a team that as a whole and individually has improved in key areas of the game, upgrades that have him excited about Boston's chances at winning the Stanley Cup.
"We increased our goal-scoring by 40 goals; we're obviously still very high in goals against; we were No. 1 in the even-strength goals and in the even-strength goal differentials, No. 2 in the goals differential," Chiarelli said.
"We've got three solid candidates for significant trophies, with Tim [Thomas] and the Vezina, [Zdeno Chara] the Norris, and [Patrice Bergeron] the Selke. So I think you have to look at the whole year and how we can build on that."
Chiarelli was asked if, in addition to the personnel changes, he thought about replacing coach Claude Julien.
"No, I didn't consider making a coaching change," the Bruins GM said. "I felt that there was a lot of, I spoke earlier of the variables that go into playoff success, and I felt there were a lot of variables that were mitigating. So I didn't even consider making a coaching change.
"What I did see this year, we scored 40 more goals without really compromising the defensive side of it, and obviously Tim [Thomas] has helped that," Chiarelli said. "We made a significant change going into the year to generate more speed going through the neutral zone. It's called interchange, where the players come a little lower to generate more speed and curl. And that was a significant change.
"I think all coaches get advantages as players get better, and I feel that Claude has improved. I like the job that Claude has done this year."
Chiarelli also likes the way the in-season additions -- Kelly, Kaberle, Peverley and defenseman Shane Hnidy -- have fit in on the ice and in the dressing room.
"Kaberle changes the balance on the D, and as far as moving the puck," Chiarelli said. "Peverley and Kelly have shored up our third line, both good faceoff guys. You've seen some of the offense from Peverley, and I expect to see more of it. He's a very good offensive player.
"[Hnidy] has been a little rusty. In fairness to Shane, he obviously hasn't played all year. He's going to give us some back-end depth, and obviously some character. I've been happy with those guys."
With the playoffs starting Thursday with a first-round matchup against the Montreal Canadiens, Chiarelli seems confident his team is ready to take the next step and put the disappointment of the last two years behind it. After the Bruins were embarrassed in a 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on March 19 in Toronto, Chiarelli said he believes the team improved its deficiencies and has built momentum and a strong mindset that he thinks will help them going forward.
"From back in the Toronto game, it was incumbent on us to really get the team in a proper frame of mind as you roll into the playoffs," Chiarelli said. "And since that point I think we've been 7-3-1.
"I'm optimistic about some of the areas that we've shored up in that time and the mind frame of the team, especially in light of when you're in a position where you couldn't really move up or down that much, it's difficult.
"Despite our statistical woes at the power play, I thought in the last few games, we played better. We moved the puck a lot better and I liked what we're seeing there. And that's obviously a scenario we have to be good at it to have success in the playoffs.
"But overall I'm happy where we're at right now and the experience we've had in the past will help us as we move into the playoffs."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.