B's Miss Bergeron, but Cautious with Return
It's not understated what the B's are missing without the alternate captain, along with Brad Marchand, both sidelined from game action due to concussions.
Bergeron, at least, is back skating with the team on his road to recovery, and made the trip to North Carolina on Friday following his second straight day skating with teammates, after he had begun working out, something Coach Julien said was obviously a step in the right direction.
For Marchand, he and the B's will be following protocol for his "mild concussion" sustained in New Jersey on April 10, leaving no tangible timetable for his return.
The two forwards - who are two-thirds of arguably, Boston's most consistent line with Tyler Seguin - have combined for 26 of the Bruins' 114 goals this season (and 64 points). Bergeron's absence is also felt on the faceoff dot, where, despite missing the past five games, he still leads the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at 61.5-percent.
The Bruins collectively lead the league with a 56.2 faceoff percentage, and have only been under 50-percent seven times this season, but three of their past five games under 50 have come without their go-to man.
Having Bergeron back would mean having their best all-around player back. But, with the alternate captain's concussion history, the Bruins are not taking any chances.
Since Bergeron has been back skating with the team, Coach said he would also be back traveling, since "he's better off to workout with us than he is to stay behind."
When asked if Bergeron was a possibility to be in the lineup against the Hurricanes on Saturday night, Coach Julien told media during Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, "I don't think so - we're certainly going to be cautious with him."
"As you know he has a history with it and we're not about to take a gamble with him at this stage of the season."
The B's bench boss was asked further about Bergeron's history of concussions and if he ever wonders how many more times the forward might be able to handle a concussion.
"Absolutely," said Coach Julien, on if it was in thoughts. "But, I'm not going to stand here and be a doctor. But I'm going to tell you what I've been told. We don't know a ton about concussions, only that we see it as a very dangerous thing and it should be."
"We're being extremely careful with Bergy and we're going by the protocol," added Julien. "And never will this organization risk a player's health for any reason."
Teammates Hoping for Swift Return
Thought it's unknown when Bergeron will be back in the lineup, having a key leader on and off the ice back around the team is certainly a benefit moving forward for a Bruins team that's navigating the schedule and working to build up to playoff form prior to the postseason.
"Always good to see Bergy out there, hoping he's back sooner rather than later," said Shawn Thornton, one of the 14 Bruins to hit the ice alongside Bergeron for an optional practice Friday, prior to traveling South. "He's the best player on our team, so we obviously miss him. The quicker we get him, the better."
Jaromir Jagr hasn't had the chance to play with Bergeron yet, having not seen his first game action with the B's until after the alternate captain was out of the lineup. Jagr's veteran presence has certainly helped in No. 37's absence, and he too, is looking forward to being able to see the forward back in games.
"Well, I don't have a chance to see him play, we've had those couple games I played against him [in previous seasons]. But, he's a tough guy, so it's tough without a top guy," said Jagr.
"There's not many guys who can make a difference during a game - he's that type of player. It's going to be a huge plus for our team when he can come back."
Bruins Building to Get Better, With or Without Bergeron
While getting him back in the lineup will certainly be a positive, Coach Julien was quick to answer when he was asked if there was concern that some of his players think everything will "be fine" when Bergeron returns.
"No, because things weren't fine when Bergy was here, so there's no issues there," said Coach, who went on to point out that his team doesn't have that attitude now, and also didn't have that attitude when Jagr joined the lineup.
"There's none of that. There was none of that when Jags came in. You know, again, guys, it's tough to explain every day some of the things. We know we can be better. But at the same time, we're just one team amongst a lot of teams that, right now, are in different positions."
"We were in first place until yesterday. I think during the regular season of 82 games, if you calculate the points we could end up with, it would be a pretty good season," added Coach.
On Thursday night, the Bruins concluded their eighth series of three games in four nights in the 48-game season, and their sixth and final set of back-to-back games.
They finished the season 5-1-0 in the first match-up of their two games in two days scenarios, and 2-4-1 in the second game.
In the Bruins' three-games-in-four-nights scenarios, they are currently 8-1-0 in game ones, 6-3-0 in the second games and have a 1-6-1 record in game threes.
Focusing on Positive Outlook Moving Forward
The B's aren't necessarily zeroed in on stats like the above, but nonetheless, instead of berating his team for a loss like last night's, Coach Julien wanted to focus on a positive outlook for his club.
"I'm very careful about falling into the negatives more than trying to straighten out a team that's still having a decent season and winning hockey games," said Julien, of his Bruins that are 26-10-4 on the season, with 56 points, one point back of first in the Northeast, and six points back from Pittsburgh at the top of the Eastern Conference.
"But, you know, I'm not going to stand here and say, 'listen, we're in great shape here for the playoffs,'" added Coach. "We still have to get better; we have to allow ourselves to get better."
"As I said the other day and I'm going to say it again, we're not going to get better by working negatively towards our goal."
"We're going to make some progress. I thought yesterday's first period was more like our team and I was encouraged by that. We see some things coming around, scoring chances, maybe with a healthy team and getting some of those guys back, we'll have a good balance and I still have confidence about this hockey club moving forward."