Whenever one team comes out on top – especially when the results were as uneven as Boston’s two wins over Vancouver were – it makes a coach look brilliant. Moves that would have been subtle and simple seem like strokes of genius if they propel a team to one-sided victories.
While Roberto Luongo’s struggles and the Canucks’ difficulties in finding a proper defensive lineup amid suspensions and injuries cast Alain Vigneault in a poor light, Claude Julien seems to come out smelling like roses.
Even decisions that were once criticized – such as Julien’s reluctance to play Tyler Seguin, which seemed like utter stupidity after two hot games – have been shown to be more logical than expected. Seguin cooled off considerably after that ridiculous six point run in two games, showing that Julien wasn’t totally crazy for scratching him. (Then again, some might argue that Julien simply isn’t giving Seguin the ice time and opportunities he needs to succeed, but that’s a debate for another day.)
While Julien and Vigneault share roots in the Montreal Canadiens organization and are known to be good friends, it seems like Julien is making better moves while Vigneault botched the occasional crucial decision. (One example: Vigneault allowed Luongo to stay in Game 3 when it was 5-1, only to see him allow three more painful goals, taking even more away from his possibly shaken confidence.)
Joe Haggerty goes as far as to say that Julien has had a “Midas touch” in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
1) He went with his head and his heart in playing Shawn Thornton during Game 3 to give his team an emotional lift and a dose of much-needed attitude.
2) He rolled the dice a little by taking a chance on Rich Peverley on Boston’s top line in Game 4, and Peverley rewarded the decision with a pair of goals.
It would seem Julien is enjoying the Midas touch over the last few games, and he’ll need to continue if the Bruins are going to bag themselves a road win. While making sure to give a great deal of the credit to the players for the position that the Bruins find themselves in, B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli also points to Julien.
“Everything is magnified in the Finals,” said Chiarelli. “The last change — the significance of the last change is huge, so it’s something we have to battle. But I have confidence in our coach and I have confidence in my players. Those guys have been battling and that’s a testament to the team.”
“[Julien] is doing a good job, and the players are playing too. This is a collective thing. I’ll give credit to Claude for mixing and matching, but the players are also doing terrific in accepting the roles that they’re being placed in.”
Of course, Julien knows better than most how fickle praise can be for NHL head coaches. He was fired from his job with the Canadiens one season after helping the team overachieve their way to playoff berth with a 93-point season, but his most ridiculous firing came with the New Jersey Devils. GM Lou Lamoriello canned him late in his mostly successful first season, which briefly became an odd tradition for the unique executive. Even taking the instability of the job under consideration, few coaches have seen the stark contrast in ups (Jack Adams Trophy during the 08-09 season with Boston) and downs (blowing that 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers in last year’s semifinals) quite like Julien.
Ultimately, he’s a steady coach who might help the Bruins upset the mighty Canucks for their first Stanley Cup win since 1972. Let’s face it, too; few things make a coach seem wiser than a gaudy Stanley Cup ring on his finger.