WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien decided to give his players the weekend off since they clinched their Eastern Conference semifinal series with a four-game sweep over the Philadelphia Flyers.
The schedule for the Eastern Conference finals matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning still isn't set, but the Bruins will have a couple of days back on the ice to prepare.
Boston will have to move forward without the services of centerman Patrice Bergeron, who is out indefinitely with a mild concussion he suffered early in the third period of Game 4 on Friday at TD Garden.
“We’re hoping for the best here,” Julien said. “No. 1 for his sake. I have always said that when it comes to concussions, you think about the person first and not the player. And we’ll deal with the situation and make the best of it. There’s no doubt we’d love to have him back, but not until he’s 100 percent and ready to go.”
The Flyers’ Claude Giroux caught Bergeron with an open-ice hit just as he was getting rid of the puck in the faceoff circle in front of the Boston net. Bergeron quickly made it to his feet and immediately went to the locker room, looking dazed.
On Saturday, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli thought the hit was a bit late, and Julien called it “borderline” Sunday morning.
“I just wish sometimes that we don’t want to take the physical part of the game out of it. It is part of it,” Julien said. “You just wish somehow we could cut down on those concussions, not necessarily for the game of hockey, but more for the individuals. We know how serious those things are and somehow they seem to be creeping up in our game, and we’re trying to find ways to minimize those. But was it borderline late? Maybe. But it’s kind of real iffy. I don’t know that it was intended to injure. It was just an unfortunate hit.”
From an early age, hockey players are taught to finish their checks, and that appeared to be what Giroux did on his hit to Bergeron.
“I mean you’re told to finish your checks, but yet there’s times where you say, well, he’s made the pass and let’s turn and get back into the play," Julien said. "And a lot of it is culture. I think it’s something that at some point you hope that everybody’s going to get on the same page, players, coaches and everybody involved in the game of hockey, and say, we've got to change the culture here and try to minimize those things. But easier said than done.”
Given that the play came in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the games are faster and more physical because of what is at stake, it’s tough to judge a hit like Giroux’s.
"The intensity creeps up in the playoffs, there’s no doubt about that,” Julien said. “It’s a double-edged sword. You say you want to cut it down, but I think every fan wants to see the intensity and everything creep up in the playoffs. The people are enjoying the games right now because there is some intensity and there’s a lot at stake. So it’s a hard thing to control. So there’s an upside to it and there’s obviously a downside to it.”
Julien said he has time this week to work out a game plan moving forward until Bergeron, the team’s top playmaker, returns. The coach said he’ll try different things during practice to get a better idea of what the team’s lines will look like against the Lightning.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they have some depth, and it’s likely rookie Tyler Seguin, who has been a healthy scratch every game in the playoffs so far, will be given an opportunity. He’ll probably play on the fourth line, with either Gregory Campbell or Daniel Paille making the jump up to replace Bergeron.
“We’ve got an idea already of what we want to do,” Julien said. “But we are kind of going to work through different things this week. We'll look at it and see how well it fits, but we talked about acquiring players this year to give us some depth in case things like that happened. And this is an opportunity for our depth to come up and replace a guy if he is not there who is extremely valuable for our team. Best faceoff man by far, probably one of the best two-way players in the league. So you don’t replace a guy like that easily, but as a group you have to do it. And I go back to four years ago when we lost him for the year, everybody kind of came together and tried to compensate for that and that’s what we are going to have to do again if he is not with us.”