Sunday, August 19, 2018
Sports

Bruins fire Julien, hope for playoffs

BOSTON — The Bruins felt they needed a change at the top, even if it meant doing it on a day when the city was celebrating a championship.

Boston fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Claude Julien on Tuesday, just hours before a downtown parade in honor of the Patriots' Super Bowl victory.

General manager Don Sweeney apologized for the timing but said a two-day break between games provided time to recover from the emotions of Julien's dismissal. He said he wasn't oblivious of the optics, but "I'm not going to make a decision just based on that."

With the team in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season, Sweeney felt he had little choice. Boston has lost two in a row and six of nine and fallen out of a playoff spot in the East. Assistant Bruce Cassidy, 51, was named interim coach.

"I had come to a conclusion that in moving this group forward with an eye toward the plans that have been put in place, that I wasn't willing to commit to a longer term basis with Claude," Sweeney said.

He also said there is time before the March 1 trade deadline to make adjustments that could get the Bruins in position to make the playoffs. "There's no question I think this group has a chance to get in," Sweeney said.

Bruins left wing Brad Marchand hopes the change will give the team a jolt.

"At the end of the day it falls back on the players," he said. "We're not the ones that are executing on the ice, and hopefully we have to realize that this is not going to fix everything. We have to go out there and do the job."

Cassidy has spent nine years in the Bruins organization. He completed his fifth season as head coach of the Providence Bruins in 2015-16, having spent the three previous seasons with the club as an assistant.

He coached the Capitals from 2002-04. Asked what he can get out of the team that Julien couldn't, Cassidy said, "We're going to find out soon enough."

Cassidy said he isn't expecting to make wholesale change but will tweak the defense to get "the puck back a little quicker" and "being more opportunistic with our chances" on offense.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Kris Versteeg scored the only goal in the shootout, and the visiting Flames recovered after a third-period rally by the Penguins to get a 3-2 victory. Chad Johnson stopped 31 shots in regulation then turned away Pittsburgh's Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby in the shootout. The Penguins' Kris Letang hit the post on his team's final attempt. Crosby inched closer to becoming the 86th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 points when he assisted on Chris Kunitz's third-period goal for point No. 998. … Alex Ovechkin got his 26th goal of the season, Braden Holtby was steady in net and the host Capitals beat the Hurricanes 5-0 for their fourth straight victory. … Henrik Lundqvist made a season-high 43 saves, Michael Grabner scored twice and the host Rangers beat the Ducks 4-1 to give coach Alain Vigneault his 600th career victory. … Evander Kane scored 1:05 into overtime and the host Sabres overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period to defeat the Sharks 5-4. … Seth Jones took a drop pass from Brandon Dubinsky and wired a high slap shot past goalie Petr Mrazek 3:22 into overtime to give the visiting Blue Jackets a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings.

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