Bruins coach Claude Julien running out of options

Bruins head coach Claude Julien likes to say that his team is experienced and his team has been...

Bruins head coach Claude Julien likes to say that his team is experienced and his team has been through rough stretches before and they usually find a way. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:19 PM ET

BOSTON - Claude Julien's demeanor rarely changes. He is both a straight line and a straight shooter: A stubborn coach who would prefer to never change his lineup if he wasn't forced to do so.

But here he is, wobbling on a tightrope, this close to elimination in the Stanley Cup Final, and the engine that is the Boston Bruins is now playing on fumes. There is that little left from a lineup battered by injury and lack of performance.

The team that began the Stanley Cup playoffs almost two months ago is almost like big defenceman Zdeno Chara, the cherry tree the Chicago Blackhawks have been trying to chop down shift after shift, game after game. Chicago has chopped away at Chara as much as you can and he's still standing: The rest of the Bruins team, not so much.

When it looked in the first round like the Bruins wouldn't survive against the Maple Leafs, Julien kept doing what he can't do now. He kept running his four lines. The same four. Rarely changing who was on what line. It was Patrice Bergeron, then David Krejci, then Chris Kelly then Gregory Campbell. And then the same four again.

But even if there may be Bergeron Monday night, and I doubt it, Campbell is long gone, Kelly is marginal, and now Carl Soderberg, one game into his playoff career, will likely centre one line and if Bergeron can't go Kaspars Daugavins will centre another.

Not by choice but by circumstance, Julien is tearing up his lineup because he has to: Only the Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton trio has survived four rounds of the playoffs. And that line, frankly, is playing with two moving parts and Horton basically incapable, due to injury.

Horton hasn't scored a goal in the final, has just three in the past three rounds after scoring three goals in his first three games of the playoffs against Toronto. And on this team, with diminished production, he is hardly alone.

Brad Marchand has no points against Chicago, one goal in his past 12 games, and as well as Bergeron was playing when he was in the lineup, hasn't been a factor. He's a first liner here.

And it's not just Horton and Marchand. Jaromir Jagr, who has played second line for three and a half rounds, hasn't scored a single playoff goal. Nothing. He had the best chance to tie Game 4 late in the third period, and his hands just don't seem quick enough to surprise anybody anymore.

So Bergeron is seemingly out, Marchand has put up zeroes, Jagr has been shutout -- that line is done.

Krejci and Lucic take care of as much of the offence as they can, while Horton is a non-factor.

The kid with the quick hands, Tyler Seguin, has no goals in this round or the previous round. He has one playoff goal. His centre Kelly has one goal, one assist in 21 games.

Last change won't matter much for Julien in Game 6. Having who to change is the question. His counterpart, Joel Quenneville, who likes to play with lines, now has the budding superstar Patrick Kane in Conn Smythe form. And 15 of the past 19 Stanley Cups have been presented on the road. This could make 16 of 20: What else is Julien to do?

"Everybody's trying," said Tuukka Rask, the superb Bruins goaltender. "Maybe it's just we're thinking too much. We're thinking what might happen, what might not happen. And when you do that, you kind of take a step back in your game and not do the things you're supposed to do.

"I think we have to just think before the game and when the game times comes just go out there and execute."

Rask, like his coach, is an optimist. And Rask, like his coach, doesn't panic much. But it's one thing not to panic: It's another to serve dinner and have no vegetables, no sauce, not enough main course for everyone.

Julien likes to say that his team is experienced and his team has been through rough stretches before and they usually find a way. But this is a completely different circumstance. Julien and the Bruins survived the defensive injuries and replacements early in the playoffs. They got through and flourished pushing the minor leaguers Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski through their defence. How do they stretch this series to a seventh game without some kind of surprise -- a Jagr goal, a Marchand tour de force, Seguin suddenly becoming a difference maker?

The Bruins, like Patrice Bergeron, are day to day. They're riding on empty. And for the great coach Claude Julien there's no one to turn to for help.

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