Bruins' Claude Julien Facing More Than Just Deep Series Deficit In Game 3

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 05: Head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins speaks to the media after his team defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on May 5, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins defeated the Flyers 4-1 to take a three games to one lead in the series. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

After going down 2-0 to the Montreal Canadiens, there's no doubt that Game 3 is a must-win for the Boston Bruins to stay in the series. For coach Claude Julien, there's a lot more at stake.

It's not unheard of to overcome a 2-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup playoffs, however, losing those first two at home carries a certain sting that road losses wouldn't, and the Boston Bruins certainly have to be concerned heading into a Game 3 in Montreal on Monday night. 

Of course, they've been on the other side of this. We all remember their epic 3-0 second-round series lead last season that turned into one of the biggest meltdowns in sports -- not just hockey -- history. So perhaps that sort of experience can tell them that no lead is insurmountable, and in theory, it's true. But the Bruins aren't in a position any team wants to be in.

The common wisdom in playoff hockey is that a series hasn't really begun until the home team drops a game. Well, what happens when the home team drops BOTH game and has to go into the opposing barn? Being the home team has a tactical advantage by having the final line change and also knowing the idiosyncracies of the rink's boards. That's why all but four teams had more wins at home than on the road in this past NHL season (funny enough, two of those team -- the Detroit Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes -- are squaring off in a series).

Heading into Montreal, Boston is already facing a disadvantage. With three of the next five played in Montreal, it's not going to be easy. Boston's offense has gone south, and barring a minor miracle, things aren't looking up.

Let's go out on a not-too-far limb here and assume that Boston's slow start kills them for the series. That means that Claude Julien's record as Bruins coach is as follows:

2010-11: 103 points, 3rd place (Northeast Division champs)
2009-10: 91 points, 6th place
2008-09: 116 points, 1st place (Northeast Division champs)
2007-08: 94 points, 8th place

In today's NHL, four straight playoff appearances with two division championships is a pretty good track record. And yet, that includes two second round-losses, one first-round loss, and another potential first-round loss this season.

Yes, injuries have gotten in the way during his time, from Patrice Bergeron to Marc Savard to David Krejci. Right now, Boston's also dealing with the Zdeno Chara's strange case of infection/dehydration, and losing a Norris-caliber defenseman isn't helping.

NHL coaches have a shelf life, deserved or not, and the Boston faithful made it pretty clear that they weren't happy with what they paid to see in the first two games of this series. Is this Claude Julien's last stand? There's no doubting the fact that the Bruins have faced plenty of adversity when it comes to injuries. A healthy Marc Savard all season could change the entire dynamic of the team, and getting Chara back into the lineup could be significant.

But a coach's job is to find a way to win. And, as Greg Wyshynski pointed out, the Bruins are fine when they take the lead early and their smothering defense/goaltending finish things out. But in other situations, well, they kind of stink:

Boston had a .190 winning percentage when trailing after the first period in the regular season, winning four times in 21 situations. We're seeing the same thing playing out now.

That's an ugly trend that points to a team not being able to overcome adversity, and a big part of getting over that particular hump comes down to a coach pushing the right buttons and finding the right chemistry -- something that just doesn't seem to happen with Julien.

Because of that, it seems that Monday's Game 3 is a make-or-break game for Julien. If he can go into enemy territory without his injured captain and rally his troops, well, it won't be a comeback for the ages but it will show that he has his pulse on this team enough to get them to perform in dire circumstances.

And if not? Then the pattern continues as it's gone all season: the Bruins can't catch up when they're behind, and that will finally catch up with Julien and his time in Boston.

For full coverage of the Canadiens vs. Bruins first round series, click here.

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