WILMINGTON — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick couldn't have opened a press conference any better ... or less informative.
"Guys, before we get going," said Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien Tuesday at the team's practice facility at Ristuccia Arena on Route 38 in Wilmington. "Injury update - it's the same as yesterday, nothing's changed and that's where we are."
Translation: "I didn't like having to answer these questions on Monday. So don't ask about Tuukka Rask (out of shape) or Adam McQuaid (upper body injury?!?)... Because I'm not telling you!"
Julien is in charge. Finally.
It's a tough market here in Titletown, USA, with championships galore and Hall of Fame-caliber coaches employed at nearly every Boston pro sports venue.
But Julien has withstood the test of time — five years! — and, well, capped off last season with a Duck Boat parade in downtown Boston.
He's apparently earned the right, like his football brother, to disclose nothing on the injury front, particuarly when the real tournament begins, other than nondesecript "upper body injury."
When he was signed by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, there was no euphoria or influx of season tickets. In other words, this was no Bill Parcells.
In fact, it was the to contrary. There were more questions about his abrupt dismissals at Montreal and New Jersey, and general manager Peter Chiarelli's sanity. Heck, Chiarelli fired Dave Lewis after only one season.
But five years later, there is real, beefy euphoria in this region and most of it centers around Julien's hockey team. Yes, that's right — Julien's hockey team.
Sure, president Cam Neely's influence is there. He scares the dickens out of everybody. And Chiarelli might just be the best general manager in Boston. But the Bruins' on-ice grit, determination and that "lovable" defense-first approach that every player has bought into is all Claude Julien.
"There's a few things that stick out about Claude," said Bruins tough-guy Shawn Thornton, who joined the Bruins on July 1, 2007, just a few weeks after Julien joined the team. "One is that he strives for consistency ... every day. It's not just games; it's practices, too. There is no let-ups.
"Another thing is honesty," said Thornton. "I've never had a day here with the Bruins when I didn't know where I stand. Claude is straight with everybody here. He's not a good coach. He's a great coach. Look at what he's done with us."
For many years in between the Stanley Cups in 1971 and 2011, the Bruins have had players dominate the sexy statistical categories, particularly goals and assists.
But these Bruins, like last year, are nowhere to be found near the top in the individual offensive categories. Tyler Seguin is tied for 31st in goals scored (29) and Patrice Bergeron is tied for 28th in assists (42).
But, as a team, the Bruins finished second in goals scored and fifth in goals against.
Probably the most incredible stats analysis of all is the plus-minus category (goal differential when that player is on the ice, excluding power play and penalty kills), the ultimate definition of offensive-and-defensive performance. The top five players in the league are all Bruins — Bergeron (+36), Seguin (+34), Zdeno Chara (+32), Chris Kelly (+32) and Brad Marchand (+31).
Talk about nirvana for Julien.
"We don't have those [Steven] Stamkos-type players," said Julien. "We are more of a grinding team versus a highly skilled kind of team just because of that it makes it's maybe a little bit harder to score the amount of goals that certain teams do."
Julien himself said that most hockey teams take on the personality of their coach.
Yesterday he was about his and his team's personality.
"It's basically what I believe in, to me how hard you compete and how hard you work is what's going to give you an opportunity to win," he said. "We've seen so many teams with tons of talent, but the compete level wasn't there and anytime you have a compete level that is second to none, and you believe, and you have good work ethic, you at least give yourself a chance. Well we've got that, I think as a team, we got that.
"But we also got skilled players that either evolved, or improved over the years," said Julien. "And we've added that to the identity and that's what's made us a better team."
Take a bow, coach. You've pulled off something few believed might not happen for another generation.
You've woken up a franchise and a hockey-starved region. And you did it your way.
Some of your peers, particularly the guy based in Foxboro, would be proud.