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Murphy: Montgomery Should Take More Bullets For His Players



Boston Bruins

If the Boston Bruins lose Game 6 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, whether he’s to blame or not, it would behoove head coach Jim Montgomery to take the bullets from the media and fans for his team.

For two straight postseasons, when the heat ramps up and his team unravels, Jim Montgomery hasn’t ducked responsibility, but he also hasn’t specifically owned his mistakes that led to a loss. Who can forget when the Boston Bruins bench boss deferred to Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa when asked why he started goalie Jeremy Swayman over Linus Ullmark in Game 7 against the Florida Panthers after Linus Ullmark started the first six games of the series?

“You’d have to ask Goalie Bob [Essensa] a little more in detail about that,” Montgomery said at the time, knowing full well that the media is not allowed to speak to the goalie coach.

Just as they did in this current series against the Maple Leafs, the Bruins led the Panthers 3-1 in that first-round series a year ago. They also lost Game 5 of that series in overtime, just as they did to the Maple Leafs this past Tuesday.

Heading into Game  5 on Tuesday at TD Garden, Montgomery decided to pull rookie forward and faceoff specialist John Beecher from the lineup in favor of Justin Brazeau, who had not played since April 2. He also inserted struggling defenseman Matt Grzelcyk into the lineup and took out Kevin Shattenkirk. Grzelcyk finished with just one shot and had two turnovers, one of which led to the Jake McCabe goal that put the Maple Leafs up 1-0 5:33 into regulation. It got worse for Grzelcyk, though, as he was absolutely walked by Toronto captain John Tavares in overtime, leading to the overtime winner by Matthew Knies. After the game, Montgomery was asked if he regretted his lineup changes.

“No, I don’t,” Montgomery said when asked if he thought his personnel changes contributed to the disjointed start. “We made three changes before Game 3. I don’t think changing personnel… we’ll have to evaluate it and see how everybody did when we review the film and see if we’re gonna make different changes.”

On Wednesday, Montgomery was given another chance to take ownership and acknowledge what everyone else saw from the opening faceoff in Game 5, a different lineup that looked disjointed.

“There’s a lot of discussions that go on,” Montgomery said. “And in the end, I end up making decisions that I was really confident was best for the Boston Bruins. And when it doesn’t work out, I understand it comes with the territory. I’m going to be second-guessed and third and fourth-guessed. And rightfully so. That comes with the territory, just like when you make changes and things work out. It’s the same thing. But I know that I’m comfortable with the decisions I made, why I made them, and moving forward with it and the criticism that comes with it.”

On Wednesday, my co-host Pierre McGuire and I discussed this on The Eye Test Podcast, and Pierre, who has been a head coach in the NHL himself, agreed with me that the best thing Montgomery can do if he’s in this situation again is take all the bullets and attention away from his players by admitting his decisions didn’t work.

“Probably one of the first things he should’ve said [Tuesday], ‘You know what? We weren’t ready to go. Toronto was much better than us. That’s on me. My responsibility as the head coach of this team is to make sure my guys are ready because that was a potential close-out game, and we gotta be ready because we know that they’re bringing their A-game, and that’s on me as the master motivator of this team,” McGuire opined.



“It’s simple. You don’t have to spend 500 hours and throw daggers in a soliloquy; just quick and to the point. ‘We’re gonna be ready. When we play Game 6 in Toronto, we’ll be a different team off the hop, and that’s gonna be on me to get them ready.”

If the Bruins aren’t ready again for Game 6, that’s on Montgomery, and he needs to make it clear that he knows that.



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