As critics analyze the Bruins’ underachieving season, undoubtedly some will pin a degree of blame on coach Claude Julien.

However, general manager Peter Chiarelli supported Julien yesterday, saying this has just been a very difficult year for the team’s management.

“Certainly there’s been more discussion between myself and him and his staff, there just seems to be more issues,” Chiarelli said. “What happens, and I can say this applies to any team and it applies to us when we’re having a very good year (or) when we’re having an average year, it’s like a dam with holes in it. You’ve got to plug the holes, and whenever you plug one hole there seems to be another. There just seemed to be more holes this year. Our play shows that, too, and I’m not using the (short) season as an excuse. There just seems to be more holes. He’s been plugging more holes.

“But I know he’s pumped for the playoffs. He knows he’s got a team that has some experience, which is very important in the playoffs, to have a composed team. I don’t want to put too many words in his mouth, but he’s excited for the playoffs.”

Asked about the play of Zdeno Chara, Chiarelli said his captain and cornerstone defenseman has to be better.

“You can probably say the same as far as not reaching the performance level that we’re normally accustomed to from everybody,” said Chiarelli. “For Z, he’s obviously a very valuable player, one of the best, if not the best, defensemen in the league. Obviously you want him to be firing on all cylinders. So like the rest of them, he’s got to get his game back.