Bruins

Cassidy: 'Getting up and running early' one of B's biggest challenges

Cassidy: 'Getting up and running early' one of B's biggest challenges

BRIGHTON, Mass – While Bruce Cassidy clearly and deservedly got the necessary vote of confidence from Bruins management this spring when he was signed to a multi-year deal as the permanent head coach of the B’s, there is still a bit of unknown to be broached with the team in the coming months. Cassidy took over midseason after Claude Julien was relieved of his duties, and helped steer the Black and Gold into a playoff berth after it appeared that they were going to fall short for a third straight season before the coaching move was made. 

So this season will be Cassidy’s first full season running the Bruins bench, his first time putting the entire organization through NHL training camp and his first time pushing Boston toward the ultimate goal from the very first moments of the regular season. Asked whether that was a taller task than parachuting in midseason as he did last year, Cassidy reserved the right to have an opinion on it until he’s gone through it at least one time in Boston. 

Of course Cassidy has coached full seasons in the NHL prior to his time with the Bruins, but a lot has changed in the last 13 years since his previous stint as bench boss for the Washington Capitals. 

“We were up and running in a hurry. We had the luxury of a couple practices to sort of start the process of how we were trying to change. But, there wasn’t a lot of time to overthink it, and off we went. The urgency level was there for the players. They knew that. They wanted to get in. So, that was an advantage, I think,” said Cassidy, taking some time to talk with reporters at Bruins development camp. “Going into the year, in October, it’s important to get your message across that these points. You’ve got that Thanksgiving measuring stick, so that will be the challenge there. Each challenge has its own [challenges]. I don’t know if there’s a greater one or not. 

“Ask me again maybe once I go through this part and I can have a better answer for you. But that to me is the challenge is getting up and running early. It’s too hard to make up ground in this league. That’ll be our sole focus is to pick up where we left off in terms of our style of play and getting better and making sure we get our points.”

Clearly it might be difficult to match the strong 18-8-1 pace that the Bruins played at in the 20 games under Cassidy once he replaced Julien in early February, and getting consistent urgency out of this group of Boston players had been a challenge in recent season’s past. That will all be part of the challenge for Cassidy with a mostly returning group from last season that will also be sprinkled with more of the youthful prospects that Boston has pushing through the pro ranks as Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season. 

Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

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Morning Skate: Dad's texts and emails reveal enforcer's sad story

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wishing everybody a safe night before Thanksgiving. Be careful out there, people.

*The New York Times has a very sad story on former NHL enforcer Stephen Peat, as told to the Times through a series of emails and texts from Peat’s dad as he struggles with a number of seemingly concussion-related issues in his post-hockey life.

*There’s nothing better than some Benn on Benn brotherly crime as Jordie Benn lays a hit on Jamie Benn in the Stars vs. Habs game.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector has the Edmonton Oilers hitting a new low after they quit in a loss to the St. Louis Blues.

*Duncan Keith said he wants to play until he’s 45 and defy the odds as one of the few that get a chance to play pro hockey for that long.

*Dylan Larkin is flourishing with the Detroit Red Wings as he’s adding more responsibility to his chores in Hockeytown.

*A Happy Thanksgiving to the Boychuks and all the other great people around the NHL, including Matt Beleskey with the Bruins, who take time out of their days to help make sure everybody has a good meal on Turkey Day.

*For something completely different: Excited for my kids that there is going to be more Trolls in their future starting with a Christmas special on Friday.

 


 

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

Bruins won't win Cup with Rask in net, and need to start planning for future

One season could be an outlier. Two seasons is a trend. Three seasons is a long-term pattern that doesn’t figure to change.

For the last three seasons Boston’s $7 million man between the pipes, Tuukka Rask, has been more ordinary than extraordinary, and that’s a troubling development. At this point it’s enough to convince this humble hockey writer that the Bruins will never win a Stanley Cup with Rask as their No. 1 goaltender, and that should become a real issue in the next few years as the Bruins build back up to contender status.

Anton Khudobin will make his third straight start Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils, and that makes all the sense in the world: The backup has dramatically outplayed the starter this year. Just compare Khudobin’s NHL-leading .935 save percentage to Rask's pathetic .897, and the fact that the Bruins have pulled points from every single game Khudobin has started.

That’s all short-term stuff, but it's important as the Bruins are desperate for point to stay on the outskirts of the playoff picture. Long term, the B's are aiming toward being a Cup contender in a couple of years, when youngsters like Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk will be entering their primes, and grizzled, winning veterans like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will still have something left in the tank.

But what of the goaltending?

Rask, 30, still has an impressive career .922 save percentage, and nobody can take away his Vezina Trophy or his All-Star level seasons. But his save percentages have dropped noticeably: It's a combined .915 in the last two full seasons, and is below .900 now. He’s become predictable in his approach to shooters, consistently dropping to give them high, open targets around the net. And it feels like he’s lost some of the competitive fire he had when he was a milk-crate-tossing prospect in the minor leagues.

The stretches where he gives up soft goals have gotten longer, and -- as is necessary with a changing, aging cast of defensive personnel -- Rask rarely steals games when the Bruins are outplayed. The organization has also come to the determination that he loses effectiveness if he plays more than 55-60 times ia season.

In short, Rask is being paid as a $7 million-a-year franchise goalie, but he's not playing like one. And there's four years beyond this left on the contract.

The Bruins will have to play him and pump up his value if they any hopes of trading him in the future. He'll have to be inserted back in the lineup at some point anyway, because let’s face it: Khudobin and Zane McIntyre aren’t the answers as his replacement. The B's need to draft, sign or trade for Rask’s heir apparent, and pave the way for that goaltender to be in Boston a couple of years from now when they're again ready for a Stanley Cup push.

Rask proved he wasn’t good enough to carry a talented Bruins team over the top when he crumbled at the end of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks, and he’s been spotty, and oft-times unreliable, in big games ever since. It’s time for the Bruins to begin the search process for a goalie that can take them on a Cup run when they’re ready for it.

After nine seasons, Rask has proven he isn’t that guy.

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