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. 

David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

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Patrice Bergeron named Selke Trophy finalist for seventh straight season

TORONTO – At some point, they’re going to have to start thinking about re-naming the award after Patrice Bergeron himself.

The Bruins center was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy on Wednesday night for the seventh consecutive season, and is going for his NHL-record fifth trophy for being the best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron was named a finalist along with Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Bergeron finished his 12th NHL season with 30 goals and 33 assists for 63 points with 26 penalty minutes and a plus-21 rating in 64 games.

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He ranked fifth in the league in faceoff win percentage (57.3, min. 1,000 face-offs), 12th in face-offs won (784), third in even strength faceoff win percentage (58.0, min. 500 face-offs won) and first in shorthanded faceoff win percentage (58.3, min. 50 face-offs won). The 32-year-old forward also ranked second overall in the team puck possession metric SAT (shot attempts differential), with a 57.56%, which should make the fancy stat nerds very happy.

Some might argue there other more worthy candidates given that Bergeron missed 18 games due to injury this season, but he was also the center of a line that didn’t give up an even strength goal until January while putting up his customarily excellent stats. That being said, a guy like Aleksander Barkov also deserved plenty of consideration outside the top-3 finalists that all come in with equally strong chances of taking home the award.

Bergeron has won the Selke in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he wins the year's Selke Trophy, he will break the record held by four-time winner and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. The Selke Award is given annually to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season, and will be announced at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 20.

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