Cassidy: Offensively, Bruins ‘are going to err on the side of aggression’

Cassidy: Offensively, Bruins ‘are going to err on the side of aggression’

BOSTON – While the Bruins certainly enjoyed most of their first victory under new interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, there were also areas where improvement will be needed. 

The Bruins poured it on in a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks and never trailed in the game at TD Garden, but they also gave up three goals while looking a little loose in the defensive zone at times.

The good things were unmistakable: The Bruins looked dominant on the power play, the forwards were attacking down low close to the net rather than working it around the perimeter offensively and defensemen such as Torey Krug were ultra-aggressive at times offensively. Now, Cassidy wants to continue using the practice and games to find the “happy medium” between generating higher-powered offense and making sure it gets dialed back in certain spots as well.


Clearly, the Sharks didn’t seem to be in a position to make the Bruins pay for some of the mistakes they made defensively, but some of it was also Boston’s mindset that the B’s would take the attack to a vulnerable San Jose unit that’s lost three in a row.

“We were loose at times; there’s no doubt. Late in the game we had some D active and I think it was Marchy [Brad Marchand] who walked up, and…it’s time and score situations. But when you’re trying to instill certain things you’ve got to live with some of that and then we’ll just dial it back. We saw a lot of that where we were active and sometimes trying to make some plays through the neutral zone that we want to make when they’re there,” said Cassidy. “So we’ll address it [at practice], but this is a time that we’ve got to take what’s there.

“I’d rather see – we’re going to err on the side of hopefully aggression, playing on our toes early on here and then, you know, we’re going to have to dial it back in. The day will come when we pay the price for that aggression and we’ll see from there when we find that happy medium. Tonight it worked out for us. I liked that our D were up and assertive in the neutral zone, killing plays, and trying to make quick-ups. Some nights it’s going to bite you so you have to find that balance, but we do want to play this way. We’ve said that for the last two days. We want to play on our toes and be a little more assertive in our overall game and see where it goes.”

It’s good that Cassidy recognizes that the Bruins need to walk a tightrope balancing offense and defense. Surely, the absence of Zdeno Chara contributed to some of the Black and Gold laxity in the defensive zone. After Krug basically played the role of No. 1 defenseman in terms of ice time, Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo were the top shutdown pair skating in the big shadow of the absent Chara.

Still, it’s impossible to argue with the immediate results posted by the Bruins on Thursday night showing an offensive snap and aggressiveness that simply hasn’t been there this season. 


Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

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Bruins start strong and don't look back vs Lightning

GOLD STAR: Torey Krug assisted on all three goals and finished off with a couple of strong games while stepping up in the absence of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy. Clearly all of the D-men stepped up knowing that their top pairing wasn’t going to be available against the Lightning, but it was Krug at the offensive end with his three assists that put him over 50 points for the second straight season. They were big plays too, whether it was finding David Pastrnak in the slot for the first goal or firing wide of the net on the second score that David Backes pumped into the net. The third goal was once again a PP shot from the outside circle that Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out and was eventually shot past him by Riley Nash. Pair that with a couple of hits and a blocked shot in 19:37 of ice time, and it was a full night for Krug.

BLACK EYE: Nikita Kucherov was not his MVP self in this one. Instead he managed just a single shot on net in his 18:43 of ice time, and missed the net with three other shot attempts in a harmless, invisible kind of game. Kucherov also didn’t really do much of anything else in a game where the Bruins didn’t have defensive stoppers Zdeno Chara or Patrice Bergeron, which has to start making the Lightning wonder how difficult it’s going to be for them when those two players return ahead of the postseason. The Lightning were rested and waiting for the Bruins for a couple of days and should have been at their absolute best. Kucherov was among a number of Bolts players that were far from that, including goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. 

MORE - Scary incident involving Backes

TURNING POINT: The Bruins came out of the starting gate firing and roared past the Lightning with a strong opening period. They outshot Tampa Bay by a 12-5 margin in the opening 20 minutes and didn’t even allow a single scoring chance to the Bolts while playing letter perfect hockey for pretty much the entire time. That led to a David Pastrnak goal little more than three minutes into the game, and then the Bruins doubled their lead with a power play strike midway through the game. Once the Bruins had built up a two-goal lead with the kind of strong defense that they were dealing out on Saturday night, it was going to be awfully difficult to beat them. And Tampa didn’t even come close. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Riley Nash was dropped from the top line to the third line to start the game, and responded with one of his best all-around games of the season. Nash scored on a power play strike from the slot after a big rebound bounced to him there, and that pretty much iced the game in the second period. But he was good all night with a couple of shot attempts, a couple of hits and a couple of takeaways in 18:30 of ice time, and was excellent in the face-off circle while winning 9-of-11 draws in a big performance for the Black and Gold. Nash also stepped back into his usual spots once Backes was lost to injury at the end of the first period, and resumed the kind of solid play that’s allowed him to have his best NHL season in Boston this year. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-6-1 – the career record for Tuukka Rask vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning after another shutout win on Saturday night. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’ll play a second period one of these days.” –a smiling David Backes as he limped out of the visitor’s dressing room in Tampa after leaving tonight’s win over Tampa with a laceration above his right knee caused by a skate blade. Backes was also tossed from Thursday night’s game in Florida with a match penalty in the first period as well.


Bruins make a statement with 3-0 win over Lightning

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Bruins make a statement with 3-0 win over Lightning

TAMPA – The undermanned Bruins went into Saturday’s big showdown with Tampa Bay missing four of their best players, and they lost another in the game when David Backes exited after catching a skate blade above the right knee. 

MORE - A scary incident involving Backes

But as adversity hasn’t stopped the Bruins all season long, it didn’t stop them against on Saturday against the best team in the NHL. Instead it inspired them as the Bruins scored a pair of goals early and rode that fast start all the way to an impressive 3-0 victory over the Lightning at Amalie Arena. The victory closes the Bruins to within two points of the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with two more meetings with Tampa over the season’s final dozen games. 

The Bruins scored little more than three minutes into the game when Torey Krug fed David Pastrnak cutting down the middle of the slot, and Pastrnak slid a backhanded bid underneath Andrei Vasilevskiy for his 29th goal of the season. Backes got on the board next prior to his exit from the game, and hammered a loose puck in the slot after Krug had missed wide with a point blast that rocketed off the end boards. 

Krug was at it making plays again in the second period when he fired a shot from the outside of the face-off circle that Vasilevskiy kicked into the slot area where Riley Nash corralled. Nash put it home for his 14th goal of the season, and that was enough for the Bruins to hold on for victory as the Lightning threw everything at the net in the third period looking for some offense. 

Rask was solid at that point in the game as he stopped everything in front of him and made 22 saves to add to his gaudy lifetime record against Tampa Bay over the course of his B’s career. There was no update on Backes following the game other than his laceration required “several stitches” and that he was done for the night after the incident late in the first period.