BOSTON – It was refreshing for at least one night to see the Boston Bruins go out and do exactly what they said they were going to do.
That it happened in the very first game under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy after the firing of Claude Julien is more than a little interesting. But that’s the way it went down in a convincing 6-3 win for the B’s over the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. The Bruins played with pace, they were noticeably aggressive in the offensive zone and the quality of shots was the best it’s been all season.
- Highlights: Boston Bruins 6, San Jose Sharks 3
- Cassidy on first Bruins victory: 'Who doesn't enjoy a win?'
- Krug: 'Let's not get ahead of ourselves' with one win
- Talking Points: Bergeron shines with four-point night
- Bruins respond with convincing 6-3 win over Sharks
So it’s nothing to get too worked up about given that it was just one against a Sharks team that’s now lost three games in a row on a long East Coast road swing. But it’s also a very encouraging first step for a Bruins team that had consistently been less than the sum of their parts for the first 55 games of the season under Claude Julien, and needs to start showing some signs of life before anybody else is going to believe in them.
“I liked our start in terms of scoring first. I liked that we got pucks to the dirty area offensively, and we were willing to go there. [Tim] Schaller’s goal is a good example. I liked our resiliency when we got scored on; we didn’t get down, we came back and just kept playing,” said Cassidy of his first NHL win in over 13 years dating back to Dec. 2003 in his time with the Capitals. “No team is perfect so when you give up a goal, we’ve got to really avoid hanging our heads and just win the next shift and get the momentum back. I liked that we reestablished some urgency in this building. There’s a whole list of things we can go down.”
For a coach that wants to stress offensive creativity and being aggressive around the opponent’s net, Cassidy undoubtedly had plenty to like about Boston’s performance. He put together David Backes with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in a combination that hasn’t been used much this season, and all three players ended up scoring goals. Bergeron had a season high four points in the offensively vibrant victory, and authored a couple of nifty no-look dishes to David Pastrnak for a pair of power play goals.
Backes looked like the player that Boston has been looking for all season with seven shots on net and three hits to go along with his goal and three points.
But perhaps no play highlighted the way the Bruins are going to play than the first goal of the game. David Krejci was battling to control a puck in the corner on the first shift of the game, and D-man Torey Krug pinched way down low into the corner to lend some support to Krejci before gaining control of the puck. He fed it to Backes in the slot for the sniped wrist shot just 52 seconds into the game and things were off and running.
Krug and the Bruins might not fully admit it, but that kind of risk-taking and pinching down low in the defensive zone wasn’t something done very often under Julien. It looks like it will be the norm now as the Bruins attack in the offensive zone and look to create anxiety in opposing defenses when they get the chance.
“I thought there were a lot of guys that their pace was up. They were able to make a few more plays with the puck on their guys, and not letting them turn up the ice and make whatever play they wanted. That forced them into a few turnovers, kept us on the attack and in the offensive zone, and the result was we were able to score five goals, plus an empty netter,” said Backes, who finished a goal and three points along with a plus-1 rating while consistently coming up big in front of the net. “That says a lot about the pace and maybe that’s coming from practice. Maybe that’s coming from a little bit of a lull in the schedule where we had a couple days of rest and then being able to hit the ice hard for a couple days, and carry that into the game.”
So it was a good start for Cassidy and his Bruins players in their first game together with 26 more to go until the end of the regular season. They scored six goals, they put on a good show for a sparse home crowd at TD Garden thanks to the snowstorm and they played with the spark that everybody hoped to see after the coaching change.
Now they need to maintain the high level of play and keep pressing the attack like a group of desperate players fighting for their hockey lives over the next couple of months with little room for error in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.