Bruins

Cassidy explains his Agostino choice in shootout loss

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Cassidy explains his Agostino choice in shootout loss

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it felt like a bit of ancient history because it was a couple of days ago and Kenny Agostino is now back in the AHL, Bruce Cassidy finally got a chance to address his shootout choices on Wednesday afternoon. For those that need a refresher, Cassidy selected the 25-year-old Agostino for Monday night’s shootout along with Brad Marchand as both failed to score in the extra-session loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The choice was more than a little curious given that either Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak wouldn’t be among Boston’s top three shooters, and was thoroughly ripe for second-guessing once the Bruins bowed out quickly in the shootout.

So what was Cassidy’s reasoning behind the Agostino choice?

“Some of it was preseason, he had a breakaway and scored, some of it was some success he’s had at the American League level and some of it was gut. He’s an offensive player that can finish off plays,” said Cassidy. “In hindsight, it’s a lousy call when he didn’t score and if he scores then it looks good.”

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The B’s head coach went on to outline his overall philosophy in the shootout, and how some goal-scorers aren’t necessarily perfectly suited for shootout duties while citing the example of Alex Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals. It would seem that Marchand (7-for-28 with a 25 percent success rate) and Bergeron (25-for-85 with a 29.4 percent success rate) are players that Cassidy is going to roll with most of the time in the shootout, and instead appears to have reservations about using David Pastrnak (1-for-9 for a 11.1 percent success rate) given some shootout difficulties over the last few years.

“I think what happens in shootouts is that some guys that are natural goal-scorers, it doesn’t always translate to shootout success. You can look up the numbers. For some other guys it does,” said Cassidy. “It’s not an automatic that your leading scorer [will be in the shootout]. A quick release in the shootout matters, but it might not matter as much as it does five-on-five. With some guys having success and some guys not having success, it’s about their ability going 1-on-1 against the goalie. When the goalie is set and ready, they might not be able to beat them with what’s natural for them.

“I might be out of line here, but I don’t know how often Alex Ovechkin goes out there [for the shootout] and he’s one of the best natural goal-scorers there is with one of the hardest shots. So sometimes guys have much more luck than others.

While Cassidy has some numbers to back up his argument, this humble hockey writer believes it’s way too early to write off the 21-year-old Pastrnak as a player that’s not built for success in the shootout. He’s not just a one-timer shot from the face-off circle, and Pastrnak potentially has the speed, hands and creativity to be a dangerous, effective one-on-one player in the shootout. When David Krejci is healthy he might be a much easier choice as a third for the shootout (14-for-48 with a 29.2 percent success rate), and Cassidy has some other young player choices with potential shootout skill like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.

The bottom line, however, is that Cassidy and the Bruins had much better options for the shootout than a career AHL guy in Agostino, and it was a little much to expect a goal from a guy that barely played five minutes in a 65-minute overtime game. That’s backed up by the fact that Agostino was shipped down to the American League less than 24 hours later after failing to come through in Columbus, and the whole losing the game thing as well.

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DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

DeBrusk providing an offensive spark for Bruins since scratch

BOSTON – Give Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk credit.

The 21-year-old rookie said that he didn’t want to go through the experience of being a healthy scratch again, and he has played like it ever since.

DeBrusk finished with a pair of assists in the Bruins 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is now riding a four-game point streak with two goals and five points in his last four games. He came up with the primary assist on Boston’s first goal when he fed David Krejci all alone cutting to the net, and then again fed Krejci in the slot on the play where the puck found Matt Grzelcyk for his first career NHL goal in the second period.

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In all DeBrusk finished with the two points in 18:46 of ice time, and had good skating legs while collecting four shots on net and a couple of hits in stringing together another solid game as a first-year player.

“It goes back to the mentality of playing fast. I think that was one of the focuses. And ever since I got scratched, I think that I’ve had some jump in all the games or at moments. I think that level of confidence and I’m also playing with great players,” said DeBrusk. “They open up a lot of space for me. And on that example, [David] Krejci’s goal, I’ve seen him do that 100 times. It’s nice to get a reward and it’s nice to get on the board, especially twice, in a game like this. I thought that we were coming along and we’re just looking to build on it.”

DeBrusk is currently on a pace for 20 goals and 48 points while battling through the natural highs and lows of being a rookie at the NHL level. The first-year winger hasn’t yet mastered the consistency component quite yet as a young player making his way through the league, but there’s little doubt DeBrusk will keep getting the chance to find that level while producing offense with his passing, skating and shooting in a key top-6 spot.

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Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

Bruins 'feeling pretty good' riding a four-game win streak

BOSTON – It was hard to imagine this could have been possible a couple of weeks ago when injuries were ripping through the roster amid a very challenging stretch of hockey, but the Bruins have managed to survive and thrive within the adversity. With several regulars still missing from the fold including leading scorer Brad Marchand, the Bruins won their fourth game in a row taking a strong 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The win allowed the Bruins to push into the third spot in the Atlantic Division and lay claim to one of the playoff spots on the day after Thanksgiving, a milestone that usually portends good things for hockey clubs sitting in that position.

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Given the winning streak and Boston’s ability to get busy living rather than getting busy dying amid the trying stretch, confidence is at the high mark just a couple of months into the regular season.

“I still think that collectively as a group, there are still things that we need to build on. But obviously, we can’t complain with four straight wins,” said Jake DeBrusk, who has two goals, five points and a plus-4 in the four-game winning streak. “It’s our first win streak of the season and everyone’s feeling pretty good right now. We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

There have been different components to the four-game streak that have made it possible. Young players like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie McAvoy have stepped up and brandished their offensive skills while making things happen for a team missing some of their offensive playmakers, and the energy has been contagious. The Bruins have learned how to become closers in the third period where they’re squeezing the life out of opponents rather than giving them hope for stealing the game.

Anton Khudobin has ripped off win after win after win after win, and has made all the important stops to ensure that the Bruins take points out of each and every game. His .944 save percentage over the winning streak is exactly the level of goaltending needed for the Bruins to execute their game plan, and it’s why they have played with a lead for all but a couple of minutes in those wins over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

The quick starts have allowed the Bruins to play with the kind of controlled aggression that brings out their best and quit chasing the game while closing things down in the final 20 minutes. It’s much closer to the way things were drawn up by the coaching staff prior to the start of the season before their personnel group was ripped apart by injuries. Friday’s performance was what Bruce Cassidy is looking for from his young, excitable Bruins team on a big stage against a high quality Eastern Conference opponent.

“I mentioned [the magnitude of Friday] before the game, because I think it’s exciting. You’re on NBC, you’re playing against the Stanley Cup Champions, and everyone is watching. . . let’s put our best foot forward. I know it’s one of 82, but it’s a bigger one of 82 the way I look at it,” said Cassidy. “I think they felt the same way coming out [of the starting gate]. Now, I also think with a young group you’re always a little more juiced up at home; they’re still in that stage of their career. So, I think that explained a lot of their start, and why we were better early on.”

So now the beat goes on for the Bruins amid their best stretch of hockey this season at a very opportune time. Perhaps now the B’s start wondering just how good they can be once they finally get their full lineup together for the first time during this entire hockey season. 

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