Not the best of nights for Cassidy in another B’s loss to Caps


Not the best of nights for Cassidy in another B’s loss to Caps

Here’s what we learned in the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals at the Capital One Center on Thursday night:

1)  Bruce Cassidy and his staff on the bench aren’t perfect  
Clearly, Cassidy and Co. have done an excellent job this season and provided way more good than bad in getting the B’s into a playoff spot despite the injuries and youth in the lineup. Still, the Bruins bench staff had a rough outing on Thursday night on a number of different fronts and certainly didn’t help matters during some key moments. 

Things were good early when the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Washington made their push in the second when Lars Eller scored from the slot on a loose puck in front of the net. It appeared that Washington winger Brett Connolly was clearly off-side on the zone entry prior to the Eller goal and that the Bruins had grounds for a successful coach’s challenge. Clearly, it would have carried some risk if the challenge went against the Bruins because the Caps would have cut the lead to 2-1 and would have immediately been granted a power-play chance. But a successful challenge would have been a momentum-killer for a Capitals team that hadn’t scored a goal in more than 170 minutes. 

In the split-second needed for a decision, Cassidy and his video coordinator opted not to challenge the Capitals goal and instead played it conservatively. That led to the Capitals tying the score in the second period. The Bruins opted to unsuccessfully challenge a Capitals goal in the third period where they were clearly trying to compensate for their error earlier in the game. Unfortunately, for the Bruins bench, the play was clearly on-side and the Capitals got a power play out of the failed challenge. 

The challenge flap was further compounded in the shootout when Cassidy opted for Riley Nash as his third and final shooter after Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals. That left Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, who has already won a pair of shootouts for the Bruins this season, among others on the bench when a valuable point was on the line. 

Predictably, Nash went high and wide with a shot and completely missed the net and that was it for the Bruins basing their fate on the shootout abilities a bottom-six forward. Clearly, Nash has enjoyed some level of success in the shootout with a 6-for-14 career mark headed into the game, but most of that was with the Carolina Hurricanes rather than the Bruins. 

Those numbers are fine and dandy in theory, but it hasn’t worked out when the Bruins have tried to force Nash into some kind of shootout option the past two seasons. It’s even worse when you consider the kind of offensive firepower sitting on the bench when you try to re-invent the wheel with Nash. Put it all together and the Bruins coaching staff and support staff had an uncharacteristically tough night in Washington and should simply learn from it and move on. No need to dwell on an aberration in what’s been a very positive season for the coaching staff.

2) One move Cassidy made that was spot-on was sitting Torey Krug in the 3-on-3 OT session
Krug some tough mistakes in the latter 40 minutes of the game. It was Krug that was caught completely flat-footed by Jakub Vrana on an eventual slashing penalty that led to Washington’s tying power-play goal. Krug also fell down on the power play that led to a shorthanded chance that could have been really damaging for the Bruins, but instead, Anton Khudobin was able to bail out his teammates and make the stop on Eller. 

After that, Krug didn’t play in the final few minutes of regulation with both teams hanging on for the 3-all tie and then didn’t take a single shift in the 3-on-3 overtime, where Krug has usually been a staple with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. In all, Krug had five shots blocked in his 18-plus minutes of ice time, had a single shot on net and had the one giveaway on the PP leading to the Washington shorthanded chance. That was part of a Bruins power play unit that went a rough 0-for-5 on a night when they could have extended the lead. It wasn’t Krug’s night this time around and perhaps the puck management and defense for Krug will get reined in a little bit Saturday night in Ottawa.

3)  David Backes is enjoying the best stretch since signing with the Bruins
That continued with a pair of goals in the shootout loss to the Capitals. Backes has seven goals and 12 points in 13 games in December and has been incredibly effective on the third line with Danton Heinen and Riley Nash since they came together. Both Backes goals were vintage stuff. He got in front of the net to receive a Nash dish from below the goal line for the first goal, then Backes fired past Braden Holtby from the slot off a heady Heinen dish from the side boards.

In all, Backes finished with the two goals, a plus-1 rating, five shots on net, a couple of hits and 15:47 of rugged, competitive play in a big game against a team that has bullied the B’s over the years. If Backes can stay healthy and play close to this level for the rest of the season, you can begin to see what the Bruins envisioned when they brought him in as a free agent two summers ago. He turns the B’s into a speedy, multi-faceted group capable of beating teams with multiple lines and in different ways, and really transforms them into a much more dangerous team. Nobody is complaining about that contract right now and that’s a very good thing.

*Backes was Boston’s best player with the two goals and five shots on net while consistently getting position around the front of the net. He’s been one of the B’s best players in December with seven goals thus far.

*Danton finished with a pair of assists and has been a point-per-game player in December with five goals and 14 points in 13 games with a plus-4 rating. In fact, Heinen has cracked the NHL’s top-five rookie scorers and only Clayton Keller, Mat Barzal and Brock Boeser have more points than him this season. That’s impressive and it’s amazing how quietly he’s done it.

*Great play by Sean Kuraly to step up after Brooks Orpik had drilled Tim Schaller when his head was down, and challenge Orpik to a quick bout that ended almost before it started. The Bruins continue to stand up for their teammates and that is a very admirable team-wide trait that shows some great chemistry in their dressing room.

*Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins bench staff had a tough night. They didn’t challenge a Washington goal that could have been overturned, then challenged a Capitals goal that clearly wasn’t offside. Cassidy then opted for Nash in the shootout and left Patrice Bergeron and McAvoy on the bench with a point on the line. That’s a move that will always be second-guessed if and when it doesn’t work out.

*Krug took a slashing penalty that led to a Capitals tying power-play goal in the second period and he simply fell down on a PP in the third that led to Eller’s shorthanded breakaway. Krug wound up being benched in the final minutes of the third and the entire 3-on-3 overtime on a night that was clearly pretty frustrating for him.

*No goals or points from the Bruins top line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for the second game in a row. Some of the questionable puck management from Pastrnak reared its ugly head. The Bruins third line has made up for top line’s lack of production the past few games, but they need their top players contributing again pronto.  

Morning Skate: Get ready for a next generation of 'Mighty Ducks'


Morning Skate: Get ready for a next generation of 'Mighty Ducks'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while Tanguay is busy taking America...again!

*I kind of missed the "Mighty Ducks" phenomenon as I was a little too old to be the target audience when the movies first came out, but hopefully my kids will get to experience it fully with a new Mighty Ducks TV show in development. Gordon Bombay might be one of the greatest names for a movie character in cinema history, let alone hockey movie history.

*Speaking of hockey and television, it looks like PK Subban is going to get the big-shot experience on the Daily Show in the near future.

*A couple of major hockey figures say that the NHL has been completely silent on their pitches for funding to further study concussions.

*There’s a lot of concern over whether or not the Vancouver Canucks will play it smart at the trade deadline, but I’m more concerned about the health and well-being of this “sentagraph” that’s badly in need a breath: “It was only a little more than a week ago that the team’s effort to put everything together after kinda-sorta blowing it up a year or two back (at least as far as ownership would allow) was dubbed a “model rebuild” but that was not the world’s greatest take and I think everyone disagreed with it immediately.”

*The Chicago Blackhawks lost again and continue to spiral further out of a playoff spot with a team that sure seems like they should be better than they are.

*For something completely different: The Oscar nomination for the adapted “Logan” screenplay should be a game-changer for comic book movies.



Bruins on Patriots success: 'We would love to be that'


Bruins on Patriots success: 'We would love to be that'

BRIGHTON, Mass. - The Bruins are clearly in a much different place now with a young, up-and-coming group, but they certainly have hopes and aspirations to build something similar to what the Patriots have in place in Foxboro.


The Pats are headed to Minnesota looking for their third Super Bowl title in four years to go along with the three Super Bowls in four years at the start of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Era. Plenty of Bruins players were on hand in Foxboro on Sunday with the day off from practice. Torey Krug even posted a picture on Instagram with Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, Paul Postma, Matt Grzelcyk, David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask all ready to cheer on the Patriots in a truly entertaining AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.


A post shared by Torey Krug (@krugtorey) on

Clearly, the Bruins semi-recently had a nice run of their own with seven consecutive seasons of playoff appearances and two Cup Final appearances between 2011-2013, but the Patriots’ current dynastic run is something that’s never been seen before in modern professional sports.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy makes no bones about being a fan of the Patriots and the way they play and said it’s something that inspires him and should inspire his team full of players as they roll through a very good season of their own.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it,” said Cassidy. “I’ve been in New England ten years, and you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots away. It’s not just one time. So they’re in people’s heads...I don’t care what anybody says.

“There are conversations, probably less about their own game and more about what the Patriots can do. On a game day, they’re probably focusing less on themselves. It’s an amazing quality that team has, the character, the culture they’ve created and the identity. We would love to be that. We’re coming at you, we’re coming at you, and it doesn’t matter what happens right to the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes, but you’ve got to be champions to do that. There are guys in this locker room that were [champions] and would love to be again, and with the younger guys hopefully, it’s something that they embrace.”

For those Bruins that have won before, the ongoing excellence of the Patriots, who've been dominant for close to two decades, becomes the truly amazing accomplishment. Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Adam McQuaid have been through one cycle of dominance earlier in their B’s careers, but before getting on that upward trajectory again, they needed to hit a rough patch for a couple of seasons that included a housecleaning of their GM and coach.

That’s something the Patriots have never really had to do since the arrival of Belichick and Brady, and it’s something that blows away those veteran Bruins who have watched it all unfold. 

“It’s not easy. You see it in every sport that the one season you win, and then the next season you don’t even make the playoffs,” said David Krejci. “The Patriots year after year they’re always a top-four team and last season they won the Super Bowl. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks and watching the game, especially given the way they played with the injuries they had with [Julian] Edelman and Gronk getting hurt. It was fun to watch [on Sunday].”  

If nothing else it’s inspiring for the younger Bruins to simply see how focused the entire community gets supporting one of the local teams when they reach the championship level and just how bonkers the Boston area will become if the Patriots take it to the Super Bowl house for a record-tying sixth time in NFL history.