Bruins

Bruins won't make a big deal out of being in first place

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Bruins won't make a big deal out of being in first place

BOSTON -- While it wasn’t exactly the way the Bruins planned, or wanted, there’s still something noteworthy about the B’s taking sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.

Boston never held a lead in a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night at TD Garden, and didn’t play with a great of energy against the only non-playoff team it's facing in a brutal stretch of 11 games. But the Bruins gained a point when David Pastrnak’s sizzling third-period goal pushed the game into overtime, and that allowed them to hop ahead of the idle Tampa Bay Lightning in the division standings.

Sure, both the Panthers and Lightning have games in hand and distinctly easier schedules over the final month. But the B's will take what they can get, given that it’s the first time they’ve been in first place by themselves all season.

“[It's] a testimony to our group growing and sticking with it,” said Torey Krug. “We’ve got to make sure we’re still moving forward. For a while throughout the season, it was two steps forward, one step back. Right not we’re trying to make sure we can grow up, and go on from that. That was a test tonight and we weren’t able to pass it. But the good thing about it is we have another game on Saturday [against the Islanders].”

While the sight of the Bruins in first place can be a morale booster after a rough start to the season, it’s not the time of year to sit back and enjoy anything. If the Bruins allowed themselves a day or two to bask in their regular-season accomplishment, it would take away from their goal of building toward the playoffs.

In that vein, Claude Julien isn’t looking to put any significant importance on Boston’s time, be it short-lived or ultra-long, at the top of the division.

“I don’t think we’re going to make that big of a deal in being first place," he said. "It’s nice to be there. I think right now, we’re really looking at our game, and we’re in that dressing room right now, we’re not happy. We lost a game, and even if it means that point got us in first [place], we’re certainly not satisfied with that. I think we could have been better tonight. Sometimes you play a lot of games, and unfortunately not every night you feel like you’re at your best.

“But I think the guys are disappointed because we could have been better with minimizing mistakes and making better decisions out there. Having said that, it’s nice to be in first. We haven’t been in first all year. We also realize that there are teams behind us that have games in hand. But we’ll take it, and we should be a little bit proud. We have come a long ways to get there. So there’s nothing to be ashamed about being where we are right now.”

The Lightning will play the Flyers on Friday night, so the possibility exists that it could be a one-day stay atop the standings. But the mere fact they’re knocking on the door at all while pressuring the teams around them in the standings means the Black and Gold are finally doing just about everything right at this point.

NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

The 2019 NHL Draft is scheduled to begin Friday, and less than two weeks later free agency will open for all 31 teams.

It's going to be a busy and important couple of weeks for franchises looking to make major changes to their rosters with the hope of winning the Stanley Cup in 2020 and beyond.

Let's take a look at the top unrestricted and restricted free agents that could hit the market in July.

Click here for the top 25 free agents of the 2019 NHL offseason>>>

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Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

As Bruce Cassidy enters the final year of his contract as head coach of the Boston Bruins, it probably goes without saying that he deserves an extension. 

The good news for B's fans, according to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, Boston is pleased with Cassidy's performance and plans to address his contract. 

'He’s under contract, so we have decisions that we’re going to progress with, and he’ll be part of that,' general manager Don Sweeney said. 'He’s under contract, so it’s not a concern right now, but we will address it.'

After a 107-point 2018-19 campaign, good for the second-best mark in the NHL, Cassidy led the Bruins to the brink of a Stanley Cup only to fall in Game 7 at TD Garden to the St. Louis Blues.

One of the major themes of this year's Bruins team was their resiliency under Cassidy. Boston fought back from a 3-2 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto and a 2-1 deficit against Columbus to win those series, and then won another Game 6 on the road down 3-2 to the Blues. 

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of their first three seasons with Cassidy leading the charge, improving their finish in the postseason each year. 

BRUINS UNDER CASSIDY

2016-17: 44-31-7 (95 points), lost in the first round (4-2)
2017-18: 50-20-12 (112 points), lost in the second round (4-1)
2018-19 49-24-9 (107 points), lost in Stanley Cup Final (4-3)

Cassidy is the second-fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins as he has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the league. And team President Cam Neely certainly thinks highly of him. 

'He’s done a very good job for us, obviously,' Neely said. 'Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two, back-to-back 50-win seasons — pretty impressive. He learned from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs.'

We'll see if the Bruins extend Cassidy before the 2019-20 season starts, but it definitely seems like they view him as their long term answer on the Black and Gold's bench. 

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