Bruins

Cassidy gives candid assessment of where Bruins stand in NHL as 2022 nears

Bruins

The Boston Bruins are in the midst of an unplanned pause in their regular season schedule with the team now having 10 players in the NHL's COVID-19 protocol following defenseman Brandon Carlo's addition Tuesday.

The Bruins have had four games postponed over the last week, with their next matchup scheduled for Monday, Dec. 27 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.

The break gives the Bruins a chance to reflect on their first 26 games of the 2021-22 season and assess what's working and what needs improvement.

Bruins season reset: Key storylines, upcoming schedule amid postponements

In a Zoom call with reporters Tuesday, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy gave an honest assessment of where his team stands as the New Year approaches.

“A little inconsistency at times,” Cassidy said. “Obviously, team defense I think has been solid from Day 1. Special teams I think are good. They can get a little better if they want to get to where we’ve been historically, but still pretty solid. For us, it’s putting the puck in the net. We’ve generated opportunities. We need to generate more high-end opportunities. We started doing a better job with that, probably not the last two games, but the previous eight or 10 before that, getting inside ice.

“I think we’ve typically been at the top of the division battling with Tampa and Toronto for first place. That’s not the case this year. That’s where we want to be. But by the same token, we’ve added five new faces, plus faces at the deadline last year that were basically just coming in and getting ready to play. There wasn’t a ton of integration going on then. We’ve had a lot of turnover on our team, so we expected a few bumps in the road and we just have to iron them out in the second half -- not even the second half, because we’ve only played 26 games.”

 

“I believe we’ll be better coming out of this break, once we’re through the COVID isolation periods and quarantines and guys can get back to joining the group. We have to find ways to generate better looks obviously offensively, while still keeping our identity as a good defensive team. That’s where we’re at. That’s our job as coaches to get guys feeling good about their game, and it’s their job as players to buy into what it takes to win those close games and generate a little bit more. That’s the ask in front of us. I still think we’re a solid team, but we’re not where Tampa is right now. And that’s fine. We have 56 games to get there, and that’s our job to make sure we get better as we go along.”

The Bruins made plenty of roster changes in the offseason, including a complete overhaul of their goaltending and injecting plenty of new faces throughout the bottom-six with the additions of free-agent forwards Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno.

The goaltending has been inconsistent, but Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have played better of late. Nosek, Haula and Foligno all have been disappointments so far. They've combined to score just three goals. These players have not provided much-needed scoring depth, which has placed too much of a burden on the first line to carry the team offensively each game.

Incorporating new players into the lineup isn't easy, as Cassidy also noted in his Zoom call, and COVID has only made that challenge tougher.

Middle of the Pack

Bruins' Points %
.577 (8th in East)

The Bruins will soon have a 30-game sample to review. So far, they've largely been a mediocre team, one with a points percentage of .577 that ranks eighth in the Eastern Conference overall.

This team has the potential to be really good, but the inconsistency and lack of scoring depth are genuine concerns that must be addressed sooner rather than later.