Bruce Cassidy praises Bruins' leadership group as 'second to none'

Bruce Cassidy praises Bruins' leadership group as 'second to none'

The Boston Bruins have done a tremendous job adding young talent to their veteran core in recent years, and this blend of experience and youthful energy has been a driving factor in the team reaching the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and others have provided much-needed depth in areas the Bruins were lacking after missing the playoffs in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

The influx of youth has been key to the team's success, but the foundation of Boston's success is built on the leadership of the veterans, many of whom have played for the organization for a decade or longer. The Bruins' veteran leadership group includes captain Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron first and foremost, along with David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, David Backes, a 13-year veteran who captained the St. Louis Blues for many seasons before signing with the Bruins as a free agent in 2016, also is part of that leadership group.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy paid the group quite a compliment at Monday's practice.

"I think this leadership group is second to none," Cassidy said. "And I don't know if I'll ever have, wherever this career takes me, a group like this to work with. I've said that probably since my second week on the job here. Those guys are fantastic, and they sure make a coach's job a lot easier."

The Bruins coaching staff has done a great job developing the team's young players into reliable, productive performers in the regular season and playoffs. The veterans deserve a lot of credit for that, too, most notably Chara, who has mentored and helped groom Charlie McAvoy into a legitimate top-pairing defenseman.

"I don’t think it’s much different than Zee with Brandon (Carlo) his first year," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said over the weekend. "I think all young players need it. They need a guy they can look up to on a daily basis. These kids are really talented. Charlie is a really talented hockey player. He just doesn’t have the experience and the breadth of knowledge that Zdeno has. He hasn’t gone through it and lived it, so there’s ups and downs associated with that, emotionally, physically at a young age that you’re able to handle those things, and Zee’s able to give that calming hand when you need.

"And then allow him, give him the confidence to continue to play up to his capabilities and beyond maybe where’s he at. Play beyond where his experience would dictate. We all recognize Charlie jumping into the scene really early when he played in Ottawa without a regular season NHL game, and the talent is there. But the institutional knowledge that Zee brings to the table and the calming influence that he has for all of our players but certainly his partner. The amount that they play and the situations that they play, he can just impart knowledge that is invaluable."

The Bruins' leadership core has been in just about every scenario imaginable in the Stanley Cup playoffs. These veterans have played in and won many Game 7s, they've seen a 3-0 series lead disappear, they've come back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of an elimination game, they've played in two Stanley Cup Final series and so much more. 

There won't be too many situations that come up in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final that are unfamiliar to Chara, Bergeron, Krejci and other B's veterans. This level of experience helps give the Bruins an advantage over whichever team they play from the Western Conference.

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Hagg Bag: Plenty of suggestions to improve Bruins' offense

Hagg Bag: Plenty of suggestions to improve Bruins' offense

The Bruins are off to a 5-1-1 start to the regular season, and the Perfection Line has accounted for 14 goals in those seven games. The Bruins are coming off a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning where their power play struck for three special teams goals and they went toe-to-toe with one of their biggest divisional opponents.

Still, there’s also the sneaking feeling that this team isn’t anywhere close to playing its best hockey and that they need more help up front if they’re going to enjoy a diverse offensive attack. Right now, they are relying on their Perfection Line way too much, and that’s where the fans come in with their trade and prospect insertion ideas.

As always the Hagg Bag mailbag is full of real tweets sent to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, real messages to my NBC Sports Facebook fan page and real emails from real fans to my email address.

Now, on to the bag:

Dear Haggs,

The Bruins have been trying to find a right winger to play with Krejci it seems like for centuries. With Taylor Hall being an unrestricted FA at the end of this year and no long term deal with NJ in sight for him and with the Devils struggling mightily, NOW IS THE TIME TO POUNCE! The Bruins have a plethora of young players who would fit the Devils young core “rebuild”. Pairing Hall with Krejci and possibly Kuhlman I think would put this team over the top in the East this year. Even if it’s a rental deal for Hall, this is the type of player the Bruins NEED. Would love to hear your thoughts on a deal built around Heinen and Bjork and more for Hall??

Would love to hear your thoughts on this if they can make the cap room work.

Justin Forman

JH: Obviously, the Bruins would and should be interested if Taylor Hall becomes available, just like the rest of the 30 other NHL teams – well, maybe 29 since I don’t Edmonton would be in the running for him either – because he’s a Hart Trophy-level talent. Two seasons ago, he had 39 goals and 93 points and realized the potential that’s always been there since he was drafted No. 1 overall by the Oilers back in 2010.

Unfortunately, the cap gymnastics and asset requirements to get him are just one part of the problem. There’s also the issue that Hall is pretty much a left-wing, left-shot forward on a Bruins team that has plenty of left-wing, left-shot forwards already stocked on the roster. Now, one could make the argument that Jake DeBrusk would be one of the pieces going back to New Jersey in exchange for Hall, and that would create a space for him on the second line teaming in a dynamic pairing with David Krejci.

It's interesting to be sure, but it also still wouldn’t address the Bruins issues on the right wing behind David Pastrnak. The Bruins might even be able to afford Hall after this coming season with dead money (Seidenberg and Hayes buyouts) and a possible David Backes buyout clearing significant cap space, and a real question as to whether 42-year-old Zdeno Chara will be back again next season.

Would a package of DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril and a draft pick be enough to land Hall should the Devils decide they’re not going to be able to re-sign him? Interesting thought, but I think we’re a long, long way from that happening.

Yes or No....(LW)DeBrusk to Vegas for (RW) Tuch. Line you’d create Bjork-Coyle-Tuch #Haggbag

--Mike C (@mcolesr)

JH: Yes. I would do that 100 times over. No offense to DeBrusk, who scored 27 goals last season, but Alex Tuch is 23, 6-foot-4, 200-pounds and is coming off 20 goals and 52 points last season while also playing on the right side. I like DeBrusk as a player, but I also wonder how much better he’s really become the past three seasons. I might start to consider him in trade talks given how many other left-wing-types the Bruins have in their organization. That doesn’t even count that Tuch went to Boston College and the local college hockey thing is a big check in favor of any players in the eyes of Bruins management.

Was at the game – [Mike “Sarge” Riley] is fine but should stop doing Jim Martin’s “wooooo” after announcing Bruins goals. Doesn’t work for the guy

--Mark (@bostoncig)

JH: Dude, the Bruins use a recording of Ric Flair from a past wrestling event at the Garden. They always have. Hang your head and feel shame, Mark.

You have full casting control over the next Spider-man movie and a Bruins player has to appear. Cast someone as a villain or any other character.

--Dave Green (@DavidMGreen)

JH: Great question, Greenie. Man, I wish Claude Julien was still the head coach. He would have been a pretty great Vulture, or even better as a French-Canadian Kingpin. How about Zdeno Chara with a mustache as Kraven the Hunter? I think he’d be pretty believable wearing that African hunting safari get-up. Jake DeBrusk is probably the best Peter Parker candidate on the roster, but I don’t think anybody on the B’s roster gets to be Spider-Man.


Haven’t we been saying this same thing for a few years now? It might be time to take some of these youngsters and move them for a legit 2nd line RW. Eventually you gotta stop saying give the kids a shot when the problem is the same 2-3 years later.

--Bryan Deyermond (@Bryan_BSF)

JH: Yes. I think it might be that time. We’ll see, though. They may be able to make another Marcus Johansson deal at the deadline to get them through another season while giving up a minimal cost. But I do believe they need to bring in another dynamic top-six forward, preferably a right wing, if they want to get over the hump to again be a Stanley Cup Final team the next few years.

They certainly have enough young guys to spare a few in a trade. But I also think they should probably take a look at a healthy Anders Bjork up in Boston before they go the trade route.

#HaggBag How impatient are you getting waiting for The Rise of Skywalker trailer Lucasfilm is supposed to be coming on Monday Night Football?

--Alissa Boops You (@curvymermaid617)

JH: I am very, very impatient. I sense a good feeling in the Force with JJ Abrams in charge of this movie with a chance to undo some of the bad feelings perpetuated among the Star Wars fan base following The Last Jedi. I didn’t hate that movie per se, but there was enough I didn’t like about it that I left wondering what the point of the movie was aside from trying to go in a different direction from so much of the Skywalker saga before it. I just think it was a big misstep. I mean, anybody that thought Princess Leia Poppins was going to be this big emotional scene was truly mistaken.

Hey how many 5v5 goals do they have?? Just saying....Bruins have a 5v5 problem in general

--Rob Petrella (@RobPetrella)

JH: The Bruins have 19 goals this season in seven games. They have scored eight PP goals, so that means the B’s have only 11 5-on-5 goals in seven games and they have only four players besides the Perfection Line that have scored 5-on-5 goals this season. In other words, they are again struggling in even-strength play after being a bottom-third even-strength team last season as well. They need more scoring talent up front if they want to become a better 5-on-5 team and therefore be a better, more well-rounded team come playoff time. It all points toward the Bruins needing an upgrade among their top-six forward group, and it will be interesting to see how Don Sweeney goes about doing it this season.

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Bruins rule David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom vs. Maple Leafs Saturday

File photo

Bruins rule David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom vs. Maple Leafs Saturday

BRIGHTON, Mass. — With a big home-and-home series against the Toronto Maple Leafs set for the next couple of days, the Bruins opted to give their veteran core group the day away from the ice on Friday morning at Warrior Ice Arena.

It was a maintenance day for Patrice Bergeron (lower body), Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak after scoring 14 of the last 17 goals for the Bruins over the last six games, and both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug spent the day off the ice as well. Joakim Nordstrom (upper body) and David Krejci (upper body) were also missing from the Warrior Ice Arena sheet at Friday’s practice — and neither of those players will travel to Toronto for Saturday's game.

“We have Backes as an extra that sat out with Nordstrom being out,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, of the expected replacement in the lineup. “He could slot in there. We may decide to get somebody from Providence if we want a different look down there. [Anders] Bjork has been playing well down there, [Brendan] Gaunce has been playing well down there and [Peter] Cehlarik. Those are the names that I have heard amongst other, so those are potential guys.”

Bjork, of course, has been tearing it up since the start of the season with three goals and six points in five games after being one of the last cuts in Bruins training camp. The Bruins wanted to leave him in the AHL for a spell to regain his offensive mojo and it seems pretty clear that he's done that while deserving another NHL look. 

The Bruins would prefer to keep him on the left side as they've done all season, and that would easy enough if they swung Heinen to the right side as he's done on multiple occasions over the last few seasons. 

While the message wasn’t spelled out by Cassidy following practice, it felt pretty clear given who was on the ice working and who was given a day to rest and recuperate. The Bruins focused on net-drive drills and taking the puck hard to the paint in practice as a reminder for the forwards to simplify their games while looking to produce some much-needed secondary scoring.

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings based on Friday’s practice with Jaroslav Halak getting the start on Saturday night vs the Leafs:


Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk Charlie Coyle Karson Kuhlman
Danton Heinen Par Lindholm Brett Ritchie
Chris Wagner Sean Kuraly David Backes


Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

Cassidy laments lack of secondary scoring vs. Tampa>>>>>

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