The Boston Bruins are set to take on the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Before Game 1, which is set to take place Saturday night at TD Garden, Bruce Cassidy caught up with NBC Sports Boston's "The Camera Guys" Glenn and Moose. The B's head coach discussed his team's early-season struggles against the Islanders (0-3-2) and their success against New York after the trade deadline (3-0-0).
"The first four games were on the road, they play well there," Cassidy told The Camera Guys. "And then there's a couple that were back-to-backs where we traveled in, they were fresh. A couple of them we had some injuries at the last minute, so I think our lineup wasn't as theirs to begin with. That's not an excuse, because I think every game went down to the third period where they were better than us, we did something probably stupid and changed the course of the game, so we got better as a team.
"And then obviously after the deadline our team was a little more solidified. And they had lost their captain so they were in kind of the position we were, so maybe their lineup wasn't as strong so we were the better team and played like it then. Obviously I prefer to think about the more recent past than go all the way back to the start of the year, so I think our guys that's a little fresh in their minds as well, so that'll bode well for us confidence-wise going into Game 1."
The trade deadline addition of Taylor Hall certainly sparked the Bruins' second line and helped them turn things around against the Isles. Hall scored four goals in three games against New York after being dealt to Boston. The 29-year-old tallied eight goals in 16 regular-season games with the Bruins after scoring only twice in 37 games in Buffalo.
As great of a goal scorer Hall is, Cassidy is even more impressed with everything else he brings to the table.
"Complete player. ... I appreciate his second effort. Back-checking to break up plays, he's blocked shots, so he's willing to do some of the little things that don't show up on the scoreboard for such a good offensive player," Cassidy said.
"I think that's the biggest thing I've learned about him. He's a pretty intense player and I think being around Brad [Marchand] is really helping him. Seeing Brad's second, third, and fourth effort on pucks he's like, 'Wow, I can do that.' So I think he's really fed off sort of Marchy's intensity."
The Bruins will need Hall, Marchand, and the rest of their goal scorers to be at the top of their game against Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin. The 25-year-old took over for an injured Semyon Varlamov vs. Pittsburgh and was outstanding, stopping 150 of the 159 shots he faced in the six-game series.
Fortunately for Boston, it's riding a hot goaltender of its own. Tuukka Rask helped to propel the B's past the Washington Capitals in Round 1 with a 1.81 GAA and .941 save percentage.
So why does Rask continue to take so much criticism?
"It's the position, first of all. I think no matter who is in there is going to take heat here in Boston," Cassidy said. "It's such a love/hate position, first of all. And then the Stanley Cup, I think you're judged by Stanley Cups, good or bad. Coaches are a bit like goalies in that way. If you don't win one you're probably looked down upon at some point, even if you put yourself in a position to do it. So he's got a bit of that going. Certainly was a part of a team that won in '11 but Timmy [Thomas] was in the net so now it's kind of his turn.
"He certainly looks dialed in this year. We all obviously believe it could be his year and our year. We know it's a team sport so that's tough on him, he rolls with it. And that's where again, I think the quarterback for the Patriots, goalie for the Bruins, those are some positions that you just have to win the last game of the year before you truly get the love, I believe."
Watch the full Camera Guys interview with Cassidy on YouTube below, or in the video above.
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