Bruins

Give Bruce Cassidy a big assist in Game 4 win over Leafs

Give Bruce Cassidy a big assist in Game 4 win over Leafs

TORONTO – Give Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy credit where it’s due.

He was mostly outcoached in the first three games of the first-round playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Mike Babcock was winning the matchup battle, and Cassidy seemed hesitant to make adjustments to Boston’s game plan headed into the series.

That all changed in Game 4 with Cassidy opting to practice a little Stanley Cup playoff subterfuge where he let everybody think he was going to keep Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak together on Boston’s top line. Instead, he decided to switch things up in order to get some of his best offensive players away from the match-up with defensive stoppers, and it seemed to park a turning of the tides.

“It was just moving Pasta around. He wasn’t on top of his game for whatever reason. Heinen has played with Marchand and Bergeron when Pasta missed his five weeks and he did a good job up there,” said Cassidy, who admitted the only question about making the change was the health of Marcus Johansson as a possible third line addition along with the top-6 changes. “I’m not sure if Danton can do it every night at this point in his career against top lines and top D’s, but he certainly does a nice job in spots. Pasta and Krejci have played together, so it was just a different look.

“We’re just moving some pieces around and hopefully it gives us a spark. Maybe it makes them think. You never know if it might affect the way they do things. I don’t think it did because they just played their game. But at the end of the day we still got Pasta back with Bergeron and Marchand on the power play, and on a few 5-on-5 shifts. It certainly worked out for us tonight.”

Cassidy said they decided on it earlier in the day on Wednesday after adamantly saying he was sticking with the B’s Perfection Line to the point where he even had them skate together for line rushes during pregame warm-ups. The Game 4 charade clearly worked as the Bruins scored two goals in each of the first two periods and never trailed at any point in the game.

The fact that Cassidy did it so covertly and sprung it on the Leafs at the least minute really made it a brilliant strategy and showed that the B’s bench boss is perfectly capable of matching wits with the best in the NHL coaching biz during the postseason.  

At the very least it was a different look, and the hope was it might cause some disruption for a Leafs coaching staff that would have to determine where to match up their shutdown line and defense pairing.

“We don’t expect to win games as a line. We expect to win games with every guy in here as a team,” said Marchand, when asked about the changes and about added pressure on the top guys to produce in the playoffs. “We know we’re going to battle as a group against a great team [in the Maple Leafs], and we expect to compete as a group win or lose. That’s all it is.

“We’re not going to look at past playoff games or past performances and think that means it’s going to play out any certain way. Every game is different and every play is different. We’re just going to play, and how it plays out is how it plays out.”

Here’s what can’t be denied: David Pastrnak scored his first two goals of the series, Brad Marchand was at his playmaking best and both Toronto defensive stalwarts John Tavares and Jake Muzzin were saddled with minus-3 performances. All of it was in stark contrast to much of the way things played out in the first three games in the series, and spoke to a coach in Cassidy that finally injected his own bench boss abilities into the fray.

Give Butch Cassidy a big assist in Boston’s pivotal Game 4 win over the Leafs, and let’s see what he has in store for the rest of this first-round series now that he’s got Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs guessing just a little bit. 

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David Pastrnak needs to toughen up for the Bruins and knows it

David Pastrnak needs to toughen up for the Bruins and knows it

BRIGHTON, Mass – David Pastrnak was quick to say that whatever discomfort he had with his surgically repaired thumb didn’t impact his very erratic playoff performance.

It “didn’t feel the same way”, he said, after taking a hit to the hand in the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but both the 23-year-old winger and sources within the Bruins organization insisted that Pastrnak was healthy during the postseason.

Injures were not the issue for the young forward by the time the Stanley Cup Final rolled around, and Pastrnak finished with just two goals, four points and a team-worst minus-7 in the seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues. Pastrnak wasn’t exactly terrible in the postseason with nine goals, 19 points and an even plus/minus rating in 24 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he also wasn’t anywhere close to his best self from the regular season.

Instead Pastrnak was passing up clean looks at the net, fanning on one-timer opportunities that usually ended up in the back of the net and sometimes getting discouraged by the physical play going on around him. It wasn’t more evident than early in Game 4 of the Cup Final when he basically gave up on a puck battle in the first period while bracing for a hit that was coming his way.

Pastrnak admitted during this week’s breakup day at Warrior Ice Arena that the mental grind of the playoffs, and the criticism heaped on him, took a toll on the talented young winger.

“It was definitely tough. I wasn’t feeling great, but that’s why this was such a good group because we were always picking each other up. It was obviously challenging for me, but I had 25 guys to help pick me up just like I would do the opposite [for them],” said Pastrnak. “It was the mental stuff, you know? In this kind of life, even if you don’t want to see stuff, read stuff and blah-blah with the media, it’s tough. You’re always going to see it. And that’s fine, you know?

“I will take a lot of positives from this. I’m just going to get stronger mentally. So it was a good experience. It’s a big mental experience. I gained a lot this postseason. The mental stuff is what I learned the most. [I learned] that it doesn’t [expletive] matter if you play a bad friggen’ game. It’s the playoffs. Or if you have a bad shift. It’s the playoffs and you just need to come back to the bench and make sure you’re ready for the next shift no matter what happened behind you. It’s the tough part of hockey sometimes when you get back stuck on something instead of looking forward, and focusing on the next shift. Sometimes you get stuck on thinking what happened before and that brings you down kind of.”

It’s key that Pastrnak had diagnosed the problem and is already willing to use the inconsistent playoff performance for him as a learning experience.

The biggest lesson the talented young right winger needs to take is that Pasta needs to toughen up mentally and physically. He needs to be willing to pay the physical price to make plays in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that means sticking his nose into puck battles rather than bracing for a puck before he’s won the Cup. It also means being willing to battle to get to the scoring areas rather than loitering on the perimeter when the puck is on the offensive zone.

Just as importantly it means staying in the game mentally and not allowing a slump to consume him at the most important time of the season. If teams know they can discourage Boston’s young star mentally and physically, Pastrnak is going to continue to get hammered each and every postseason he plays in Black and Gold.

It’s going to be of paramount importance that Pastrnak toughens up in both areas and returns to the form he had two years ago in the postseason. Pastrnak was dominant and game-breaking with six goals and 20 points in 12 games, and to this point in his career he still boasts strong numbers (17 goals and 43 points in 42 playoff games) in his Stanley Cup playoff career despite two out of three postseasons being less than stellar for him.  

Clearly the potential is there for him to be a giant weapon for the Bruins in the postseason, and the B’s will need him to be that if they’re going to continue pushing for Stanley Cups in the near future. But it’s going to take a mentally and physically tougher Pastrnak to withstand the pressures of being “the guy” for the Bruins no matter what gets thrown at him.

That should be his mission for this offseason after a long, challenging season, and it sounds like he’s already begun working on that summer improvement plan.

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'Celebratory' Brett Hull the highlight of St. Louis Blues championship parade

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AP Images

'Celebratory' Brett Hull the highlight of St. Louis Blues championship parade

It's a beautiful day in Boston. Would be great for a.....

OK, we won't say it. 

Ouch.

And for you masochistic Bruins fans, here's a peek at the Blues' Stanley Cup victory parade.

The true highlight though was a let's say, buzzed Brett Hull, the Hall of Famer and ex-Blues great, addressing the more than half a million revelers in downtown St. Louis.

"We went, Blues!"

Twelve parades in 18 years and no Papelbon jig, Gronk beer spike or Paul Pierce coughing up a victory cigar can really match that. 

 

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