Stanley Cup Final

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on rematch with Blues: 'The Stanley Cup unfortunately is not in the building tonight'

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on rematch with Blues: 'The Stanley Cup unfortunately is not in the building tonight'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruce Cassidy was asked if he considers Saturday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues a “rematch” of the Stanley Cup Final that the Bruins lost in seven games a little over four months ago, and he didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“It’s not a rematch. The Stanley Cup, unfortunately, is not in the building tonight, so this is for two points,” lamented Cassidy. “It’s a team we got to know well, so I’m sure there could be a different level of intensity that develops different from some other games. But going into it I don’t see it as anything really different.”

The Bruins have employed various answers to this question over the last couple of days with some like veteran Brad Marchand saying “it’s just another game” and that it’s not going to change the team’s mindset headed into back-to-back weekend games against the Blues and New York Rangers. Though Marchand did admit after speaking again on Saturday that he might have been downplaying the team’s feelings a bit headed into what could normally be a  sleepy, early-season non-conference game against a team like the Blues.

“It’s a little cliché that we’d be approaching it as any other game,” admitted Marchand. “Obviously there’s emotions there from playoff-time and the history is obviously very vivid in our minds. We’re going to try to approach it like any other game because ultimately all its going to be is two points, but it just brings back a lot of memories of what we went through. [It brings up] how tough it was going tough it was to go through that and losing. That’s probably the biggest things about it.”

Others such as the 23-year-old Jake DeBrusk are going through the post-Stanley Cup Final thing for the first time and admitted there are still “hard feelings” when it comes to the Blues team that dashed their dreams early last summer.

But the bottom line is that no matter how much everybody walks down memory lane when it comes to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, a Saturday night game in late October isn’t going to do much to change anybody’s mind about what happened last June. The B’s had a wonderful opportunity to win another Cup and let it slip through their fingers against a heavy, physical Blues team that gladly took it from them, and a convincing two-point victory this weekend isn’t going to do much more than make everybody wonder what might have been.

HAGGS: RW candidates for the Bruins' top-6 need>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

The Stanley Cup Final hangover is real, and not so spectacular for the Bruins

The Stanley Cup Final hangover is real, and not so spectacular for the Bruins

The term “Stanley Cup hangover” has long been in vogue around the NHL.

The notion is that a team that plays that deeply into the previous season to win the Stanley Cup is pretty automatically placed at a disadvantage the following season based on the exertion extended into June at a playoff intensity. Everybody talks about the Stanley Cup winner suffering a hangover and the Washington Capitals were the poster boys for it last season both literally and figuratively as they battled their flagging energy levels throughout the season.

But nobody really talks about the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” in the same terms. This is the situation that the Bruins find themselves in as they get ready to drop the puck for the season opener tonight in Dallas.

They didn’t win the Cup when it was all over in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues, but they did play 24 playoff games into the middle of June with the same heavily abbreviated offseason as the Stanley Cup champs.

Most of those Stanley Final teams make it to the postseason that following season, but what do they actually do in the playoffs? Interestingly enough, the Bruins have taken recent past history of Stanley Cup Finalists into account when looking ahead to this season.

“We actually did a study that [Stanley Cup Final] teams in the past four or five years have actually done very well in the regular season…so it’s certainly part of what we looked at," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "When it comes down to it on a little more of a day-to-day, you know your team is going to hit a wall at some point in time based on the mileage from the previous season. We have to find those pockets of the schedule and maybe utilize the break effectively, which didn’t happen in the past and allow them to recharge. We’ve had some open dialogue about it, but history says the team generally gets off to a good start.

“Mentally and physically, these guys are ready to go. It’s just a matter of getting into the grind and if you can stay healthy. Obviously, we proved last year with 37 players in our lineup, you need that [depth]. To be successful, you have to have it, and you run into challenging parts of the schedule, you’re going to go through injuries. You have to have other players come in and be able to step up, and that will be no different for us this year.”

But what did that Bruins study say when it comes to the playoffs. Welp, we helped them with the research there.

Washington and Vegas met in the 2018 Cup Final and both were first-round fodder this past postseason. The year before, Nashville and Pittsburgh met in the Final and they were both done in the second round the following postseason.

In fact, over the past five seasons, the two Cup finalists have a 50-percent chance of not making it out the first round the following season, and a 90-percent chance of not making it to the Stanley Cup Final with the back-to-back Cup seasons for the Penguins as the only obvious exception to the rule.

Pull it back to ten seasons and nearly half of the finalists didn’t make it out of the first round, and 15 of 20 were done by the end of the second round.

So, clearly the numbers don’t favor the Black and Gold going very deep into this postseason or returning to where they were last season, just 60 quality minutes away from hoisting the Cup. It becomes an even more difficult task when one considers the aging core of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask, all on the wrong side of 30 at the start of another season.

The chances of those key players remaining as healthy and productive as they were last season aren’t very good. Even the players themselves are curious to see what kind of extreme highs and lows may await them this season against the well-rested Lightning and Maple Leafs, who are ready to knock them off in the Atlantic Division.

“Every season is different. Every year is different. It’s a clean slate. But I think you really need to focus on short-term goals. I said that early in training camp. We’ve all come down the mountain and we’re all at the same level to start the year. The challenge to start the year is to be motivated to go back up there,” said Bergeron. “You set yourself some short term goals and just be excited to get in the battles with the guys as we go through the ups and downs of the season.”

Still, the Bruins have bucked the odds before and hope to do it again this season. They have the kind of depth that should allow them to provide “load management” rest for Bergeron, Chara, Rask and Krejci and keep them as fresh as possible. The Bruins also have arguably the best goaltending duo in the NHL in Rask and Jaroslav Halak. That elite level of puck-stopping should prevent the B's from dropping into an extended losing streak when they “hit the wall” as even the B’s brass are expecting.

“It’s a tough thing to do. Some of it will be dependent on the roles of the players and we tried to manage our training camp. We started with that and see where it goes from there because things change quickly. It’s about how we manage minutes of our players who have been through a lot of these runs,” said Cassidy. “Secondly, we’ve communicated with the players that have been through these, the Bergerons, the Charas that went through it in 2013 and came back the next year and had a great regular season.

“They didn’t achieve what they wanted in the playoffs; I don’t know if that had anything to do with going to the Cup the year before. Sometimes, it’s just hard to repeat. I think you’ve got to be careful how much you’re reading into that and rely on what the players are telling you and what their bodies are telling [them].”

What does it all mean?

Certainly, the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” is a very real thing facing the Bruins. They should be a playoff team, and they might even still finish ahead of Tampa Bay and Toronto in what’s become an annual three-team slugfest at the top of the Atlantic Division. But B's fans would be wise to temper expectations when it comes to playoff time, and hold off on any redemption tour talk when it comes to the B’s righting the wrong and winning the Cup this season.

The odds, father time and improved competition in the East are all working against them this time around, and it will prove to be much more difficult for them to return to the exact same Stanley Cup Final spot they were at just a few months ago.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Bruins focusing on improving 5-on-5 offense this season

Bruins focusing on improving 5-on-5 offense this season

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins finished 11th in scoring in the NHL last season at 3.13 goals per game and obviously had enough offense to get all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. 

They have three top-flight forwards on the "Perfection Line" with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak all topping 30 goals for the second season in a row and boast one of the NHL’s best power plays that can overwhelm teams with lesser special teams’ groups.

But therein lies the rub.

Only Tampa Bay and Florida scored more power-play goals than the Bruins last season, who were successful 25.9 percent of the time on the man-advantage last season with the top unit of Torey Krug, Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk/David Backes accounting for most of the special teams’ offense.

That left the Bruins in the bottom third of the NHL in terms of even-strength offense with a big-time dependence on the power play.

“You’ve got to take offense where you can get it,” said Patrice Bergeron, who was third on the Bruins with nine power-play goals and had 27 PP points last season. “If you’re winning games and the power play is your source of offense then I don’t think it’s a bad thing. You’ve got to find other ways to create some more offense in other ways, but to me, it’s not a huge problem. We have the ability to find that [offense] and it’s about tweaking a few things to find that [5-on-5] offense to score goals in different ways.”

It wasn’t much an issue during the regular season where the Bruins steamrolled most teams on the power play, and it obviously never became a fatal flaw in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Still, the Bruins ran into a roadblock in the Cup Final against a St. Louis Blues team that dominated in 5-on-5 play and managed to make it less of a special teams contest in the seven-game series. Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak were bottled up for just two goals and five points combined in the seven games and were far from living up to their line's nickname.

Certainly it’s something the B’s recognize could be much improved heading into a new season.

“You see it when you’re not scoring. It’s because you’re forcing players and you’re not getting to the inside. We got into trouble a few times, especially in the playoffs probably where we stayed to the outside,” said Bergeron. “The play dies down because other teams are retreating to the box or retreating to the house, and then they don’t give you those cross-seams [to pass] that you see sometimes earlier in the year.

“It’s moving your feet and competing around the net, and getting there and wanting to impose your will to get those rebounds. You bring it on net and if you don’t get it on the first try then there’s somebody around the net creating some havoc. It’s easy hockey and we’ve seen it so many times, but at the same time it’s pretty effective.”

With that in mind, the Bruins are using some of their training camp focus to improve their even-strength offense.

Some of it will be improved by Charlie Coyle’s presence as the third-line center from the very start of the season. There will be more diversity in the offense up front and that should mean things will be a little more spread out with a deep team that can advantage of that against opponents.

But there are also adjustments to be made across the lineup and that’s something the Bruins are working on while getting the offensive and defensive systems down pat in camp.

“I think as a team once we pare down [our roster] we’re going to be looking at ways of generating more chances 5-on-5 in the offensive zone. I think that’s our Boston Bruins focus once we get our team together a little more,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, of the systems work in camp that started with the defensive basics before branching out to the offense. “The easiest way is to sacrifice defense and we don’t want to do that, right? So, that one is out the window. That’s the first thing we discuss so we don’t see it happening.

“It’s getting our D involved more and getting active, and encouraging them to do that. It brings risk into play, but this group coming back has been together and they know what we want. So we should be able to grow it in their game as they come back and build chemistry.  And shooting more. Funneling a few more pucks and some off-angle shots so everybody knows that it’s going there. It’s easier said than done. We want players to retain their creativity, so it’s a balance. But it’s something that we’ve talked about. Those are the two areas of what we could do with the forwards and with the defense, and hopefully, that translates into a little more action around the net.”

Will it actually translate into more even-strength offense for the Bruins?

The hope is that some tweaks will spark a little more offense out of a team with plenty of skill and scoring ability. But the Bruins would also greatly benefit from one more player developing into a top-six right wing capable of finishing off plays created by David Krejci on the second line.

It doesn’t appear that player is currently on Boston’s roster.

Still, at least the Bruins know that it’s an issue and are taking steps to address it early on where it could lead to improvements.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.