Last season Bruce Cassidy was nearly named the best coach in the NHL. He took over a Bruins team that was dead in the water in early February of 2017, and lead them to a playoff appearance. He followed that up with a 100 point season and a second-round playoff appearance in his first full season at the helm. This season, Cassidy’s skills have been tested as this team has yet to form an identity. The Bruins have struggled to receive secondary scoring, but are still in a wildcard spot. Cassidy has done well keeping this team competitive in the face of tremendous adversity.
They have already lost Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Charlie McAvoy for long stretches this season. Despite all the injuries, the Bruins are still on their way to a third consecutive playoff appearance. It has been a season full of ups and downs, but this team has still found ways to win. Under Cassidy, the Bruins young players have stepped up when needed most.
Photo Credit: John Tlumacki/ Globe Staff
Cassidy’s Impact On The Youth
This season the Bruins have already seen the NHL debuts of Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. They have all given the Bruins solid minutes over the last month, as injuries pile up. Cassidy has kept things simple and not placed high expectations on his rookies. He has put them in positions to succeed and rewarded their hard work. His coaching style has positively affected the Bruins younger players, and their goaltenders as well.
With the addition of Jaroslav Halak, the Bruins have one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL. Halak has thrived in his first season in Boston, after struggling last season with the Islanders. He had the worst defensive group in front of him in New York, which has not been the case in Boston. Cassidy’s system suits Halak, as it keeps everything in front of the goaltender. What was seen as a low-risk signing has turned into one of this team’s best free-agent pickups.
Under Cassidy, Tuukka Rask has played his best hockey in recent years. Last season the Bruins goaltender finished with a .917 save percentage, which was skewed due to a rough first month of the season. That has been the same case this season, as Rask has recovered from a slow start to be considerably better over the last month. Cassidy’s system puts his goaltenders in the best positions to succeed, and as a result they have thrived.
Can Cassidy Repeat Last Seasons Success
In what has been a season full of highs and lows, the Bruins have been dominant of late. In their last two games, they have outscored their opponents 7-1. That is particularly impressive, considering both Montreal and Anaheim would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. With Bergeron set to return within the next week, the team will only get better. Despite all the challenges the team has faced, they are well on their way to another playoff appearance. There is still a lot of hockey to be played, but Cassidy has again shown why he is one of the best in the league, as he has kept an injury-riddled roster in the playoff mix.