(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
By Court Lalonde (follow @courtlalonde)
With the Bruins in the first bye week in the history of their franchise, it gives us time to reflect on the last three games, also look to what’s ahead.
With three games under the new coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins are 3-0-0. During those games, the Bruins have played a much more high tempo than previously under Claude Julien. The defense has been jumping into the play in the offensive zone, taking high percentage shots, and finishing their checks. We have the same roster they started the season with, but they’re playing a different system, which is taking more chances to move the puck up the ice.
Bruce Cassidy was with the AHL Providence Bruins for nine seasons before being given the assistant job with the Bruins at the beginning go the season. Before being in the Bruins organization, he was the coach of the Washington Capitals from 2002-2004.
Claude had been in Boston for the past ten years, and their system focused on defense first, he has coached that way every team he has coached one. Some fans might say it’s boring hockey to watch, but it worked for a period. In the past couple of years, the NHL has gotten younger and faster, and teams were beginning to outskate the Bruins with the old system. Claude is no longer with us, and maybe it was just time for a change.
Over the past three games, Cassidy has done a little shuffling of the lines with great success. David Pastrnak is back on a line with David Krejci, and both have points in the last three games. Pastrnak has three goals and one assist and Krejci has one goal and three assists. David Backes has been move up to Patrice Bergeron’s line and has been a welcome addition to complement both Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It has allowed the Bruins to balance their attack on opposing clubs and the results have been on the score sheet.
Boston has outscored their opponents by a 14-6 margin during the three games and have recorded wins against San Jose, Vancouver, and Montreal. The win against Montreal at home, was the first win at TD Garden against the Habs since January 12th, 2012. Two of those teams are in first place in their respected divisions, and the Bruins got a win from the backup goaltender for the second time this year. The Bruins power play has scored four goals in three games and move up to 14th in the league with a percentage of 20.1%, while the penalty kill is the best in the NHL with an 86.3% and scored a short-handed goal.
The scoring has not just come from the forwards; the defense has scored four goals in the last three games. The defense has been jumping into the rush and allowing the Bruins to catch teams off guard and create scoring chances. Colin Miller and Torey Krug have benefited from this new system by moving the puck up faster in transition and taking advantage of our winger’s speed. A big question mark was how veteran Zdeno Chara would play in this faster transition game at his age. Chara didn’t look out of place, jumped into the rush and scored a statement short-handed goal against Montreal in the 4-0 win.
In the game against Montreal, Tuukka Rask passed Frank Brimsek on the all-time list for career shutouts for a Bruins goalies to second on the list. Tiny Thompson is first on the list, with 74 and he has 36. Rask now has six shutouts this year, with a 2.27 GAA, a .912 SV%, and 27 wins going into the break.
The break hasn’t been friendly to the teams that have had it so far this year. The bye week was an exchange for the 3-on-3 tournament for the all-star game. Players won’t have to report to practice until after 4:00 pm on the fifth day if they have a game on the sixth day. The record for teams coming off the break so far this year is 3-9 which is why this break probably came at the worst time for the Bruins. I’m sure they will poll the players at the end of the year to see if the bye week was a success and it will come back with a no.
Our hope is the Bruins start the four-game road trip with the same intensity that they have had in the previous three games. They will be in tough with games against San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Dallas. Their new system will play well against these west-coast teams, and they know they can beat San Jose. They will take it day-by-day and now that Claude has another job that distraction should be behind them. The leaders in the room need to show it on the ice, and the players will follow.
The jury is still out on these new-look Bruins and their intern coach Bruce Cassidy. There is no way that we can say that the coaching change was a success yet, we haven’t had a big enough sample size. We will see how this team performs after the break and where the team is in the standings after as well. If they still have a playoff spot when they play the Sharks on Sunday, they should count their lucky stars. If they don’t, hopefully, they will continue the winning ways and control their destiny moving forward.