Thursday night marked the official debut of the Bruce Cassidy era for the Black and Gold. The events leading up to that occurrence were rather unceremonious to say the least.
Claude Julien was officially relieved of his coaching duties this past Tuesday, as the Boston Bruins were looking to take the team in a different direction for the remainder of the season. A lot has been made of the timing of this announcement, but looking at it beyond face value, this was a necessary move that had allegedly been in the works for quite some time.
Some of the younger players on the roster have had a previous connection with the B’s new interim head coach, so he might be the guy to get the most out of an otherwise underachieving bunch up until this point in the season. The state of the National Hockey League is trending in a younger direction, so the Bruins need to keep pace and adapt to the changes.
Cassidy has had a couple practices at the helm and has already made an impact. The line combinations were switched up throughout the week in order to avoid being a one-line team with the high-octane—yet predictable—potency of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. With the talent more evenly distributed throughout the lineup, the practices have been faster paced with rapid transitions in between drills.
All of this was in preparation for the opposition coming into TD Garden for Cassidy’s debut behind the bench. The B’s welcomed in the San Jose Sharks for a Thursday night matchup. This was going to be no easy task for Boston as the defending Western Conference champions pose a dangerous threat to any team. The Sharks possessed a 15-10-2 road record coming into this game, but suffered a devastating overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.
The Bruins were coming into this game trailing the Toronto Maple Leafs by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division. Since the other teams in the division all have games in hand over Boston, this shaped up to be an important two points that were up for grabs.
Although the Sharks are not an overly fast team, they are highly skilled and disciplined. Honestly, this was the perfect opportunity to test the waters for the new system put in place by the Bruins. It is all about pushing the tempo.
Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes while Zdeno Chara (illness) was officially out of the lineup for this one. Also, the Bruins recalled forward Peter Cehlarik from Providence and placed Austin Czarnik on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.
The Bruins got on the board just 52 seconds after puck drop when David Backes blasted home a one timer from Torey Krug near the top of the slot. Joe Thornton was able to respond for the Sharks when he netted his fifth career goal against his former team after he beat Rask high glove side. There was a lot of open ice made available to the B’s throughout the opening 20 minutes, leaving goaltender Martin Jones susceptible to numerous scoring chances. The Bruins were able to move the puck very well and the secondary support from one another was solid. Bergeron and Pastrnak added to the scoring and took a 3-1 lead into the second period.
San Jose was able to regroup. Justin Braun got credit for a goal on a shot that trickled in through traffic up front. Despite puck possession changing rapidly throughout the period, each side was able generate plenty of scoring chances. The Sharks definitely played a heavier game as the game progressed because the Bruins were careless with the puck. However, the Bruins were able to respond and clean up their game. After Tim Schaller netted his seventh goal of the season (an effort that was made possible by the entire fourth line contributing on that play), Pastrnak recorded his second power-play goal of the night. He now has 24 goals on the year.
With the score 5-2 in favor of the home team and Jones long gone from the San Jose net, the game was decided at that point. After a somewhat listless final 20 minutes from both sides, the Bruins were able to hang on to secure the 6-3 victory. Marchand added a late empty-netter and Rask finished the night with 23 saves. Overall, a good showing by a team who was looking to impress their new coach.
The Bruins will play their next game this Saturday afternoon at home against the Vancouver Canucks.