There’s a hell of a lot going on in the world of Boston sports these days. The Red Sox are in the midst of their springtime tune-up games, the Patriots roster is in total flux, and the Celtics push towards the top seed in the conference led by off-season acquisition Kyrie Irving.
What I hope people aren’t overlooking is the tremendous season the Boston Bruins have put together. I mean, they may be the best story I Boston sports right now and for the better part of this calendar year. A team full of rookies and aging veterans, who many (like myself) pegged as a Wild Card team AT BEST, now finds themselves in the hunt for the best record in the Eastern Conference. From the middle of the pack to the alpha dogs, the Bruins transition into an NHL powerhouse this season is nothing short of remarkable.
So who gets the credit? The players, of course. GM Don Sweeney can certainly take a bow when it comes to this season as well.
But with all the credit to go around, I can’t help but feel like not enough has been going to head coach Bruce Cassidy. I mean, he has manned the helm of this ship that is currently on a trajectory for a decent playoff run. All this after taking over for the longest tenured coach in the NHL at the time of his appointment.
So I want to make sure Bruce gets some love. Consider this a friendly PSA for Boston fans. Because coaches get railroaded when things go wrong (just ask Claude Julien), therefore it’s only fair they get a healthy share of the credit when things go right.
And boy, do things look right.
Just use the eye test (when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of coaching, this is sometimes all we have). Can Bruins fans think of a game where you looked at the lineup and thought “What the hell is Bruce thinking?”. Because I can’t. Cassidy has a great feel for this team, and knows the buttons to push and the line combos to use in order to win games. I think back to when Tuukka Rask floundered in net early on, and the Bruins were on a fast track to mediocrity to begin the year. Cassidy decides to start Anton Khudobin in net over Rask in consecutive games in response to Tuukka’s poor play. The Bruins grind out a few tough wins on the road out west, and boom. The bleeding stopped, and they could right the ship. He made the proper lineup call at the opportune time, despite the pressure he faced having Tuukka lose considerable playing time to his backup.
Or just take this recent homestand. Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy go down with injuries, and David Backes gets suspended. The Bruins record in the six-game stretch? 6-0-0. The lines continued to click and the offensive production didn’t falter at all, even with the insertion of newcomers like Tommy Wingels and Brian Gionta. A lot of that falls on the players, of course, for stepping up. But players succeed when they are put in positions to do so. And that is a direct result of one Bruce Cassidy.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) March 9, 2018
I’ll sum it up like this. I can’t remember the last time Boston had a team that could battle like these guys do. Whether it’s a 1-1 defensive tilt or a 6-6 offensive shootout, the Bruins rarely seem to be bested by the end of 60 minutes. They fight to the very end, and seem more focused and in sync as the year has progressed. And while a talented roster is the main reason for their success, the coaching and the system Cassidy has brought to the table have been the catalyst that turned the Bruins into more than the sum of their parts.
And I just want to make sure that it’s not overlooked.