When Bruce Cassidy took over for Claude Julien as the Bruins’ interim head coach, Cassidy had several minor things he wanted to see happen. Just three games into his tenure and one of his goals has been a big part of the Bruins three-game win streak.
“We’re going to tinker with our D-zone in terms of trying to get pucks back quicker, so we’re not defending quite as long in our end,” Cassidy said last Tuesday where he met the media for the first time since his role behind the bench changed.
“See if we can accomplish that, and then get going on offense, where we’re getting a little more secondary scoring as well, encourage that part of the game, and get our D involved a little more as well.”
There’s no denying the Bruins have done a much better job getting the puck quickly out of their zone. Because of that quickness, Cassidy’s blue-liners have been able to get involved in the play in the offensive zone. The new aggressiveness by the Bruins’ defensemen has paid immediate dividends.
The Bruins have eight goals in their last two games, four of those have come off the sticks of their defensemen. Three of those four have come from areas where you don’t normally see defensemen scoring from. A perfect indication Cassidy’s plan of a more aggressive d-core was heard loud and clear.
“Well, you need that. We’re getting encouraged from the coaching staff, guys who are known for being more defensive to be supporting the attack and also from guys that are more known for the offensive part of their game, also taking big parts in playing defense,” captain Zdeno Chara said after Sunday’s 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens.
“So, we have to be able to do both. At times, the situations presents for offensive guys a little bit more, and at times, guys that are more known for the defensive part of the game.”
Being more aggressive in the offensive zone is more about being smart and knowing when it’s safe to sacrifice defense for offense. In their three games under Cassidy, the Bruins d-core has pushed all the right buttons.
“Well they’re on a roll, let’s enjoy it. We’ve encouraged that and they’ve taken it to heart. I thought we did a much better job with our decision-making when to activate as well,” Cassidy told the media following Sunday’s victory. “We weren’t reckless, we had bouts of that against Vancouver. We addressed it this morning, pick the right times, good decisions and I thought, for the most part, we did good decisions.”
Speaking of pushing all the right buttons, Cassidy is making all the right moves and pulling the right strings for a Bruins team who hasn’t shown this much energy and confidence in a long time.
The confidence, well it’s been a welcoming sign for goalie Tuukka Rask.
“It’s great. It’s great. I think we’ve found that groove now. We’re kind of making plays for the most part, at least in the offensive zone. We’re kind of moving as a unit up the ice and down the ice” Rask said Sunday following his first career regular season TD Garden victory over the Habs. “So, that’s great to see. We’re skating hard and that’s something we need to continue to do.”
Another one of Cassidy’s goals was to turn those one-goal losses that have been haunting the Bruins into one-goal victories. So far the Bruins are 1-0 in one-goal games under Cassidy. But if the Bruins d-core continues at this pace, there shouldn’t be too many one goal games up for grabs.
With their annual trip to the Western part of the United States starting next week – including three games in California – the Bruins hope to roll their new found energy and confidence into and out of the bye week.