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  • What we learned: Cassidy’s baptism under blizzard brings the ‘W’

    Post Game

    What we learned: Cassidy’s baptism under blizzard brings the ‘W’

    Bob Snow February 10, 2017

    Reminiscent of the lore of the Blizzard of ’78 when thousands of Beanpot fans were stranded at old Garden, Thursday’s whiteout also took on a historic setting for the first game in the new Black and Gold era.

    For 10 years, Claude Julien rode his ascent to the winningest coach in Bruins’ history and the first to bring Lord Stanley back to Boston during his tenure. But Saturday’s 6-5 debacle against Toronto set the stage for his final descent to departure.

    “When I went out to the bench,” interim coach Bruce Cassidy said postgame, “the first thing I did was look up at the banners – the Stanley Cup Championship banners – and you know, I’ve been a lifelong Boston Bruins fan since I was this high. I’ve had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life.”

    “Kind of like when we were kids,” Marchand said pregame about the would-be 9,943 braving the elements with a refund toward a future game for no-shows after the league’s decision to play the game. “Our parents were the only ones in the stands.”

    “Management made a statement that we’re not good enough and we need to move forward,” he shifted to with serious emphasis.

    “It will take a little bit of time to get used to him and get back on track,” Krug said before Marchand about Game No. 1 under Cassidy. “He’s shuffling some lines around to hopefully get more scoring.”

    The Bruins lead the NHL in shots on net, but flounder among the league’s bottom in red lights. The new combos had David Backes back on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Matt Beleskey moved to the top-six with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. Ryan Spooner back in familiar territory as third line center with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes. Fourth line intact with Dominic Moore centering Riley Nash and Tim Schaller.

    Tuukka Rask 25-13-4, 2.31 GAA vs. Martin Jones 27-15-4, 2.25 GAA. Jones acquired by Boston in the Milan Lucic trade in June 2015 with the Kings, then promptly sent to San Jose for a first-round pick has become the Sharks’ starter since. Boston lost its last three games against the 2016 Stanley Cup finalist and current Pacific Division leader after winning the previous three straight; Jones with one of those wins.

    The Bruins minus Zdeno Chara with an illness, seemingly of the flu type.

    “Just like a Canadian winter,” Cassidy said matter-of-factly in his first pregame press conference at 5:50 about the elements outside TD Garden. “I’m like everyone else; want to see what we got.”

    Here’s what we learned as the half-filled Garden and Cassidy got a good glimpse of what the Bruins might have for the stretch run in the convincing 6-4 win.

    “I liked that we reestablished some urgency in this building,” Cassidy said after.

    Indeed, the Bruins did all of that.

    First line and power play puts B’s on solid track in first 20

    Just 52 seconds in, Torey Krug pinched low and made a nifty backhand pass along the wall to a streaking Backes who beat Jones on a 20-foot wrister to give Boston a 1-0 lead; Krejci also assisting.

    Graybeard Joe Thornton intercepted an errant Brandon Carlo breakout pass and caught daylight top corner with a sizzling wrist shot at 7:51 to tie the game. His 381st career goal; six assists short of 1,000.

    Carlo got some redemption at 15:52 when his right-point shot was deflected by Backes into a parked-at-the-crease Bergeron who tipped it home for the 2-1 lead.

    “Bergy and Marchy make a lot of players better,” Cassidy said about the team’s 20-million-dollar investment in that first line. “David Backes is a very good player and tonight he did his part on that line and more and it was a good line for us.”

    After some tic-tac-toe passing on a late-period power play by Marchand and Pastrnak went for naught, Bergeron and Pastrnak replicated the same play seconds later with Pastrnak’s 23rd of the season at 17:31.

    Second period history reversed

    Oh, that second period. Saturday night, 98 seconds produced three Leafs’ goals, leading to Claude Julien’s firing.

    The opposite Thursday night.

    Aaron Dell replaced Jones between the Sharks’ pipes to open the second period. No slouch as the backup at 6-2-0 and a 1.97 GAA, San Jose gave him an early boost when Justin Braun rolled the puck off Carlo a minute in to cut the visitor’s deficit to one.

    Pastrnak’s bid for No. 24 was denied on the save of the game to that point when Dell put the glove on a Pastrnak bullet at 15:46. But Moore (7th Player Award?) did some gritty work behind Dell before centering a backhand pass to Nash whose rebound was pushed home by Schaller at 13:04 for the 4-2 lead.

    “With Moore, Schaller, and Nash,” Cassidy said, “that was a huge goal for us to get back in the game and getting that momentum back that we always talk about.”

    It was a season-best fifth game in the last six that the Bruins scored four or more goals.

    On a power play to end the period, Bergeron and Marchand put on a clinic, finding an open Pastrnak 10 feet outside Dell for his open-net 24th goal of the year at 19:11 – for a three-goal bulge.

    “Bergy is a guy that wants to work on all the little – so, that play to Pastrnak was not by accident,” Cassidy said about both Pastrnak tallies. “They’ve been, we’ve been working on that.”

    “I had two pretty much empty netters,” Pastrnak said about both Bergeron setups.

    Bruins 21-0-2 when leading after 40 minutes

    Make that 22-0-2 with the 6-3 final, compliments of a Timo Meier goal at 17:23 and a Marchand open-netter with 30 ticks left. Backes and Bergeron assisting once again to give the first line nine total points.

    “It’s been a busy two or three days, so I’ll tell you this,” Cassidy said, “I’m going to sleep well tonight but tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll get back to work, and see if we can build on this one.”

    “The firing of a coach was a wakeup call for a lot of guys who needed to turn their games around and provide better efforts,” Backes said. “Tonight, we had that. Again, it was great to see, but it was one game. We need to verify this wasn’t a fluke on Saturday and play our butts off at one o’ clock, and worry about the next one after that.”

    That would be Vancouver – then Montreal Sunday night.

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