Trade Deadline proves Sweeney’s trust in Bruins locker room
Without shaking up the roster, Don Sweeney did two things on deadline day. The first was keeping his future assets like Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Forsbaca-Karlsson in the pipeline. The second – and in the short term most important – thing was proving his trust to the players in the Bruins locker room.
That theory that seemed impossible almost one month ago when Claude Julien was dismissed during the middle of the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade and replaced with interim coach Bruce Cassidy.
But here we are now as Cassidy enters his ninth game at the helm Thursday night against the New York Rangers. The Bruins are rolling with momentum having gone 7-1 under Cassidy and have a reason for optimism with Sweeney’s vote of confidence to keep the core intact.
“We’ve been on a little bit of a roll here now, and we’re growing together and gelling right now, and everything is clicking,” Torey Krug said following Thursday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena. “So you keep that together and it shows that management is happy with the way that we’ve been playing and we want to keep this thing going to prove them right.”
Cassidy’s players have a lot to do with that success. The Bruins are outscoring their opponents 33-16 in that eight-game span. Youngsters like Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak have been let loose and aren’t hesitating to make plays. Brad Marchand continues to play the best hockey of his career. David Backes is reaping the benefits of playing with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. And the blue-line is jumping in on the attack – something Cassidy preached about in his first press conference as interim coach.
“He’s sending a message that again, the results in the past little while are encouraging that we can add a piece here and continue to make a push here and continue the way that we’ve been playing,” Backes said.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sweeney did just that while making a minor upgrade in obtaining Drew Stafford from the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional sixth round pick.
But the Bruins know there’s still work that needs to be done. At some point they will hit a lull. Whether they respond to that the same way they bounced back against Anaheim in Cassidy’s only loss or they suffer a multi-game skid is anyone’s guess.
Sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division at 72 points with 19 games left, the Bruins will face some stiff competition in the last month and a half of the regular season, including tonight against a Rangers team that has their number. Three showdowns with the Senators – who also have 72 points with two games in hand – and pivotal matchups with the Maple Leafs, Panthers and Islanders are also on the docket.
In the ever-changing Eastern Conference playoff race, the Bruins know there is no room for error, especially after being eliminated the last two years on the last day of the regular season.
“It’s not going to be a culture shock for any of the guys that are in here. We need to assimilate [Stafford] into the group and from knowing his character he’ll fit in just fine,” Backes added about the B’s locker room culture. “Again, another talented player who can provide offense and help us win games and that’s what we’re all about, especially this time of year where we’re under 20 games to go and right in the playoff mix at the moment.”