The Bruins beat the Canucks at the Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins beat the Canucks at the Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

After the club’s 6-3 decimation of the Sharks in Bruce Cassidy’s coaching debut on Thursday, the 51-year-old Cassidy talked about his desire for the team to err on the side of aggression, especially when it came to offense and plays made from their defense.

And this was just another run of the Miller afternoon at TD Garden in that regard, as the Bruins defeated the visiting Canucks by a 4-3 final.

In the second game of a three games in four nights stretch that will determine the fate of their season (and with their bye week on the horizon), the Black and Gold knew that aggression was going to be the name of the game against a Canucks team in a similar situation as the Bs, with points a must to keep their playoff hopes out West alive.

But that’s a mindset and situation that suits Cassidy’s philosophies as a head coach. Even when you accept the hiccups that come with it.

And were they ever present in this one.

The Canucks scored first when a disastrous David Pastrnak turnover allowed the Canucks to have a 3-on-1 the other way, and although Anton Khudobin stopped the initial shot, miscommunication in front of the B’s net allowed Bo Horvat to collect and pot the rebound home for his 16th goal of the season, scored just 4:56 into the first period.

It was the sleepy first that haunted the Bruins many times throughout Claude Julien’s 10th year in town.

Except now, and again, with aggression the name of the game, it didn’t take long for the Bruins to wake up.

At 13:33 of the first, it was Kevan Miller that ripped home his second goal of the season on a decision to join the rush up ice. With Ryan Spooner to the left and Jimmy Hayes driving to the net, Miller was able to sneak in on the right side and blast a one-time shot that beat Ryan Miller upstairs. For the Bruins’ Miller, it was the near perfect execution of what Cassidy has preached.

And when the Bruins were on a late-period power play, it was Frank Vatrano, off a brilliant feed from David Krejci, that pushed the Bruins out to a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes of action behind his seventh goal of the season (and his fifth on the power play).

But, again, as was the case in so many Julien games this year, the Bruins fell back asleep once the lead was theirs in the middle frame, as they were outshot 15-to-3, and were victimized by an actual last-second goal from Alex Burrows.

Scored with 00:00.6 left in the period, the Burrows goal was the deserved finish to a finger-biting middle frame in the Hub.

That snapped in a dominant third period, however, as Colin Miller matched the Canucks with a bomb of his own, and edged the Bruins back out to a lead. Markus Granlund made it even again at 3-3 on the power play.

But then, with two minutes left, it was Pastrnak, at the end of a game that came with turnover after turnover for the ultra-talented Czech winger, that atoned for his mistakes with a goal scored with just 2:00 left in the third period.

And as the Canucks whiffed on a goal line drive with less than a minute left, it was the Bruins that hung on behind a 29-of-32 performance behind the always-aggressive Khudobin for his first win since Dec. 1 against the Hurricanes.

When you look at this game, it’s easy to state the obvious — it was a sleepy, at times nightmarish, mess. The Bruins were frequently over-aggressive, and were pinned in for prolonged stretches. But at the same time, it was that aggression and pace that allowed the Bruins to stay afloat and respond with goals and plays when they were there to be made.

It’s worked for the Bruins so far, though, as that’s two wins in two games under Cassidy.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Zdeno Chara was back at Bruins practice on Friday. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara was back at Bruins practice on Friday. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports)

A big presence, in both the physical and in-the-locker-room sense, returned to Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Zdeno Chara.

Absent from practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and out of last night’s game against the Sharks with an illness, the 6-foot-9 Chara was on the ice on Friday for his first practice since the firing of Claude Julien. That’s significant and insignificant all in one.

Julien had been Chara’s coach since 2007. There was an obvious comfort there, and Chara, as the team captain, certainly served as the natural buffer between the players and Julien. That comfort was probably at times established and crept into the team practices, too, which have changed under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.

Under Cassidy, the Black and Gold have put a greater emphasis on practicing with speed, pace, and urgency. There’s been an added focus on skating, and with the belief that if you skate harder in practices, it will translate into a more effective pace in games.

So, does that create a problem for the 39-year-old top defender? Forgive me for silencing this heating take, but of course not.

The 51-year-old Cassidy was in charge of running the defense when he was first brought into the NHL staff this season as an assistant coach, so his teachings and focus are probably nothing new to the majority of those that play on the B’s backend.

One player even confirmed that as such, noting that the biggest difference, at least in practice, has been a bit more of a focus on looking up ice versus going D-to-D as the safe option that can sometimes allow the opposition to reset and regroup. You saw some of that in last night’s game, as well, as the B’s defenders were very aggressive when given the chance.

Back in his normal spot to the left of Brandon Carlo, Chara was up front about how he felt today versus earlier in the week.

“Feeling much better obviously than I did yesterday or even two or three days ago,” Chara admitted after the skate. “I just felt so fatigued and out of it that you would probably do more harm to yourself and obviously to the team.”

Chara also admitted that he should feel good to go for tomorrow’s 1 p.m. tilt against the Canucks.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Bruce Cassidy won in his debut as the head coach of the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy, a lifelong Bruins fan, won in his debut as the head coach of the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruins boss Bruce Cassidy has waited a long time for a second chance as an NHL head coach. But to have it with the Bruins, an organization Cassidy has had an attachment to as a coach since 2008, but as a person his entire life, is something that’s made it worth the wait.

Named the interim head coach on the heels of Claude Julien’s firing on Tuesday, the 51-year-old gave himself a moment to reflect on the opportunity in front of him before Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Sharks.

“Well, when I went out to the bench, 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,” Cassidy, a defenseman drafted by the Blackhawks with the 18th overall pick back in 1983, said after the win. “My first pair of skates were black and gold and I’ve loved Bobby Orr ever since and I could probably name every player in those Stanley Cup teams and… I mean, I’ve had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life, so it’s a great honor for me to stand up there and look at the – and be in charge, so it was a great night that way.”

In one of their more inspired efforts of the season, Cassidy’s Bruins came at the Pacific-leading Sharks with aggression, a three-zone commitment, and finished the night with six goals (and tallies from five different scorers).

“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,” David Backes said. “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.”

There’s more work to be done, of course, but there’s no doubt that Cassidy is breathing a little easier after the pressure of Game 1.

“Who doesn’t enjoy a win?” Cassidy said. 

True as both a fan and a coach. Or in Cassidy’s case, both.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The fans in Boston are a largely unhappy bunch when it comes to the status of their favorite hockey team.

In addition to the team struggling and seemingly likely to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired head coach Claude Julien after 10 years on the job, and did it in a way that really seemed to irk the Hub. Fired early Tuesday morning, and with a press conference at 11:30 a.m. (which was the exact same time as the Patriots’ parade), the majority of fans felt that the franchise’s all-time winningest coach deserved better. On top of doing it in a way that came across as if the Bruins were trying to sneak one by the media and the fans alike, the passionate fanbase also viewed it as yet another misstep for a franchise that’s teetering on the edge of irrelevancy in the city.

So, maybe this sign at the Garden (which somehow got through security) for the first post-Julien game was to be expected.

A meme brought to life in the form of a poster plastered against the glass for the pregame warmups, the poster is a reference to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press conference in which he said that the crowds at President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month were the largest ever. That, as photo evidence can show, was a lie.

In other words, this fan doesn’t seem to think that Sweeney knows what he’s doing.

That was cold blooded.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The B's fourth line got back to its basics Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The B’s fourth line got back to its basics Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Nobody really worries about playing the Bruins these days.

There are parts of the B’s game that has concerned teams this year — namely the club’s first line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on either side of Patrice Bergeron — but if you shut them down, you’re typically going to do just fine. And even if they do have their say and score some goals, the Bruins have often struggled to find the depth scoring needed this time of year. That was one of the things that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has put a focus on fixing, and one of the things that shined through in the club’s 6-3 win over the Sharks.

When the Bruins jumped out to a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes of play, it came off the backs of the players the Bruins expect to score goals. David Backes scored 52 seconds into the period, Bergeron had a net-front putaway, and David Pastrnak ripped a power-play goal home.

But when the Sharks made things interesting in the second period behind a Justin Braun goal that cut the B’s lead to one, the Bruins responded with strong shifts, and were back on the board when Tim Schaller snapped a 12-game goal drought with some hard work in front of the San Jose net for his seventh goal of the season.

“I liked that we got pucks to the dirty area offensively, and we were willing to go there – Schaller’s goal is a good example,” Cassidy, back behind an NHL bench as a head coach for the first time since 2003, said. “I liked our resiliency when we got scored on; we didn’t get down, we came back and just kept playing. No team is perfect so when you give up a goal, we’ve got to really avoid hanging our heads and just win the next shift and get the momentum back.”

It also spoke to the ‘anxiety’ that Cassidy wants to create for the opposition.

It’s a word that B’s general manager Don Sweeney used during his introductory press conference with the team back in 2015, too.

What you saw on Thursday night was the right form of anxiety, too, in terms of scoring chances to go along with physicality and hard work versus simply trying to run people through walls and annoy them (see: the fourth line of Zac Rinaldo, Tyler Randell, Max Talbot, and Joonas Kemppainen a year ago). That form of anxiety just creates it for the fans that watch in horror as the line is pinned in their own zone for about a minute and a half. But this form, however, is one that fits this current fourth line combination with Schaller and Riley Nash on either side of veteran pivot Dominic Moore.

“One of the things that we told ourselves before the game was that we want to be hard to play against,” Schaller, who along with Moore has been of the club’s best value signings in recent years, said. “I think if we can do that no matter what line we’re playing against, whether it’s one through four for them, create anxiety for them and the coach, and keep them off their game, it’s huge.”

In 12:09 of time on ice, Schaller had one goal along with two shots and four hits. Nash had one assist, two shots, a takeaway and a blocked shot in just under 13 minutes of action, while Moore finished with an assist, three shots, and wins in five of seven draws.

It was a simplistic approach that also came with zero missed shots for the line.

“I think the past few practices, we’ve really worked on getting pucks to the net. I think we need to realize not everything is going to be pretty, so if we just get pucks on net and put it off the pad, good things will happen if we go to the net,” Schaller said of their simplified efforts to make their shots count. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to pick corners every time. We know we have the skilled guys that do that, but other than that, just [get] pucks to the net, and good things will happen.”

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
eSports will be coming to TD Garden. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

Esports could be coming to TD Garden. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

Like many other teams and figures in professional sports, the Boston Bruins are delving into the world of esports.

The Bruins’ parent company, Delaware North, has invested in Splyce, an esports franchise that has nine competitive teams in games such as “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty.” Boston is now the third NHL team to invest in esports, along with the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. The Devils invested along with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the Caps were in partnership with the Washington Wizards.

Delaware North intends to use resources from the Bruins for the sales and marketing of Splyce.

According to a report from ESPN, there’s hope that the TD Garden might be used for esports events in the future. Splyce intends to work more around the Boston market in general.

Splyce was originally founded in 2015 and is based out of Rochester, New York. The company originally was more known for streaming esports matches before jumping into the fray themselves in professional competitions. It officially rebranded as Splyce a couple of months after initially branding as Fallow Esports.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Blog Author: 
Marisa Ingemi
The Bruins are 13-13-0 at home this season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are 13-13-0 at home this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The TD Garden had its share of empty seats for Thursday’s game between the Bruins and visiting Sharks. The blizzard that’s walloped Boston all day and night had something to do with that, of course.

But at the same time, the truth is that the on-ice product (especially the home version), has been nothing to risk your car or safety over.

For the second year in a row, the Bruins have struggled to do much of anything at home. They had just 17 wins in 41 home games a year ago (the Bruins make the playoffs last year if they take care of business in their home finale), and it’s been more of the same this year, as they entered Thursday’s game with just 12 wins in 25 home games to date.

It’s tough to diagnose exactly what’s gone wrong at home for the second year in a row, but the obvious? Here, the Bruins have been uninspired, shaken, and just straight-up unwatchable at times.

But the Bruins were anything but on Thursday night.

They struck early, hit often, and counterpunched the Sharks with the hunger rarely seen on Causeway Street since 2015.

And though it’s just one game, of course, it was an undeniable focal point for this team’s first game under their new bench boss.

“I liked that we reestablished some urgency in this building,” B’s interim coach Bruce Cassidy said after the 6-3 victory. 

Urgency was the name of the Black and Gold’s win, which snapped a two-game slide (and a three-game losing streak to the Sharks), but what made it noteworthy was the fact that it began like so many other games that the B’s have let slip this season.

The Bruins got on the Sharks’ Martin Jones early (about as early as they could) when David Backes potted his 12th goal of the year just 52 seconds into the game. But the Sharks responded in time, as Joe Thornton capitalized on a turnover for his fourth goal of the season, scored 6:59 after the Backes goal. It was the perfect (and in my best DMX voice) ‘here we go again’ moment that could capture the essence of this Bruins team and what’s gone wrong for this club. Read as: Anything and everything.

But the Bruins did not let the Thornton goal snowball into multiple goals against, and instead responded with a physical shift right after the goal, along with two goals in 1:39, the first on a putaway by Patrice Bergeron, and the second on a power-play bullet off the stick of David Pastrnak, to end a first period that finished with a 3-1 B’s lead and Jones planted on the bench.

“I thought the feeling on the bench was pretty positive and we thought we had a pretty good start. Yes, they scored that goal, but we still had chances in their zone,” Bergeron said of their response. “I thought we stayed with it and we kept being on our toes and being good on the forecheck and creating some chances out of it. That’s kind of what you need to get that momentum back.”

And when the Sharks made it a one-goal game in the second period, the Bruins escaped the second period with their multi-goal lead intact, with a net-front goal from Tim Schaller and a second power-play goal off Pastrnak’s stick.

It was the high-intensity, complete game that’s become a road exclusive for this group.

It’s what the Bruins need more of, too.

“I think a lot more participants, myself included; doing all the little things it takes to win games,” Backes said. “Blocking shots, getting pucks deep, second and third efforts in critical efforts, and the result speaks for how much we invested in the game.”

With 16 of the B’s final 26 games this year set to take place at TD Garden, the Bruins know that their home consistency could be the biggest difference between a surprise playoff berth or the club’s third consecutive failure to make the postseason.

“We knew we needed a great effort and we certainly provided that,” Backes noted. “We’ve got to know what it took and how hard it is to bring games and bring that same effort on Saturday afternoon and put this one behind us after we brave this snow storm.”

On a night seemingly unworthy of the drive to the rink, the Bruins showed up and made a half-full building rock. And now, with a back-to-back weekend slate on deck with rivalry games against the Canucks and Canadiens (and full buildings expected each night), it’s on the Bruins to make a safer travel worth the effort, which at times has been more difficult than any snowy drive.


Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Claude Julien did not lose his room, but at the end of the day, it was his at-times-too-comfortable room that lost him his job. And it took just 52 seconds to figure out whether or not the firing of Julien on Tuesday caught the eye and rattled some cages of the Bruins’ veterans.

The Bruins scored five goals in Bruce Cassidy's first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins scored six goals in Bruce Cassidy’s first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien did not lose his room, but at the end of the day, it was his at-times-too-comfortable room that lost him his job. And it took just 52 seconds to figure out whether or not the firing of Julien on Tuesday caught the eye and rattled some cages of the Bruins’ veterans.

With their lines jumbled in search of greater balance, it was an equally jumbled line and sequence, but with three of the players that the Bruins have heavily relied upon, that delivered the quick punch in a 6-3 win over Martin Jones and the Sharks at a snowed in TD Garden.

It featured everything that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, back behind an NHL bench as the main boss for the first time since 2003, has called for from this more-than-capable group.

Torey Krug was pinched up in the attacking zone to keep the offensive play alive, David Krejci was out for an extended shift, and it was Krejci that found a streaking David Backes for a one-time goal that beat Jones. It was the instincts of Krug, the patience of Krejci, and the no-nonsense approach of the beleaguered Backes that the B’s have longed for.

Where has this been all year?

In a night that came with goals from five different Bruins scorers — Backes scored the first, Patrice Bergeron scored the second, David Pastrnak tallied two power-play goals, Tim Schaller ended a 12-game goal drought with his seventh goal of the season, and Brad Marchand scored the empty-netter to seal the deal on the win — the Bruins focused less on the volume of their chances but entirely more on the quality of the ones thrown on net.

Gone were the weak wristers from the point. They were replaced with strong boardwork that often opened up the middle of the ice. Hope plays were kicked to the curb. As were the majority of safe plays, to be honest. Cassidy, who urged this sort of stuff after two practice days, trusted his skill guys to use their skill, but at the same time not drop their work ethic to prevent something the other way when the skill missed a beat. It showed, too, as the B’s second goal doesn’t happen without numbers recovering in the defensive zone on a flubbed 2-on-1 to carry the puck the other way for a chance and goal against the Sharks’ Jones.

And not only did the Bruins chase Jones after they scored three goals on just 12 shots in the first period, but it was a period in which the Bruins missed just one of their shots on goal. Missing a single shot in the period? This team? Surely you jest.

This was a Bruins team that came into tonight’s game with the second-most missed shots in the NHL (739 in 55 games), and one that averaged over 13 misses per night. Their incredible ability to miss the net was one of the biggest reasons why GM Don Sweeney (somewhat) failed to buy into the advanced metrics that lauded the Bruins as one of the league’s best possession teams.

40 shots is great, sure, but it’s relatively meaningless if they’re all from low-percentage locations.

It was something that Cassidy subtly alluded to in his post-practice meetings with the media, too. It wasn’t about the shot totals. It never was. It was about the willingness to create meaningful shots. And putting players in the best position to shoot ’em.

It’s hard to say that Backes was not happy where he was tonight. On a line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, two of the players that convinced Backes that Boston would be a great fit for him, Backes put forth forth one of his more inspired nights since switching over from the Blues to Bruins last summer, and finished with seven shots on net. His contributions were on the scoresheet, too, as he scored the aforementioned first goal, but also provided the screen and primary assist on Bergeron’s goal.

The David Krejci line, with Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak on the wings, had their chances on the night, too.

But Cassidy knows that he can trust the Marchand and Pastrnaks of the team to score goals. It was about finding ways for the other players on the roster, who have struggled mightily to find anything close to consistency, to contribute.

They did Thursday, and the Bruins won.

The Bruins are back at it Saturday afternoon against the Canucks.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight's game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight’s game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

There’s a blizzard outside, but it’s game on inside TD Garden.

And a pivotal one at that, too.

Two days after Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired bench boss of 10 years Claude Julien, the Bruce Cassidy era, currently considered interim, will begin tonight when the Bruins play host to the Sharks. But Cassidy’s Bruins will have to make do without their captain, as Zdeno Chara will miss tonight’s game with an apparent illness.

Absent from practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday and with today’s morning skate canceled due to the weather, the 39-year-old Chara did not have a chance to get on the ice this morning and apparently does not feel strong enough to play in this game tonight. He will be replaced in the lineup by John-Michael Liles, but on a pairing by Kevan Miller, who will skate with Brandon Carlo’s as the club’s No. 1 pairing.

One of the things Cassidy will try right off the bat is a more balanced forward group, headlined by a bump up to the first line for David Backes. One of the players that the Black and Gold need to get going offensively if they’re to compete for a playoff spot, Backes, with just one assist in his last 12 games, will skate with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That moves David Pastrnak down to a second line with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, while Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes will skate on the wings of a third line with Ryan Spooner in the middle. The fourth line will feature Tim Schaller and Riley Nash as Dom Moore’s wingers.

With that group, Cassidy will look to get the team’s most creative players in position to score dirtier goals or simply work to their strengths more than they have been this season, particularly when it comes to their decisions in the attacking zone.

“What I’m doing to do is find the balance,” Cassidy said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’d like to get the puck closer to the net where teams are scrambling to recover to d-zone coverage so we can get some goals around the net where we outnumber them. And choose the appropriate option in those situations. If you can’t escape coverage low and early, then yeah, go to high or change sides or behind the net. But if you have some time, use it. And we’ll see how it plays out.”

In other words, don’t just rely on a dropback pass to the point for an easy-to-stop wrister.

But also allow all four of your lines to feel that they have some say in the shift-to-shift offensive chances produced by the club.

“I’ve always told players everybody in the room is capable of scoring goals, even though you might not be labeled a goal-scorer,” Cassidy said of his desire to get the B’s back to a four-line club capable of secondary scoring. “And that’s the kind of mentality that I have throughout the lineup.”

The Bruins have scored the 18th-most goals in the NHL this season (141), but rank 21st in goals for per game (2.56).

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. The 29-year-old Rask was yanked after allowing four goals on 14 shots against the Maple Leafs last Saturday, but comes into action with 25 wins and a .911 save percentage in 44 games this season. Rask has three wins and a .904 save percentage in six career games against the Sharks.

The Sharks counter with Bruin-For-A-Weekend Martin Jones. A loser in his last start, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres in which Jones allowed five goals on 36 shots, Jones comes to Boston with 27 wins and a .917 save percentage in 46 games played. Jones stopped 25-of-29 shots against in his only prior head-to-head against the B’s in his pro career.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson