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

Fired Bruins head coach Claude Julien has broken his silence.

Relieved of his duties early Tuesday morning after a decade in town, Julien released a statement acknowledging the highs of his incredible run with the Black and Gold.

Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien released a statement Thursday morning. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Fired Bruins head coach Claude Julien has broken his silence.

Relieved of his duties early Tuesday morning after a decade in town, Julien released a statement acknowledging the highs of his incredible run with the Black and Gold.

“I would like first and foremost to thank the Bruins Organisation for allowing my family and I the privilege of spending 10 unforgettable years in Boston,” Julien said. “We were proud to call this great city home for so long and will dearly miss it.

“To the players, past and present, medical and equipment staff, doctors and communication staff, all of whom worked hard for the success of our club with a team-first mentality, I cannot thank you enough for your commitment through it all. From the game day security crew to the volunteers that I was fortunate enough to meet throughout the years, I thank you as well.”

Julien, who was the fourth NHL coach fired this season and the third from the Eastern Conference, was fired with a 419-246-94 record in almost 10 full seasons with the Bruins.

“I certainly cannot sign off without thanking the people here that made this time here so rewarding- the Boston Bruins fans. Your devotion, unmistakable passion, energy and support is what makes Boston the best sports city in the entire world!”

Julien’s biggest contribution in town undoubtedly came in 2011, when he helped guide the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in almost four decades, and brought the Bruins within two wins of another championship in 2013.

“In leaving this organisation, what I’m most happy about and most proud of is being part of the team that brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time in 39 years,” Julien said. “Sharing that journey and the Stanley Cup celebrations with our players, families, staff and our fans produced so many incredible memories that I will never forget. To all that were part of it and helped along the way, I want to express a heartfelt ‘thank you.'”

Julien was the longest tenured coach at the time of his firing and leaves as the franchise’s all-time winningest coach.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

The Claude Julien era is over. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports)

Here is the post-Claude Julien era mailbag …

Now that the Bruins finally pulled the trigger and fired Claude Julien after seemingly endless speculation, what can we expect from new head coach Bruce Cassidy? Richie, Everett, MA

Yes, our long, local nightmare has ended thanks to the Bs finally turfing the winningest coach in their history. The constant ‘will they or won’t they?’ surrounding the team has been essentially lanced so the distraction of their coach should cease being a problem.

As for interim coach Cassidy, it’s been about a decade-and-a-half since he coached the Washington Capitals for a season-plus and the NHL has changed drastically in that time. He did win at least 40 games in five of his six years as head coach of the Providence Bruins and is pretty familiar with many of the younger Bruins.

I’d expect him to goose the offense with a more up-tempo style of play that will rely on the youth more than Claude did. Every player will get a clean slate so we’ll likely see a few guys in new roles as well. Whether he can be successful enough to get this roster to the post-season is the million dollar question.

The Bruins are certainly hoping for the significant bump in play that Doug Weight brought to Long Island. But if they don’t like what see, the Bruins aren’t committed to Cassidy beyond this season right now. Of course, if he does not return for the ’17-’18 season that would be indicative of another front office problem but that’s another issue for another day.

The Bruins took a pretty bad PR hit over the last few days. But are they really “cowards”? Paul, Roslindale, MA

A rough year for the Bruins got even bumpier due to the way they handled the dismissal of Claude. Fans and social media were pissed off that the team had the “audacity” to can the coach on the same day as the duckboat parade for the World Champion Patriots (the horror!).

But cowards? That’s a bit of a stretch. The B’s apparently decided to fire him after Saturday’s ugly loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But doing it on Sunday would’ve certainly stolen some of the Patriots’ Super Bowl thunder and they likely deferred out of professional courtesy. When the Pats completed their miraculous comeback, it became a ‘damned if you, damned if you don’t’ situation for their hockey compatriots.

Rather than announce the firing on Monday and dim some of the region’s glow in the wake of the huge Super Bowl win, the Bs opted to wait for yesterday and violate the sanctity of a celebratory parade. And, boy, did they get roasted for it. But the B’s had already deferred to the Pats for two days and decided to move on with their franchise so their new coach could get a couple of practices in before his first game.

Where the Bruins do deserve criticism is for their horrible choice to hold the press conference at the exact same time as the parade. This was just a bad look. By having the presser at 11:45 a.m. while millions clogged the Back Bay a couple miles away, the team ensured that local stations would not be able to do live shots and that outlets couldn’t send additional reporters. That was weak and reeked of the early ‘90s Bruins when Harry Sinden would try to bury stories in yesterday’s trash. Just make your decision, face the music, then move on.

Blog Author: 
Rear Admiral
Bruins forward Ryan Spooner has a long history with interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Ryan Spooner has a history with interim B’s coach Bruce Cassidy. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

It took all of five minutes before Bruins interim coach Bruce Cassidy talked about his familiarity with Ryan Spooner during Tuesday’s impromptu introductory press conference at Warrior Ice Arena.

Cassidy, the replacement for head coach Claude Julien, who was relieved of his duties after 10 years on the job, talked about his ability to hopefully get a player like Spooner going. That would be a win for not only the Black and Gold, but the embattled Spooner as well.

He would never say it directly, and even though he still won’t, but Spooner,who has just eight goals and 27 points in 54 games this season, never seemed all that comfortable under Julien and vice versa. Consider this: Even after Spooner’s best NHL season, a 2015-16 campaign in which he scored 13 goals and totaled 49 points in 80 games while playing hurt for most of the second half, Spooner lost out on his spot as the club’s third-line center this season without much of a chance at keeping it.

It’s not like he lost out on the spot to big fish free agent pickup David Backes, who has played on the right side of the B’s second line this season, either. Julien put Austin Czarnik, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore in that spot before he put Spooner back there.

“Last season as a centerman I had some ups and downs, but as a whole I think it was a pretty good season for me,” Spooner said.

 

It never made a ton of sense to me, and you always got the feeling that it made even less sense to Spooner, who was pigeonholed into a top-six winger role (something he never necessarily crushed) from the start of training camp, and then benched or demoted down to the fourth line when things didn’t work out. And when that happened, Spooner would often fall back to a familiar refrain where he called the situation out for being what it is, and that he could only hope to improve to the coach’s satisfaction.

“I think at the end of the day [Julien] wanted me to be the best player I can be, and that’s fine,” Spooner said.

But under Cassidy, it’s been two practices at center in as many days for the 25-year-old Spooner.

The first came with Matt Beleskey and David Backes as his wingers, and the other with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes. Each proposed line has it’s strengths and weaknesses (the first edition is a little heavy-footed but can win battles while the second one is a lot of offense but very little defensive presence), but the focus of each line was getting No. 51 back into a situation where he could succeed, because that simply hasn’t happened through the first 54 games of this current season. It was necessary, too.

“I’ll speak to this year. I think moving from center to the wing, I don’t know if he’s bought into it if that’s the right term or is embracing that role, only he can answer that. But that’s part of it,” Cassidy, Spooner’s coach in Providence for four different seasons, said of Spooner’s time on the wing. “Wherever you play on the ice, this is a difficult league, especially as a young guy. You have to embrace the role you’re put in to have a level of success and he did at times. I thought he was good at times on the wing.”

There were moments where it seemed to work, but it never materialized into long stretches of success, especially not on a second line with David Krejci and Backes that really seemed stuck in the mud through the neutral zone at times.

“You just have to put the work in on the walls, and the willingness to go there and embrace that part of the job. Every position has a kind of a lousy part of the job to it, right? I mean defensemen going back with their face up against the glass, does anybody enjoy that? No. Wingers fighting for pucks on the boards, it’s not great, but you gotta do it,” Cassidy said of the work that comes with being a winger versus a center. “There’s time he needs to go to the net. I think those are the areas that the staff has tried to encourage him to do more of when he doesn’t have the puck because he’s a guy that’s used to being a centerman who makes plays with the pucks and has the puck in the neutral zone and that’s where it changes as a winger.”

At 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, Spooner is not your prototypical winger, especially not for what’s considered the norm to Krejci’s left (be it Beleskey or Milan Lucic before that), and that’s been one of the biggest problems for Spooner as a winger, especially under Julien, who wanted basically everybody on his roster to play a heavy, three-zone game.

“I think at heart, and he’d have to answer that, but I think he’d prefer to be a centerman,” Cassidy said of Spooner. “So we either have to do a better job selling him the value of being a winger or he goes back to the middle and see if we can get the best.”

Spooner’s coach during his formative pro years, in which he morphed from a one-dimensional scorer to an accountable skill player that thrived under the situations Cassidy put him in as a go-to scoring option, the Ottawa native likes this new style.

“The guys liked him,” Spooner said of Cassidy. “He likes to play with pace, and he’s more of an offensive coach.”

Two things that benefit Spooner. Especially if it’s in the middle of the ice and with the puck distributed off his stick.

 

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Bruce Cassidy is an NHL head coach for the first time since 2003. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)Bruce Cassidy, or Butch as he’s known to his players, isn’t one to give his players life lessons.



Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has missed the last two practices with a sickness. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara has picked one hell of a two-day stretch to miss.

Absent from Tuesday’s practice because he was under the weather, Chara was once again missing from Wednesday’s practice, and his status for tomorrow’s game against the Sharks remains up in the air.

“Still under the weather,” interim head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Chara. “I don’t want to say anything on [Chara missing Thursday’s game] because he’s a proud guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked through that door tomorrow ready to play, but I haven’t spoken to Z.”

Normally this would not be a big deal, but this means that Chara, the team’s captain since 2006, has been absent for both practices led by Cassidy since the team fired Claude Julien early Tuesday morning.

Cassidy, who did run the defensive group as an assistant coach this year on Julien’s staff, obviously has familiarity with Chara, so it would not be a huge issue for Chara to just jump right into action. And the systems, at least according to those skating them, are relatively similar, so this wouldn’t be as if Chara is jumping into the mix without having any sort of prior knowledge as to what the new coach expects out of his team.

If he’s out of action tomorrow night, the Bruins will rely on a true six-defender unit, which is something they have found some success with this season, as the Black and Gold are 3-2-1 with Chara out of action this season.

The 39-year-old Chara has four goals and 15 points in 49 games this year and leads the Bruins with 23:07 of time on ice per night.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson