Adam McQuaid scored his second goal of the season Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)
In the Bruce Cassidy era, Bruins blue-liners have averaged 3.5 points per game. It’s a limited sample size, but the change in approach is worth noting.
In the 4-0 win over Montreal on Saturday night, that defensive dominance on the offensive side of the puck was evident again, but not being reckless was echoed throughout the team.
“They’re on a roll, so let’s enjoy it,” Cassidy said on the offensive output from the defense. “We’ve kind of encouraged that, and they take it to heart. I thought we did a much better job with our decision making when to activate as well. We weren’t reckless. We had doubts against Vancouver, we addressed it this morning, make the right decisions and for the most part we did make the decisions.”
The newfound scoring prowess of the defense benefited Adam McQuaid on Sunday night. In the first period, he took a slick pass from rookie forward Peter Cehlarik from the opposite wing and fired a one-timer past Carey Price.
“Without being reckless, without taking the focus off the right side of the puck,” said McQuaid. “Defense first. I think you always want to defend.”
It was McQuaid’s second goal of the season, and his first since Jan. 18 against Detroit. Of his 12 career goals in the NHL, five of them have come against the Habs.
“Couldn’t tell you,” McQuaid said of his Montreal success. “Obviously it’s always great, there’s a great history between the organizations and there’s always fun and intense games when the teams play. I’m not thinking of trying to score more against them or anyone else.”
With three points in his last six games, including two of them in the past two contests, the defenseman has seemed to find a rhythm.
In a career mired by injuries, it wasn’t clear what McQuaid’s future might be with the team heading into this season.
A glut of potential NHL-level defenders with the emergence of Brandon Carlo and the hope Joe Morrow and Colin Miller would become consistent players left the veteran McQuaid in an uncertain position.
While almost never offensive-minded, it seems McQuaid has begun to shine in Cassidy’s system.
“Sometimes I just watch and see if a lane opens up, if I can find it,” said McQuaid. “The lane opened up and Peter made a nice pass. Good timing.”
Four of the 14 goals since Cassidy took the reigns have come from defenders. Krug has 35 points this season, good for fourth on the team, but outside of him the blue line hasn’t produced much.
The rest of the D corps, with Chara, McQuaid, Carlo, Kevan Miller, Colin Miller and John-Michael Liles, has combined for 49 points, eight less than Brad Marchand alone.
That seems to be a new focus of the Cassidy-led Bruins.
“Keeping things in perspective, over-aggressive I think is a big thing that happens sometimes and you get an odd man rush the other way,” said McQuaid. “We can jump in and add an element that way.
“I don’t think things have changed a lot. It’s still defense first, it always will be, I think it’s just trying to be decisive and closing. If you see another person and they react then you can react; the first guy doesn’t get the best read but you can get a read off that and cover for him and then everyone’s working hard to come back and cover for each other.
McQuaid wasn’t the only defender to score, as Zdeno Chara found himself down low between the hashmarks and scored shorthanded.
“He was dialed in, he wanted to be out there in all key situations,” said Cassidy. “Joe [Sacco] is down there at that end of the bench now and he came and said that between periods he just wanted to stay out there and eat up minutes. He was ready to go and, listen, when your leaders are leading, playing like that, the other guys get pulled along. It’s great to see.”
Now the Bruins head into their bye week on a high note with three wins in a row, at home, no less. The defense has been a major part of the mini-streak, and that approach has gone as hoped for.
“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,” said McQuaid. “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.”