As the Boston Bruins have navigated through a rough March on and off the ice and General Manager Don Sweeney explores the NHL Trade market, Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has done his best to be sympathetic to his team’s crowded MASH Unit and COVID situation that saw five of his players get put on the NHL COVID List on March 19. However, one thing Cassidy has been unable to turn a blind eye to is the team’s inconsistent work ethic and at times, lack of desire on the ice.
Three times in the last week, Bruce Cassidy has shown the team and the media that no one will be exempt from his frustration and anger due to lackadaisical and spiritless play.
“They played winning hockey better in the third period than we did,” Cassidy told reporters after the Bruins blew a two-goal lead on the New York Islanders and lost 4-3 in the shootout on March 25. “Guys we rely on and leaders that I’ve praised for years here. Disappointed in not just grinding it out & changing when you’re supposed to…keep the momentum.”
Yes, those leaders included captain Patrice Bergeron. More on that below.
Following the Bruins’ sloppy but inspiring two-goal comeback and 5-4 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at TD Garden, Bruce Cassidy targeted the Bruins’ youth, who he has shown plenty of patience with this season. In that win on Tuesday night, with his team down 3-1 midway through the second period, alternate captain Brad Marchand tried to get his team going by body-slamming Devils winger Jesper Bratt. While Cassidy liked seeing a leader lead, he doesn’t exactly want the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Marchand, who leads the team in assists and points, doing that or spending time in the sin-bin.
“Brad is a leader and good for him trying to get us a spark,” Cassidy said. “But that’s where a [Jeremy] Lauzon, a [Connor] Clifton, a [Jakub] Zboril, a [Karson] Kuhlman, a [Zach] Senyshyn, a [Anton] Blidh, a [Trent] Frederic needs to turn the tide of the game with some physicality and some energy. It’s something to get the bench excited and get the crowd excited. I’d put that on the ‘D’ as well. That was a bit of the messaging and the lesson tonight during the second intermission. You hope the rest of their game grows with time and a little bit of confidence with them staying in the lineup.”
On Wednesday, Bruce Cassidy set his sights on Bruins superstar winger David Pastrnak who hasn’t scored in his last four games. A reporter asked the Bruins bench boss if he planned on keeping Pastrnak on the second line with David Krejci and Nick Ritchie after he switched up Pastrnak and Craig Smith, with Smith playing with Bergeron and Marchand. Once again, Cassidy didn’t pull any punches and took Pastrnak and his regular linemates to task.
“Well, I mean he has to find his way, he plays 20 minutes a night, I mean I can move him around with everybody but part of it is I don’t think he’s in the interior nearly as much as he needs to be,” a once again blunt Cassidy said of Pastrnak, who has led the team in goals for three seasons straight and is doing so again this season. “A Lot of kind of poke and go stuff; a lot of outside, looking for one-one-one moves. He certainly has them but defenders know that he’s gonna try that, so they’re a little more aware. So he just has to get a little dirtier with his linemates.”
Cassidy is running out of runway in terms of being blunt when it comes to his players’ recent play and if they don’t snap out of this funk, there will certainly be accusations that calling out players, lost the dressing room. Clearly, Tuesday’s win proved otherwise but it will be interesting to see what his approach is going forward.
Now on to the rest of the BHN Puck Links:
The Bruins are getting healthier! As my partner-in-crime Joe Haggerty wrote Wednesday, forward Sean Kuraly has been cleared to play and is off the NHL COVID Protocol list and defenseman Kevan Miller is getting close too. Forward Jake DeBrusk wasn’t so lucky though as he remains on the list and goalie Tuukka Rask is still out with a mysterious lower-back injury. (Boston Hockey Now)
Speaking of Rask, other NHL GMs are starting to wonder how his absence is affecting the Bruins’ NHL Trade Deadline plans? (Sportsnet)
One player the Bruins have been linked to on the NHL Trade market is Vancouver Canucks winger Tanner Pearson. Per the panel on TSN Insider Trading though, the Canucks may end up signing Pearson to an extension before the NHL Trade Deadline. (TSN)
Another playoff contender, the Florida Panthers, are expected to get really busy on the NHL Trade market as they continue to suffer injuries to their best players. Colleague and FOBHN, George Richards looks at what GM Bill Zito might do before the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline. (Florida Hockey Now)
On Wednesday, Zito was busy signing his hotshot goalie prospect and now former Boston College goalie Spencer Knight.
Oh, it’s official. ☑️
We’ve agreed to terms with Spencer Knight (@slknight30) on a three-year, entry-level contract!
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) March 31, 2021
Another former BC goalie, Thatcher Demko. Signed an extension with the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday. (Sportsnet)
Longtime friend Donny Brennan of the Ottawa Sun penned a great tribute to former Boston Bruins forward Bobby Schmautz who passed away this past Monday. On Tuesday, Brennan got a call from Schmautz’s former coach with the Bruins, Don Cherry, and ‘Grapes was quite emotional. (Sun Newspapers)
Finally, with March finally ending, here’s your Murph’s Music Pick of the Day: