BRIGHTON, Mass – While Bruce Cassidy clearly and deservedly got the necessary vote of confidence from Bruins management this spring when he was signed to a multi-year deal as the permanent head coach of the B’s, there is still a bit of unknown to be broached with the team in the coming months. Cassidy took over midseason after Claude Julien was relieved of his duties, and helped steer the Black and Gold into a playoff berth after it appeared that they were going to fall short for a third straight season before the coaching move was made.
So this season will be Cassidy’s first full season running the Bruins bench, his first time putting the entire organization through NHL training camp and his first time pushing Boston toward the ultimate goal from the very first moments of the regular season. Asked whether that was a taller task than parachuting in midseason as he did last year, Cassidy reserved the right to have an opinion on it until he’s gone through it at least one time in Boston.
Of course Cassidy has coached full seasons in the NHL prior to his time with the Bruins, but a lot has changed in the last 13 years since his previous stint as bench boss for the Washington Capitals.
“We were up and running in a hurry. We had the luxury of a couple practices to sort of start the process of how we were trying to change. But, there wasn’t a lot of time to overthink it, and off we went. The urgency level was there for the players. They knew that. They wanted to get in. So, that was an advantage, I think,” said Cassidy, taking some time to talk with reporters at Bruins development camp. “Going into the year, in October, it’s important to get your message across that these points. You’ve got that Thanksgiving measuring stick, so that will be the challenge there. Each challenge has its own [challenges]. I don’t know if there’s a greater one or not.
“Ask me again maybe once I go through this part and I can have a better answer for you. But that to me is the challenge is getting up and running early. It’s too hard to make up ground in this league. That’ll be our sole focus is to pick up where we left off in terms of our style of play and getting better and making sure we get our points.”
Clearly it might be difficult to match the strong 18-8-1 pace that the Bruins played at in the 20 games under Cassidy once he replaced Julien in early February, and getting consistent urgency out of this group of Boston players had been a challenge in recent season’s past. That will all be part of the challenge for Cassidy with a mostly returning group from last season that will also be sprinkled with more of the youthful prospects that Boston has pushing through the pro ranks as Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.
BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.
Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.
Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:
Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:
Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:
The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:
A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?
It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.
“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”
As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps.
BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well.
It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.
“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.
“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”
At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.