Notes: Chara responds in big way

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Notes: Chara responds in big way

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON After getting knocked around the ice by Ryan Malone and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 Saturday at St. Pete Times Forum, Zdeno Chara and defense partner Dennis Seidenberg rebounded strongly with physical, productive play Monday night in the Bruins 3-1 win at TD Garden.

Chara led the Bruins with four shots on net and set the game-winning goal in motion with a confident rush into the offensive zone in the second period that sent the Tampa Bay defense scrambling around him.

The offensive pinch led to Patrice Bergeron cycling in the corner and feeding a perfect pass to Brad Marchand as he cleanly beat Martin St. Louis to the net on a backdoor play. Marchand slammed a shot past Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with slightly more than four minutes to go in the period.

Chara has clearly been focused on the defensive end of things for much of the first two rounds of the playoffs, but there was an even-handed approach to his game in Game 5 that also resulted in the 6-foot-9 Slovakian defenseman parked in front of the net during several power-play possessions.

It was a big game, said Chara, but he added: "The next game is the most important game.

Theres been plenty of clamoring for Chara a tall drink of water, as Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith called him following Game 5 to shift around and mix it up a little bit in front of the net. Thats what coach Claude Julien finally did while thinking a bit outside the box on the power play.

Weve always had that plan in the back of our minds," said Julien. "And . . . because our power play was not very good in Tampa, we said . . . we were going to have to make some changes. And we had Zdeno . . . go to the front of the net. And I know it kind of takes something out from the back end, but we had players we kind of felt could maybe jump in at that point, and maybe at least get some shots on net.

"I thought Chara did a great job in front, and hes a big presence and hes a hard guy to move. And we had some chances and the power play at least, even if it didnt score . . . gave us at least a little bit of momentum."

Unfortunately the new look didnt yield any actual results. The Bs power play squad went 0-for-4 despite the new looks and wrinkles.

Johnny Boychuk missed the final half of the third period after getting slammed by Steve Downie behind the net, a play that drew a boarding penalty. Julien -- who said Boychuk, who had to be helped off the ice by Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron, was "fine" -- wasn't pleased with the hit.

"I havent had an opportunity to look at it, said Julien. I havent watched the video yet. I know some people have, but from what I hear its not a great hit. Ill maybe save my comments more for after I see it."

Julien was mixing and matching lines in the third period, and used Rich Peverley as a little bit of a swingman after shortening his bench in the third period. The Bs coach alternated Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder during the final 20 minutes.

This is a guy who deserves the ice time he got tonight, said Julien. Late in the game on that third line, they were starting to throw Martin St. Louis . . . and starting to throw Vincent Lecavalier. They were trying to take advantage of maybe the lack of experience in Tyler.

So I had to put Peverley out there at that point and make sure we had some experience against some of those guys. This is where Pevs becomes a real useful player. He did a great job on the penalty kill and he jumped in there on the third power play that we had. He was used for faceoffs and was very good . . .

"You cant just put a guy like him, basically, on the fourth line and just give him a few minutes. He served us really well tonight. He played a real solid game.

Peverley finished with 14 minutes of ice time, scored the empty-net goal that made the final 3-1, and won five out of six faceoffs as part of a strong effort by the Bs centers, who dominated the faceoff circle Monday night.

Chris Kelly was wearing the Bruins Chalk Line 1980s jacket following Monday nights Game 5 victory after playing a pivotal role on the penalty kill unit that held the Lightning to an 0-for-4 night. Kelly joked after the game that the biggest reason he was wearing the jacket was because of the team rule that one player couldnt wear the jacket in back-to-back wins a stipulation that eliminated the spectacular Tim Thomas from consideration.

Historically, Game 5 has proved crucial for the Bruins when a best-of-seven series. The Bs are 17-4 when they lead a series 3-2 and 2-16 when they trail a series 3-2. The Lightning, meanwhile, are 2-0 when they lead a series 3-2, and 2-2 when they trail a series 3-2.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Cassidy ‘proud, honored and privileged’ after getting Bruins' permanent gig

Cassidy ‘proud, honored and privileged’ after getting Bruins' permanent gig

BOSTON – Bruce Cassidy made just a passing mention of the 14 years in between NHL head coaching gigs, but there’s no doubt the newest head coach of the Bruins thought many times about a day just like Thursday morning. 

His general manager complimented the work he did to lead the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record after taking over after Claude Julien’s dismissal and guiding the Bruins back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

“I think it was an important step and I think that our players, our core players in particular, some of them had tremendous seasons. Their demand to make sure our younger players sort of catch up and play the right way – we pushed the group,” said GM Don Sweeney. “I think Bruce, in particular, our staff and Bruce, they really pushed the group to get to a higher pace. I think our aggressive nature churned.

“I think something that I felt would be injected into our group right from Day One at practice because I know what his core principles are, and I think the group responded. The record speaks for itself.”

Cassidy embraced all of the defensive strengths of Julien’s existing system and tweaked things for chances to be more aggressive and creative in the offensive zone with a Black and Gold roster that clearly had more to give. 

Clearly, it came up short for Sweeney, Cassidy and the Bruins when their undermanned, injured roster fell to the Ottawa Senators in six games in the first round of the playoffs, but Thursday morning was a good day for the 51-year-old Cassidy after grinding his way back to the big leagues.

“I’ve made no secret that I grew up adoring this team and I’m very proud, honored, and privileged to be a part of it, and to be named the head coach [of the Bruins],” said Cassidy, who coached the Washington Capitals from 2002-04 and spent eight seasons coaching in Providence before joining Julien’s staff as an assistant coach this season. “To be quite honest, the core group, the veteran leadership, they gave me an opportunity to go in and earn their respect, and they bought into what we were selling for the most part…not for the most part, 100 percent.

“The veteran guys, they afforded me that opportunity and I can’t thank them enough. We’ve got some Stanley Cup champions in that room and it showed with the high character players and I was very thankful for that. From there, we’re trying to build something together now. That’s the process going forward.”

The numbers certainly didn’t lie. The offense went up in the post-Julien era and the defense actually performed better under Cassidy: The Bruins ranked first in the NHL in goals per game (3.37), first in the NHL in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in the NHL in wins (18), tied for second in the NHL in power-play percentage (27.8), tied for third in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.30), tied for fifth in the NHL in face-off percentage (53.6) and tied for sixth in the NHL in takeaways (229).

Anecdotally, the Bruins also performed much more consistently on their home ice at TD Garden and pulled out of the kind of late season four-game losing tailspin that doomed the B’s in the previous two seasons under Julien. It was a challenge for Cassidy taking over midway through the season without the benefit of the training camp, but it was one that embraced and ultimately excelled at in earning the full-time gig.

“It’s hard to measure the degree of difficulty [taking over midseason]. You’re given an opportunity and it’s up to you to take advantage of it and be prepared. I’ve been a head coach before so, once you’re into that part of it, it becomes second nature. I was around since training camp, so I knew the players and some of their strengths and weaknesses, how we played, where I thought we could be better, where the players were looking for improvements after talking to them quickly in those first couple of days. So, we implemented a couple of things, and off we went,” said Cassidy. “You hope that you make the right call in those areas we talked about; right away, about being a team that would play – and the term “play fast” is getting thrown around a lot out there -- but, we were going to upgrade our transition game; how we were going to move the puck quicker and attack.

“I guess that was our description of playing fast. I think it worked. It got our D involved, so you start scoring and obviously, that helped. People get excited about that – scoring goals and getting on offense. I don’t think we lost a lot on the defensive side of things. As we went along, we tried to maintain that balance. That was the message right away. Players bought in and we had success, and that obviously helps. Winning solves a lot of problems and puts a lot of smiles on people’s faces.”

The biggest smile on a face on Thursday morning was on Cassidy, who has come full circle with life experience and a second chance to be the kind of NHL head coach he always knew he could be while working, growing and succeeding in the AHL. Now the Bruins have a president, GM and head coach all working in tandem with the same philosophies and world view when it comes to how their team should play and Cassidy gets another chance to prove how ready he is for the challenge of making good on his second NHL chance. 


 

‘No firm decision yet’ from Bjork about signing with Bruins

‘No firm decision yet’ from Bjork about signing with Bruins

BOSTON – The Bruins still hold out hope they’ll be able to sign Anders Bjork this summer as he prepares to play for Team USA at the World Championships.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said there’s an active dialogue ongoing with the Bruins prospect’s family advisor since Bjork finished a Hobey Baker-level junior season at Notre Dame and he has yet to inform the B’s brass of a final decision. 

The 20-year-old is coming off 21 goals and 52 points for a Notre Dame team that lost in the opening rounds of the Frozen Four and clearly would be a fast-skating, offensively polished winger who could potentially be a top-six left wing candidate for David Krejci’s line.

Sweeney made it clear the ball is completely in Bjork’s court at this point, but there becomes a real danger he could follow the Jimmy Vesey route to unrestricted free agency if he heads back to college for his senior season. The B’s general manager made it clear that they would like the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder in the fold, and there are plans for him next season and beyond if he decided to sign an entry-level deal this summer.

“We’ve had discussions. We’ll continue to have discussions. He hasn’t made a firm decision, whether or not he’s leaving school. So it will be his decision,” said Sweeney. “The opportunity is there for him to join us, and we’d like him to. But again, that’s his decision to make at the right time.”

Bjork, a former fifth-round pick, has clearly elevated his NHL profile since he was drafted three years ago, and also holds strong ties to Notre Dame: His father Kirt was an All-American hockey player there and his cousin, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Erik Condra, also played for the Irish. So there might be real, genuine interest for Bjork to return to Notre Dame for personal reasons, and another chance at an NCAA title with a loaded group after falling a couple of games short this season.