Thomas, Bruins shut out Devils, 3-0

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Thomas, Bruins shut out Devils, 3-0

By Danny Picardand Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The Bruins answered Claude Julien's call for a better transition game and more offense Monday night at the TD Garden, shutting out the New Jersey Devils, 3-0.

Tim Thomas, who picked up his first loss of the season on Saturday night, earned his ninth win of the year while making 28 saves. It was his fourth shutout. "I personally approached it as a must-win and I think the team did, too. We need to get back on track; we need to show some urgency," said Thomas. "We faced a team that's been playing better but has struggled this year, and we needed to come out with the win so that we could start building and getting back to the game that we were playing when we were having success."Michael Ryder put the Bruins up 1-0 with 4:34 left in the first period, on a 5-on-3 power play, after he sniped on Martin Brodeur from the left goal line.Nathan Horton added another 43 seconds into the second period, to give the Bs a 2-0 lead. The goal came as a result of a nice cross-ice neutral zone pass from Milan Lucic the exact type of transition that Julien had called for after Saturday nights 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Horton took the pass at the Devils' blue line on the right wing, skated into the offensive zone, and beat Brodeur to the low left corner with a snap shot from the right circle.Blake Wheeler added another, eerily enough, 43 seconds into the third period (the same time as Horton's goal the period before), after he beat Brodeur with a snapper from the left circle. GOLD STAR: Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler each dished out 5,000 of their money to purchase tickets for military members and their families on Military Appreciation Night, and then each player gave the soldiers their moneys worth on the ice. Wheeler scored a goal in the third period, and has looked better and better as a center option for the Bruins during times of adversity. Stuart doled out five hits and really pushed the physical envelope in the second period with the kind of brute punishment people have come to expect from him in the defensive zone.BLACK EYE: Tyler Seguin was okay, but didnt really do much in his 12:53 aside from play a pretty passive role on the second power play unit. Seguin finally registered a shot on goal in the third period, but the 18-year-old passed up multiple wide-open opportunities from the left faceoff dot during Boston's first unsuccessful power play. On the night, the PP went 1-for-7 and is 2-for-16 since David Krejci went down.TURNING POINT: The Bruins managed to stave off a flurry of Devils shots early in the first period, and then Adam McQuaid really took the momentum away from the Devils with a prolonged bout against Rod Pelley. The McQuaid fight played a big role in the B's solid early start to the game, and certainly gave Boston the most bang for McQuaid's 9:05 of ice time.BY THE NUMBERS: 7-0-0 the B's perfect record when theyve scored the first goal this season. Apparently the Bruins are very good frontrunners, but then again there aren't many teams that aren't good frontrunners.QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was kind of looking around. I was kind of just expecting it, but no, it was nice not to have to do that. I think if you're hitting clean, you can kind of avoid that kind of stuff." Mark Stuart on the novelty of making some big, thumping hits in the second period and not being forced to fight after a clean hit something hes had to do on multiple occasions over the last two seasons.INJURY UPDATE: Claude Julien revealed after the game that both Johnny Boychuk (fractured forearmwrist) and David Krejci (concussion) will travel with the team to New York for Wednesday night's game against the Rangers, and theres a chance Boychuk could play. Hes now considered day-to-day with his injury.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard.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.