What actions Bruce Cassidy took to help Bruins snap five-game skid

Matt Kalman
December 14, 2019 - 10:30 pm

They would never admit it publicly, but the Bruins were feeling the stress of their five-game losing streak.

Veteran teams with championship cores don’t reveal when they’re losing their cool.

But coach Bruce Cassidy obviously felt he needed to take the heat off his team before they took on the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday.

It wasn’t a surprise that Cassidy gave his team off Friday in South Florida after their loss the night before in Tampa. But it was a mini shock that having not skated since that 3-2 defeat the Bruins still didn’t take the ice Saturday morning.

So the first time they skated after the final horn in Tampa was the opening shift in Sunrise. The Bruins had no excuses for not having their legs, and it showed. Right off the hop Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak put the heat on in the Florida zone for one minute.

The Bruins landed 22 shots on Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in that first period – the most shots on net they accumulated in any period this season – and Jake DeBrusk even got one of those shots to go past Bobrovsky, helping Boston get to the intermission up 1-0.

They never let the Panthers catch them in a 4-2 win.

The respite Cassidy gifted his team coming off not just the Lightning loss, but a similarly difficult 3-2 loss at Washington the night before, wasn’t the only reason the Bruins returned home with two points out of a possible eight on the road trip instead of one or none.

Pastrnak scored twice, including a power-play goal that might get that unit back on track. Boston’s power play had been 1-for-21 in the past six games. The Bruins were 1-for-3 against Florida.

Charlie Coyle moved up to the right side of DeBrusk and David Krejci, and that trio played like a legit second line that Cassidy could trust at both ends of the ice. They protected the puck well, defended well, and what do you know, Cassidy kept that line together for the duration of the game.

With Sean Kuraly moved up into Coyle’s usual spot at center between Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen, Cassidy suddenly had three lines he could believe in, and he even gave the new fourth line of Chris Wagner centering Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes some run. When it was crunch time, Cassidy reunited Nordstrom and Wagner with Kuraly.

There was still room left for improvement. The Bruins hung on for dear life during stretches of the third period, Florida cut the lead from 3-0 to 3-2 and Bergeron’s line and Jaroslav Halak bailed them out. Pastrnak, the NHL’s leading scorer with 28 goals, needs to polish up his breakaway moves. He failed on his second penalty shot of the season, which is just as ugly as his 0-for-3 shootout record this season.

But considering how close the Bruins were to at least getting one point at Washington and Tampa, they didn’t need style points in Sunrise, just standings points. We still don’t know how Cassidy would respond to a six-game losing streak, but we know how he handled his first five-game slump as Bruins coach. His decision to give his players some extra free time was one of those subtle coaching decisions that pays off over the course of a season that’s at least seven months long, and the Bruins hope will be nine months long again.

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