Making Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy’s case to be a Jack Adams finalist

Matt Kalman
February 12, 2019 - 11:32 pm

The Bruins closed out their three-game homestand with a 3-0-0 record by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 at TD Garden on Tuesday.

They head off for their five-game road trip having earned a point in eight straight games (5-0-3) and they’re among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference standings.

For all the players who’ve gone in and out of the lineup, including the injured David Pastrnak on Tuesday, and the ones that have gone up and down from Boston to Providence and back, the one constant has been coach Bruce Cassidy.

Cassidy earned win No. 100 in his 166th game since he took over for Claude Julien Feb. 7, 2017. He’s the second-fastest Boston coach to reach that milestone (Tom Johnson, 138 games) but he was already looking ahead to the next game.

“100 wins? 100 wins, feels great,” Cassidy said. “I’m looking forward to 101 I guess. … That’s always a nice achievement, it’s good I guess, I don’t know. I have no strong opinion right now, but like I said I am looking forward to 101, I hope it doesn’t take that long.”

Cassidy’s success in a short time as Bruins coach has put the franchise back into the mix among contenders after it missed the postseason two years in a row. And the job he’s done this year should put him in the Jack Adams Award conversation along with Bill Peters in Calgary, Barry Trotz with the New York Islanders and, yes, Julien in Montreal.

Injuries decimated the Bruins in the early part of the season, with captain Zdeno Chara missing 19 games and every defenseman missing some amount of time. Patrice Bergeron missed 16 games and goaltender Tuukka Rask had to leave the team for personal reasons for a weekend. Still the Bruins kept chugging along.

Pastrnak, who leads the Bruins in points (66) and goals (31), has played every game this season. But a fall and subsequent thumb injury and surgery kept him out against Chicago (and will keep him out for at least two more weeks). All the Bruins did without their most potent offensive weapon was bury six goals, their most since Jan. 4, and end Chicago’s seven-game winning streak.

Brad Marchand had four points (one goal, three assists), and David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen had three points each.

“No matter who is healthy, who is in the lineup or not – [Cassidy] sends the message to be ready at 7 o’clock, or whatever time the game is on. So we just have to respect the system, trust his game plan, and do the job,” said Krejci, who's now the only Bruins player to play in every game this season.

Sticking to the game plan may be easy for veterans with Stanley Cup rings, like Krejci and Marchand. Younger players can panic, especially when asked to do more than their used to.

Youth, however, hasn't stopped the Bruins. After integrating five or six rookies into the Bruins lineup last season, Cassidy is still working with one of the younger groups of players around. Second-year defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is out with a lower-body injury but there are still four second-year players and two rookies in the Bruins lineup right now, with Brandon Carlo just in his third year. Cassidy has shown faith in Danton Heinen and he has rewarded the coach with three goals and three assists in his past four games, including one goal and two assists against Chicago. Jake DeBrusk ended a 13-game goal drought against the Blackhawks and also had two assists. Cassidy has nurtured resiliency in these kids, and they come through sooner or later.

Everyone knows the holes the Bruins are looking to fill before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25, but those gaps in the roster haven’t stopped Cassidy from doing a terrific coaching job and squeezing the most out of a lineup with deficiencies, especially at the offensive end.

Never mind win No. 101, he should be afforded the chance to go for a couple hundred more victories. And he should garner plenty of votes from the broadcasters of the NHL when it comes time to pick the coach of the year.