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Bruce Cassidy happy to get chance here: ‘I’ve had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life’

02.10.17 at 2:56 pm ET
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Bruce Cassidy won in his debut as the head coach of the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruce Cassidy, a lifelong Bruins fan, won in his debut as the head coach of the Bruins. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Bruins boss Bruce Cassidy has waited a long time for a second chance as an NHL head coach. But to have it with the Bruins, an organization Cassidy has had an attachment to as a coach since 2008, but as a person his entire life, is something that’s made it worth the wait.

Named the interim head coach on the heels of Claude Julien’s firing on Tuesday, the 51-year-old gave himself a moment to reflect on the opportunity in front of him before Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Sharks.

“Well, when I went out to the bench, the first thing I did was look up at the banners – the Stanley Cup Championship banners – and you know, I’ve been a lifelong Boston Bruins fan since I was this high,” Cassidy, a defenseman drafted by the Blackhawks with the 18th overall pick back in 1983, said after the win. “My first pair of skates were black and gold and I’ve loved Bobby Orr ever since and I could probably name every player in those Stanley Cup teams and… I mean, I’ve had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life, so it’s a great honor for me to stand up there and look at the – and be in charge, so it was a great night that way.”

In one of their more inspired efforts of the season, Cassidy’s Bruins came at the Pacific-leading Sharks with aggression, a three-zone commitment, and finished the night with six goals (and tallies from five different scorers).

“The firing of a coach was a wakeup call for a lot of guys who needed to turn their games around and provide better efforts,” David Backes said. “We had that. Again, it was great to see, but it was one game. We need to verify this wasn’t a fluke on Saturday.”

There’s more work to be done, of course, but there’s no doubt that Cassidy is breathing a little easier after the pressure of Game 1.

“Who doesn’t enjoy a win?” Cassidy said. 

True as both a fan and a coach. Or in Cassidy’s case, both.

Bruins fan roasts GM Don Sweeney with sign at Bruins-Sharks game

02.10.17 at 2:37 pm ET
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The fans in Boston are a largely unhappy bunch when it comes to the status of their favorite hockey team.

In addition to the team struggling and seemingly likely to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired head coach Claude Julien after 10 years on the job, and did it in a way that really seemed to irk the Hub. Fired early Tuesday morning, and with a press conference at 11:30 a.m. (which was the exact same time as the Patriots’ parade), the majority of fans felt that the franchise’s all-time winningest coach deserved better. On top of doing it in a way that came across as if the Bruins were trying to sneak one by the media and the fans alike, the passionate fanbase also viewed it as yet another misstep for a franchise that’s teetering on the edge of irrelevancy in the city.

So, maybe this sign at the Garden (which somehow got through security) for the first post-Julien game was to be expected.

A meme brought to life in the form of a poster plastered against the glass for the pregame warmups, the poster is a reference to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press conference in which he said that the crowds at President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month were the largest ever. That, as photo evidence can show, was a lie.

In other words, this fan doesn’t seem to think that Sweeney knows what he’s doing.

That was cold blooded.

Bruins show ability to create ‘anxiety’ Bruce Cassidy wants to see

02.10.17 at 1:24 pm ET
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The B's fourth line got back to its basics Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The B’s fourth line got back to its basics Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Nobody really worries about playing the Bruins these days.

There are parts of the B’s game that has concerned teams this year — namely the club’s first line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on either side of Patrice Bergeron — but if you shut them down, you’re typically going to do just fine. And even if they do have their say and score some goals, the Bruins have often struggled to find the depth scoring needed this time of year. That was one of the things that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has put a focus on fixing, and one of the things that shined through in the club’s 6-3 win over the Sharks.

When the Bruins jumped out to a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes of play, it came off the backs of the players the Bruins expect to score goals. David Backes scored 52 seconds into the period, Bergeron had a net-front putaway, and David Pastrnak ripped a power-play goal home.

But when the Sharks made things interesting in the second period behind a Justin Braun goal that cut the B’s lead to one, the Bruins responded with strong shifts, and were back on the board when Tim Schaller snapped a 12-game goal drought with some hard work in front of the San Jose net for his seventh goal of the season.

“I liked that we got pucks to the dirty area offensively, and we were willing to go there – Schaller’s goal is a good example,” Cassidy, back behind an NHL bench as a head coach for the first time since 2003, said. “I liked our resiliency when we got scored on; we didn’t get down, we came back and just kept playing. No team is perfect so when you give up a goal, we’ve got to really avoid hanging our heads and just win the next shift and get the momentum back.”

It also spoke to the ‘anxiety’ that Cassidy wants to create for the opposition.

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Bruins ownership invests in esports team Splyce

02.10.17 at 11:15 am ET
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eSports will be coming to TD Garden. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

Esports could be coming to TD Garden. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports)

Like many other teams and figures in professional sports, the Boston Bruins are delving into the world of esports.

The Bruins’ parent company, Delaware North, has invested in Splyce, an esports franchise that has nine competitive teams in games such as “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty.” Boston is now the third NHL team to invest in esports, along with the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. The Devils invested along with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the Caps were in partnership with the Washington Wizards.

Delaware North intends to use resources from the Bruins for the sales and marketing of Splyce.

According to a report from ESPN, there’s hope that the TD Garden might be used for esports events in the future. Splyce intends to work more around the Boston market in general.

Splyce was originally founded in 2015 and is based out of Rochester, New York. The company originally was more known for streaming esports matches before jumping into the fray themselves in professional competitions. It officially rebranded as Splyce a couple of months after initially branding as Fallow Esports.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Bruce Cassidy happy with urgency Bruins brought to TD Garden in win

02.09.17 at 11:57 pm ET
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The Bruins are 13-13-0 at home this season. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins are 13-13-0 at home this year. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The TD Garden had its share of empty seats for Thursday’s game between the Bruins and visiting Sharks. The blizzard that’s walloped Boston all day and night had something to do with that, of course.

But at the same time, the truth is that the on-ice product (especially the home version), has been nothing to risk your car or safety over.

For the second year in a row, the Bruins have struggled to do much of anything at home. They had just 17 wins in 41 home games a year ago (the Bruins make the playoffs last year if they take care of business in their home finale), and it’s been more of the same this year, as they entered Thursday’s game with just 12 wins in 25 home games to date.

It’s tough to diagnose exactly what’s gone wrong at home for the second year in a row, but the obvious? Here, the Bruins have been uninspired, shaken, and just straight-up unwatchable at times.

But the Bruins were anything but on Thursday night.

They struck early, hit often, and counterpunched the Sharks with the hunger rarely seen on Causeway Street since 2015.

And though it’s just one game, of course, it was an undeniable focal point for this team’s first game under their new bench boss.

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Bruins put greater emphasis on shot quality in 6-3 win over Sharks

02.09.17 at 9:40 pm ET
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The Bruins scored five goals in Bruce Cassidy's first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins scored six goals in Bruce Cassidy’s first game as the head coach. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Claude Julien did not lose his room, but at the end of the day, it was his at-times-too-comfortable room that lost him his job. And it took just 52 seconds to figure out whether or not the firing of Julien on Tuesday caught the eye and rattled some cages of the Bruins’ veterans.

With their lines jumbled in search of greater balance, it was an equally jumbled line and sequence, but with three of the players that the Bruins have heavily relied upon, that delivered the quick punch in a 6-3 win over Martin Jones and the Sharks at a snowed in TD Garden.

It featured everything that interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, back behind an NHL bench as the main boss for the first time since 2003, has called for from this more-than-capable group.

Torey Krug was pinched up in the attacking zone to keep the offensive play alive, David Krejci was out for an extended shift, and it was Krejci that found a streaking David Backes for a one-time goal that beat Jones. It was the instincts of Krug, the patience of Krejci, and the no-nonsense approach of the beleaguered Backes that the B’s have longed for.

Where has this been all year?

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Zdeno Chara (illness) to miss Bruce Cassidy’s first game as Bruins host Sharks

02.09.17 at 6:49 pm ET
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Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight's game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara (illness) will miss tonight’s game vs. San Jose. (Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports)

There’s a blizzard outside, but it’s game on inside TD Garden.

And a pivotal one at that, too.

Two days after Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fired bench boss of 10 years Claude Julien, the Bruce Cassidy era, currently considered interim, will begin tonight when the Bruins play host to the Sharks. But Cassidy’s Bruins will have to make do without their captain, as Zdeno Chara will miss tonight’s game with an apparent illness.

Absent from practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday and with today’s morning skate canceled due to the weather, the 39-year-old Chara did not have a chance to get on the ice this morning and apparently does not feel strong enough to play in this game tonight. He will be replaced in the lineup by John-Michael Liles, but on a pairing by Kevan Miller, who will skate with Brandon Carlo’s as the club’s No. 1 pairing.

One of the things Cassidy will try right off the bat is a more balanced forward group, headlined by a bump up to the first line for David Backes. One of the players that the Black and Gold need to get going offensively if they’re to compete for a playoff spot, Backes, with just one assist in his last 12 games, will skate with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. That moves David Pastrnak down to a second line with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, while Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes will skate on the wings of a third line with Ryan Spooner in the middle. The fourth line will feature Tim Schaller and Riley Nash as Dom Moore’s wingers.

With that group, Cassidy will look to get the team’s most creative players in position to score dirtier goals or simply work to their strengths more than they have been this season, particularly when it comes to their decisions in the attacking zone.

“What I’m doing to do is find the balance,” Cassidy said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’d like to get the puck closer to the net where teams are scrambling to recover to d-zone coverage so we can get some goals around the net where we outnumber them. And choose the appropriate option in those situations. If you can’t escape coverage low and early, then yeah, go to high or change sides or behind the net. But if you have some time, use it. And we’ll see how it plays out.”

In other words, don’t just rely on a dropback pass to the point for an easy-to-stop wrister.

But also allow all four of your lines to feel that they have some say in the shift-to-shift offensive chances produced by the club.

“I’ve always told players everybody in the room is capable of scoring goals, even though you might not be labeled a goal-scorer,” Cassidy said of his desire to get the B’s back to a four-line club capable of secondary scoring. “And that’s the kind of mentality that I have throughout the lineup.”

The Bruins have scored the 18th-most goals in the NHL this season (141), but rank 21st in goals for per game (2.56).

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. The 29-year-old Rask was yanked after allowing four goals on 14 shots against the Maple Leafs last Saturday, but comes into action with 25 wins and a .911 save percentage in 44 games this season. Rask has three wins and a .904 save percentage in six career games against the Sharks.

The Sharks counter with Bruin-For-A-Weekend Martin Jones. A loser in his last start, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres in which Jones allowed five goals on 36 shots, Jones comes to Boston with 27 wins and a .917 save percentage in 46 games played. Jones stopped 25-of-29 shots against in his only prior head-to-head against the B’s in his pro career.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes

Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask

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