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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?

In a night that came with goals from five different Bruins scorers — Backes scored the first, Patrice Bergeron scored the second, David Pastrnak tallied two power-play goals, Tim Schaller ended a 12-game goal drought with his seventh goal of the season, and Brad Marchand scored the empty-netter to seal the deal on the win — the Bruins focused less on the volume of their chances but entirely more on the quality of the ones thrown on net.

Gone were the weak wristers from the point. They were replaced with strong boardwork that often opened up the middle of the ice. Hope plays were kicked to the curb. As were the majority of safe plays, to be honest. Cassidy, who urged this sort of stuff after two practice days, trusted his skill guys to use their skill, but at the same time not drop their work ethic to prevent something the other way when the skill missed a beat. It showed, too, as the B’s second goal doesn’t happen without numbers recovering in the defensive zone on a flubbed 2-on-1 to carry the puck the other way for a chance and goal against the Sharks’ Jones.

And not only did the Bruins chase Jones after they scored three goals on just 12 shots in the first period, but it was a period in which the Bruins missed just one of their shots on goal. Missing a single shot in the period? This team? Surely you jest.

This was a Bruins team that came into tonight’s game with the second-most missed shots in the NHL (739 in 55 games), and one that averaged over 13 misses per night. Their incredible ability to miss the net was one of the biggest reasons why GM Don Sweeney (somewhat) failed to buy into the advanced metrics that lauded the Bruins as one of the league’s best possession teams.

40 shots is great, sure, but it’s relatively meaningless if they’re all from low-percentage locations.

It was something that Cassidy subtly alluded to in his post-practice meetings with the media, too. It wasn’t about the shot totals. It never was. It was about the willingness to create meaningful shots. And putting players in the best position to shoot ’em.

It’s hard to say that Backes was not happy where he was tonight. On a line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, two of the players that convinced Backes that Boston would be a great fit for him, Backes put forth forth one of his more inspired nights since switching over from the Blues to Bruins last summer, and finished with seven shots on net. His contributions were on the scoresheet, too, as he scored the aforementioned first goal, but also provided the screen and primary assist on Bergeron’s goal.

The David Krejci line, with Matt Beleskey and Pastrnak on the wings, had their chances on the night, too.

But Cassidy knows that he can trust the Marchand and Pastrnaks of the team to score goals. It was about finding ways for the other players on the roster, who have struggled mightily to find anything close to consistency, to contribute.

They did Thursday, and the Bruins won.

The Bruins are back at it Saturday afternoon against the Canucks.

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