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Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy tells D&H that he believes team can go deeper next season

05.03.17 at 5:51 pm ET
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Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Over a week after being named the club’s full-time head coach, Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy joined WEEI’s Dale and Holley with Keefe to discuss his team, and also laid out some future plans for a group whose run was cut short in round one.

The plans for Cassidy, whose team went 18-8-1 with him behind the bench to close out the regular season, include going even farther in the Stanley Cup Playoffs by this time next year.

“I do, I do,” Cassidy said when asked if he believes this roster, which with the exception of a few minor moves here and there, is expected to remain the same heading into this upcoming season. “Because I think some of these younger kids are a year older.”

For Cassidy’s Bruins, that increased experience goes beyond the forward group that includes David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano, and bottom-six roleplayers such as Noel Acciari and Sean Kuraly, too.

“Going into last year, it was well documented that our backend was going to be a problem and I thought we played through that,” Cassidy said. “I’m not saying we’re the best defensive corps in the NHL, but I think that part of the group held their own.”

For the Bruins, that emergence on the point was led by the 20-year-old Brandon Carlo, who became a top-pairing defenseman in just his first professional season, while the 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy proved to be a capable fill-in during the club’s playoff run.

“A guy like Carlo, who was a pleasant surprise, you hope he doesn’t go through a sophomore jinx, and continues to get better,” said Cassidy. “A guy like McAvoy coming in, if he continues to develop at the rate we saw over the course of a couple weeks at the end of the season, then you got two young players right away that you’re injecting into your lineup.”

On top of their seemingly reloaded defense, Cassidy’s idea of future success also hinges on the idea of finding more rest for Tuukka Rask, which will be attainable if backup Anton Khudobin shines like he did after the coaching change, with six wins and a .922 save percentage in seven decisions under Cassidy versus a 1-5-1 record and .885 save percentage under Claude Julien.

But also hinting at the idea of a player like Jake DeBrusk, who has scored 19 goals and totaled 49 points in 74 AHL games along with three goals and an assist in five AHL playoff games this spring, joining the B’s top six, and with the idea of getting more out of a shoot-first winger such as Frank Vatrano (he had 10 goals in 44 games this season), the Bruins know they will not be the only team infusing more youth and energy into their lineup this season. Especially not in an Atlantic Division chock full of youth.

“But teams around you get better, so it’s all relative, but I think we will,” said Cassidy, subtly referencing many of the skaters in the middle lines of the Black and Gold this past season. “Obviously we gotta get a little bit more out of a few of the players we didn’t this year, and that’s fine, we’ll put the work in, and hopefully they do, and they’ll have good seasons for us.”

 

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