Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy met with the media postgame on Wednesday night after a 5-2 Game 2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, which put the Bruins in a 2-0 hole in their best-seven-series with Carolina. Cassidy talked about “timely” plays and how the Bruins would carry play for a good portion of the game and not get a “timely save.” This has been a common theme in postgame losses. Cassidy called out the goaltender to bail out the team.
The more significant issue, though, seems to be the speed of the Hurricanes and a defensive structure from Rod Brind’amour’s club that is frustrating the Bruins. Some of the problems the Bruins are having were a concern coming into the series. The Bruins had just one goal in three games against the Canes in the regular season. Many fans and media chalked that up to playing earlier in the season and missing top players. But now, the reality is that the Bruins have the same issues, and the matchup in round one with Carolina is not a good one.
The Bruins have been outscored 10-3 in the series and 26-4 overall this season by the Hurricanes. Furthermore, the Bruins lost defenseman Hampus Lindholm to an upper-body injury from a vicious hit by Andrei Svechnikov. The Bruins showed life in the third period, outshooting Carolina 17-6, but it was too little, too late. Now it’s back to the drawing board for Cassidy, who hasn’t been able to find an answer for a very good Carolina team to this point.
Cassidy has coached the Bruins for six seasons and has a winning percentage of over .650 in all six, an NHL record. However, the Bruins record in the postseason under Cassidy is 35-39, with a Game 7 home loss to St. Louis in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final still hanging over his head. Boston has advanced past the first round in four straight seasons, but the team seems to be aging and moving further away from their contending window. The thought of moving on from Cassidy was not at the forefront of Bruins management at the beginning of the season. But what about now?
Bruce Cassidy is a candid, tell-it-like-it-is coach that plays well in Boston. The fans liked his straightforward talk, and the team’s success was appreciated. But now, the shelf-life of an NHL coach comes into play. This is around the time when moves are made on NHL clubs. At some point, the message does not get across in the room, and the candor becomes more like passing the blame to the players. How many times can a coach call out a goaltender or a third-line player for making a mistake or asking a team that can’t seem to get to the net consistently to finish better? At some point, the coach needs to find answers to make adjustments in a series.
Game 3 on Friday night when the series shifts to Boston is a must for the Bruins and Cassidy. For the most part, the Bruins have been a resilient group under Cassidy and their leadership group led by captain Patrice Bergeron. Friday night might tell you all you need to know about where the team stands with Cassidy. The effort has been there for most of the first two games. The Bruins need to finish better, limit mistakes, and be far more disciplined. Much of that will be on the coaching staff.
If the Bruins are to get back in this series, a lead will help. The Bruins have not been able to play from in front in this series. The team has lost 14 straight when they trail by two goals at any time in a game and have not won a game after trailing by three. Getting the first goal is even more important than a “timely” save at this point. Cassidy needs more from his best players and a sign that those players are still getting Cassidy’s best as well