Bruins’ Changes have Instilled Confidence And Resiliency

Prior to the Boston Bruins COVID-19 Shutdown on Dec. 18th, and then the league’s shut downA few days later, the Black and Gold were still stuck in medoricity. They couldn’t even keep up in the Eastern Conference standings. They needed to make some changes before they were too far from the edge.

Bruce Cassidy, the coach of the Bruins, had the majority of his roster assembled after the team returned to Warrior Ice Arena for practice. The Former Jack Adams Award WinnerHe decided to mix things up for the 2019-20 season and things have been going well through six of the six games. What a success! Boston has won five out of six games and now looks like a completely different team.

Cassidy’s Moves Provide More Offense and Confidence

Cassidy’s move Pastrnak moved David Pastrnak to the second line, and Craig Smith was promoted to the top with Brad Marchand (and Patrice Bergeron). Pastrnak did not feel any retribution. It was intended to make Taylor Hall a better player on Taylor Hall’s second line. Cassidy went so far as moving Erik Haula between Hall and Pastrnak, and sending Charlie Coyle to line 3, where he seemed like a better match.

David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)Amy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Since the changes, the Bruins offense is thriving. With 28 goals scored, 24 were scored at even strength. That’s right, 24 goals at even strength. This is the first time that you can say this about the Bruins team, or any other Bruins team in the past two seasons. Their power play has struggled with just four goals, two in Monday’s 7-3 win over the Washington Capitals, and has been so bad that they have dropped down and are barely in the top 10 in the NHL.

It is remarkable how secondary scoring has been achieved from the second and bottom lines, as well as the bottom six. Oskar Steen, a youngster, has firmly established his place in the bottom six by his play since the break. This included his first goal against the New Jersey Devils in his career. Anton Blidh was added to the lineup and scored a goal in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Jan. 8. This was a great individual effort and win for Steen.

Related: Bruins Prospect Oskarsteen Deserves more NHL Playing Time

You can look at the names that have made it to the net since the changes. Nick Foligno scored his Bruin’s first goal against the Buffalo Sabres on January 1, and then Trent Frederic and Tomas Nosek scored against the Detroit Red Wings the next day. Haula Smith, Hall, and Coyle have each scored two goals since the break. Blueliners Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo have also scored. Pastrnak, Marchand and other players are producing as they each have five goals since the calendar was turned.

Not only are the forwards getting more production, but so do the defensemen. This is also all happening as Cassidy deals with injuries and more players being sent into the league’s COVID-19 protocols. This kind of production is something you wouldn’t have seen before the break.

Bruins are resilient and can play through adversity during stretch

Since then, the Bruins has been a resilient group. Their first game against Sabres saw them trailing 3-1 in the third period. But Hall and Foligno scored goals that sent the game to overtime. Coyle won it in just the first minute. Their most recent road trip provided the greatest examples of their resilience.

Taylor Hall Boston Bruins
Taylor Hall (Boston Bruins)Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

After taking a 4-0 lead against the Lightning in the first two periods, the Bruins took control of the game and led by a further 4-0 at the end of the second period. However, Tampa Bay battled back like champions, winning the third period. Ondrej Palat scored in the final period just 24 seconds before Brayden Point cut the deficit to half at 4-2. Linus Ullmark and his team were under a lot of pressure from the Lightning. It would have been easy to let them down, but they persevered and got a crucial penalty kill and a goal from Brad Marchand for a 5-2 victory.

“We can’t look too deep into it because it is only two points,” Marchand. “But I think it shows – there were some question marks early in the year about the teams we were beating and the teams we weren’t beating, and obviously Tampa’s one of the top teams in the league.

“So it feels good. This is a big win for a group and it’s another game that we can continue to build on.”

They took it on board and did it well. Two nights later, again faced with adversity they responded well. Capitals lead was 2-0 after two goals from Connor Sheary in the first 12 minutes of the game. Two power-play goals by Pastrnak, Marchand and the Bruins in the 1:26 final period gave the Capitals a 2-0 advantage. They then took a commanding lead of 6-2 with a four-goal second period explosion. They ended the game with seven goals against the Capitals in the last two-plus periods.

The Bruins could have taken two of the possible four points against Tampa Bay, Atlantic Division leader, and co-leader of the Metropolitan Division. But the new-look Bruins won both games in regulation.

Bruins need to keep it going

There are still 50 games in the 2021-22 season for the Bruins, so they have plenty of time. The Red Wings are currently four points ahead of them for the last wild card spot in Eastern Conference. However, they have been playing better hockey since the break. They are being resilient, playing with confidence, and fighting through any adversity thrown at them on a daily basis, whether it’s an injury or another player being placed in COVID-19 protocols. 

Cassidy seems to have pushed the right buttons after the break. But, make no mistake, they still have a lot to do and need roster additions through a trade to be a serious contender in the postseason. For now, they look like a different team than they did before the New Year and a lot of it has to do with Cassidy’s moving around of the forward lines, which has instilled a ton of confidence throughout the roster.

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