We’re talking, of course, in terms of the veteran’s record as the Boston Bruins’ interim coach, a position he has held since Feb. 7. That record now sits at 3-0 as Cassidy and Co. enjoy their bye week. And while a trio of games bears only so much weight, there is no denying that Boston, now 29-23-6 and within arm’s reach of the Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division, has been rejuvenated under Bruce’s watch.
The issues that led to the Bruins’ dismissal of Claude Julien, the latest in a long line of coaches ousted during the season in recent NHL history, stretched far beyond the two-game losing streak that preceded Cassidy’s takeover. And yet, in a short span of time, the newly guided Bruins appear as well oiled as could be considering the circumstances.
Why? How? In the end, the answers to those questions may not lift the Bruins to playoff status, let alone keep Cassidy’s brief win streak from snapping. But they are certainly keeping this particular Atlantic contender afloat.
Here are three reasons Cassidy’s Bruins are playing with a new identity:
1. All bets are off with players’ roles
It’d be one thing if the Cassidy-led Bruins simply upped their game in the wake of Julien’s departure. But what’s driven Boston’s three-game surge more than, say, elite production is a sudden prioritization of depth. It’s not like the team’s roster was dumped and replaced when Cassidy took over, but the shuffling of roles has had a ripple effect of success.
We’re talking about Cassidy’s unflinching willingness to adjust lineups, which has spawned some questions regarding seemingly unusual veteran pairings but also has Boston on a promising three-game tear. A recent shutout from goalie Tuukka Rask certainly helped. But what’s really fueled the momentum has been Cassidy’s deep dive into and dependence on the bench, where even third-line players have been standing out, according to FanSided’s Andrew Thompson.
2. A victorious track record is not lacking
No, a 3-0 record does not warrant Cassidy eternal acclaim as an NHL head coach. (Although a phenomenal finish to the season wouldn’t hurt his chances of getting to that point.)
The interim, however, does boast a rock-solid resume in the Bruins organization. At least to some degree, then, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that a Cassidy-led team is starting hot.
In nearly a decade of service to Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, Cassidy strung together three consecutive seasons with at least 40 victories to go along with playoff appearances, and had his club atop the league standings with a 50-21-5 mark in 2012-13. Even setting aside his time with seven other teams in varying positions, the one-time Blackhawks player knows the ins and outs of leading an organization and leading it to victory.
That’s not to say he’s anything substantially more than an interim coach riding the short-lived passions of his players, but it does mean that Cassidy already had quite a few marks in the “W” column under his belt.
3. The passion of a fresh voice is seeping through
This one is sure to be less a factor as the season goes on, but a quick peek at what the Bruins are doing — how they are actually playing and flying across the ice — should tell you that something or someone has rekindled a fire for this team. Why would we hesitate to think that someone is Cassidy, a former NHL defenseman who just so happens to be the guy who led Boston to its first home win over Montreal — and a big 4-0 one, at that — since 2012?
As with many in-season coaching changes across professional sports, the raw emotion of a locker room headlined by Cassidy’s fresh voice has to be factored in. Take another gander at the Bruins’ last three games, in which the club has racked up 14 goals, and try not to be convinced that a renewed hunger has surfaced under Cassidy’s watch.