NEW YORK — It was a year ago that the Bruins took a heavy beating in the public relations department, firing longtime coach Claude Julien and replacing him with Bruce Cassidy. It wasn’t so much the act itself but rather it was done on the same day the Patriots held their Super Bowl victory celebration in downtown Boston.

While team president Cam Neely and GM Don Sweeney had their reasons for the timing that had little to do with the Patriots – there was a gap in the schedule that allowed Cassidy to have two full days of practice before the next game – that didn’t prevent the public pummeling.

Cassidy could only go up from that first day, and that’s just what he’s done. After Wednesday night’s 6-1 rout of the Rangers, Cassidy has an incredible 51-19-9 record as the bench boss. His team has just one regulation loss in its past 23 games and has drawn within a point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, with a game still in hand, for the top spot in the NHL.

It has been a run that has surprised even the most optimistic Bruins fans.

“It’s been a lot of hockey games, a lot of wins, that’s the good news,” Cassidy said. “That’s how you keep your job and have a few more anniversaries. The team’s going well right now. We’re in a good place. The vision we had when I sat down with Donnie was we wanted to win now but we wanted to incorporate the youth into our lineup. We didn’t know which players it would be. We had a good idea, but we wanted to get some in there and see if they could handle it. That was the big ‘if’ going into it, if they could handle it. And they have. We’ve seen the emergence of Charlie (McAvoy), (Danton) Heinen, (Jake) DeBrusk, now (Matt) Grzelcyk. (Sean) Kuraly I should put in there. So we’ve solidified that energy.

“And we wanted to get our core group back to playing like Stanley Cup champions that they are. So I think we’re getting there. We’re getting our identity again, being hard to play against. The Bruins have always had that. Then part of that vision with those young guys was to be a faster checking team and a faster attacking team. We’re working on that every day, but I think we’ve seen those two areas of our game emerge fairly successfully.”


The immediate success has helped Cassidy in his confidence, as has the fact that the established players who own championship rings are fully invested in the youth movement.

“If you don’t win, and I’m still relatively new to this league, then you’re always going to wonder if you have to change,” Cassidy said. “That’s the toughest job for a coach at times, when it doesn’t go well, to stick with what you believe in..

“And I think having the older guys, the character guys buying in so quickly, it’s been a pleasure for me to see that, to change the way they play to a certain extent without taking away all their strengths, especially when you see a guy like (Zdeno) Chara. He’s really bought into more of a puck-moving, higher-pace type of game. He wants to be a part of it. You see (David Krejci) this year with good legs with the young guys in on his wings. (Patrice Bergeron) starting to score more, taking more of an ownership of that part.

“So good for them.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.