Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy Using Players Correctly Following His Promotion
The Bruce Cassidy-era in Boston has been successful through four games. The Boston Bruins look like a rejuvenated team, and that’s including their first game back following their bye-week. Despite the overwhelming odds that teams have faced playing following their week off, the Bruins became just the fourth team to win a game this year out of 20 teams that have had their bye weeks already.
Since taking over as the head coach of the team, Cassidy has led the team to a 4-0 record. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 16-7 in that stretch, including two wins against the San Jose Sharks and a shutout victory against the Montreal Canadiens. The team’s mentality has seemingly changed. When a coach is fired, teams are expected to respond. The Bruins have responded in a noticeable way.
So what’s changed?
Zone Starts Making the Difference
The Bruins Stats Twitter account posted a very interesting set of statistics following the Bruins won over the Sharks on Sunday.
The image highlighted the Bruins players zone starts under Claude Julien, and under Cassidy. Under Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Brad
Under Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Backes started over 35 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone. With Cassidy, their starting 41 percent of their shifts in the defensive zone. This is an important shift because Bergeron and Marchand remain two of the best two-way players in the game. Their efficiency in the defensive zone is second-to-none, and as such, they should be used in high-pressure situations to limit opposing teams’ offense.
With Julien on the bench, Frank Vatrano, Jimmy Hayes and Ryan Spooner were starting just over 38 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone, and over 23 percent of their shifts in the defensive zone. Cassidy has used those three in a more efficient way. Vatrano and Spooner are two of the Bruins most offensively-gifted players. Their defense isn’t top-notch, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if used correctly. Cassidy has started them, along with Hayes, in the offensive zone for over 50 percent of their shifts so far. In contrast, they’ve only had roughly 10 percent of their starts come in the defensive zone.
David Krejci and David Pastrnak are both capable two-way players. Still, there’s no denying that they are both among the most highly-skilled players on the Bruins roster. As such, Cassidy has used them in a more offensive manner with their offensive zone starts increasing by roughly 10 percent and defensive zone started dropping five percent.
Fourth Line Playing Their Role
Another interesting shift comes with the Bruins fourth line. Tim Schaller, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore started over 31 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone under Julien. In four games under Cassidy? They’ve started three, five, and two percent respectively in the offensive zone with over 53 percent of their zone starts coming in the defensive zone.
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The Bruins were at their best when they had a fourth line start in the defensive zone and finish in the offensive zone. Starting a line that isn’t prone to scoring goals in the offensive zone is just a wasted opportunity – something Cassidy has looked to rectify.
Julien remains one of the best coaches in the NHL. While he deserves all of the respect he gets around the hockey world, it’s important to analyze what the team’s done under Cassidy to improve. Using players efficiently is part of a coaches job – while Julien got the short end of the stick, Cassidy has stepped up to make the best of the situation. So far, he’s done just that. Only time will tell if these shifts continue to produce results – but for now, the changes have paid dividends.
The Bruins get back on the ice Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. This will be a good test for the Bruins. The Ducks currently sitting in third place in the Pacific division and are among the league’s best. The Bruins lost the first matchup between these two clubs on Dec. 15 by a score of 4-3. This time, however, things could be different with a shift in mentality and player usage.