The Boston Bruins are hanging on to third in the Atlantic Division. They’re there because of the resurgent two-way play of their defensemen.
The Boston Bruins have gone in a new direction under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy has moved away from the defensive-minded hockey the Bruins were known for under Claude Julien. He’s gone all-in on the offense, and has asked the defensemen to be part of the attack. So far, it seems to be working for Boston. They’ve gone 8-3 under his direction due to his new approach.
The Bruins are still going to have the occasional bad night. That was the case against the Ottawa Senators on Monday. Missed assignments and sloppy play led to two Senators goals in the first four minutes of the game. The B’s started to find their game, but they waited too long to come on-line and Craig Anderson was ready for most of their attacks.
The Black and Gold’s new approach has kept other teams on the defensive. Most nights, the Bruins are putting up four goals a game. That’s happening because the young blueliners are being allowed to step up on the rush and help score goals.
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“Offensively they’re doing what they’ve been asked or within the parameters of our team allowed,” said Bruce Cassidy of the Bruins new approach. “We want them supporting the rush. Like [Brandon] Carlo’s example – he’s just up. He’s up the ice and has a good gap, [and it’s] nothing more than that. A bit of a lucky ending for us [on his goal], but still, he’s there and Torey’s [Krug] is a power play goal. We expect him to get his and I think we had a couple of other good looks. We had a couple of those when you fight the puck and a guy blows an edge and [the opposition] gets a chance. So they can come back at you as well.
“But overall, I think we have way more good than harm in those situations, at least from what I’ve seen. So we’re going to continue with [the aggressive activating of the defense] because I think it makes you a tougher team to defend if you’re doing it within reason. They’re not reluctant now. Listen, every player, whether you’re a defensive defenseman, at some point probably was a kid growing up that scored or created some offense in juniors and sometimes you have to change roles. I think they enjoy it. We build it into our practice and I think that’s where it starts. If you build it into your practice, it becomes a habit and then you reinforce it during games whether it’s verbally or [with video].”
The players enjoy the new approach. Offensive-minded blueliners like Torey Krug are certainly seeing more action under Bruce Cassidy. Krug has already matched last seasons’ 44 point performance. He’s got 38 assists and is currently third in scoring among the Bruins.
“You always want to be able to use the talents you’ve been blessed with and your instincts, and you want to use it to the best of your ability. So you’ve got to make sure that the coaches can trust you to put you in every situation,” said Krug. “But it’s nice to be able to play and you’ve just got to stay focused.
“I’ve been approaching it the same way with Bruce [Cassidy]. He obviously thinks the game very similar to myself and he’s made a couple changes that allows us to play instinctively and assertive and I think that helps everybody.”
Cassidy’s approach has kept the Bruins a dangerous team in the NHL. It’s allowed them to climb back into playoff contention. As long as the Bruins continue to play to their strengths, then they’ll be able to find themselves in the playoffs in April.