After yet another playoff OT loss at the TD Garden on Sunday, the Boston Bruins season is over. They played 6 one-goal games against the Ottawa Senators, including 4 games ending in OT (or double OT), and committed stupid errors left and right. It’s easy to say the season was a disappointment after bowing out in the 1st round, but I completely disagree. The Bruins took the Senators to 6 games with their depleted defensive core, and showed some serious heart at times during the series. In the end, the injuries and fatigue set in, resulting in the series loss, but don’t blame interim head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Since taking over the helm of the Bruins from long-time bench leader Claude Julien, he has gotten the most of a non-championship quality roster. The roster he inherited was strong up top, but very weak on the bottom, which is especially true with defensemen. The talk coming into the year is the same as at the end: d-men depth was lacking; the Bs need to add a top 4 d-man. To be fair, no one would have predicted that 4 of the Bruins top 6 d-men would go down with injuries late in the season or in the playoffs, but the lack of depth left Boston struggling when it counted. Thanks to the hockey gods for Charlie McAvoy or this series would have been over even sooner.
Cassidy took this roster with all it’s deficiencies and clinched a playoff spot (which was not looking good when Julien was fired) and made the Senators earn each victory in round 1. In 28 games at the helm, Cassidy’s Bs went 18-8-1 (16-4 in the regular season), which compared to the previous 26-23-6, is a really strong showing. The team won 8 of their first 10 games under Cassidy and had a strong 6-game winning streak down the stretch to help secure the playoff spot. Cassidy made in-game changes unlike his predecessor and was not afraid to make a bold move (i.e. sit Ryan Spooner and call-up Sean Kuraly in game 5). In the end, the team was fatigued and just not good enough to move on in the playoffs.
Given an offseason to make changes and implement his system, Cassidy will have a chance to correct the sloppy mistakes (3 delay of game penalties in game 6) and hopefully add depth to both the forwards and d-men. There was a lot to like about the way the young kids played when it counted (McAvoy and Kuraly especially) and given more experience in the league, they will only get better next season.
Now remove the interim tag from his title and hand the reins over the Bruce Cassidy. He’s the present and future.