Claude Julien had been the head coach of the Boston Bruins for ten seasons until he was fired on February 7 by General Manager Don Sweeney. Under Julien, the Bruins won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and made another finals appearance in 2013 when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins failed to make the playoffs both last season and the season before that, putting Julien on the hot seat. When GM Don Sweeney made the announcement of Julien’s firing, the Bruins were underperforming, with a record of 26-23-7. Interim coach Bruce Cassidy has changed the Bruins on-ice philosophy, with an offensive serge led by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.
The Bruins are 12-4-0 under coach Cassidy, who emphasizes quick transition of the puck from his defenseman. The Bruins have been spending less time in their own end, making all-star goaltender Tuukka Rask’s job easier. The Bruins have scored an impressive 3.88 goals per game under Cassidy, while only scoring 2.56 goals per game under Claude Julien.
Winger Brad Marchand and rising star David Pastrnak have led the way offensively, with a combined 68 goals scored between them. Marchand is currently tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals, each with 37. Marchand and Pasternak’s offensive explosion is an example of coach Cassidy’s influence on the club.
The Bruins now find themselves comfortably in a playoff spot, with a record of 38-27-6, good for third in the Atlantic division. The B’s have a four-point cushion over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently sit in the second wild card spot.
This year’s Boston Bruins team has a lot of similarities with last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins also got off to a slow start, scoring at a surprisingly low rate. Captain Sidney Crosby was in the midst of a mind blowing slump, only scoring 19 points in the first 28 games. After game 28 against the Los Angeles Kings, General Manager Jim Rutherford fired head coach Mike Johnston and hired Mike Sullivan, who changed the culture in the Pens locker room. Under Sullivan, the Penguins had a record of 33-16-5, scoring at a rapid pace. Sidney Crosby and the Pens went on a tear at the end of the regular season, winning 14 of the last 16 games. The Penguins eventually defeated the San Jose Sharks to win the Stanley Cup.
Both the Bruins and the Penguins made mid-season coaching changes, with both coaches preaching offense and speed. Bruce Cassidy and his club have eleven more games in the regular season, hoping to continue their recent dominance.
The Bruins continue their Canada road-trip on Monday as they will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in a vital game for both teams. The B’s will look to tighten up their game in the defensive end after letting up seven goals to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.