The subject was energy, and the more he talked about it, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy became more energetic, more effusive, more animated — more of the elements he wants to see from certain members of his Black-and-Gold rank-and-file.
“There is something to be said for just going out the there and — be clean — but finish two or three checks if the situation dictates,” mused Cassidy after Wednesday’s late-morning workout in Brighton. “People will notice. The other team will notice. We’ll notice.
“And all of a sudden, the energy level’s gone up.”
It’s a delightful, oft-intoxicating element of hockey. Emotion delivered in the form of spontaneous energy, the kind that was de rigueur in the days of the Merlot Line (Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton), brings more energy, often followed by success.
One shift by a crash-and-bang line, typically third- or fourth-liners delivering stiff checks and rattling boards, can change the tenor of a game. A sleepy night suddenly gets caffeinated, with play across all lines more alert, more effective, the java jolt coursing through all four lines and into the stands.
We saw it here, too, in the days of the Trench Connection, with Sean Kuraly centering Tim Schaller and Noel Acciari. Like the Merlot bros, as a trio they fully understood that one, two, or three bodies in motion, hunting pucks and landing smacks, could raise the play of all 18 skaters — and maybe even the guy in net.
“That’s where chemistry helps,” said Cassidy. “If you look at the Merlot Line … if you look at the Acciari-Schaller-Kuraly type of thing, they were together for a while, so that was it: they knew, they didn’t need me or Joe Sacco to come down and [tell them]. It was more like, ‘Hey, guys, it’s our turn … it’s our turn, let’s go. We want to play a little more tonight, let’s go do it.’”
Tuesday night at the Garden definitely was not a prime example. The Bruins once again were sleepy for long stretches of the first and second periods and fell behind, 4-2, by the second intermission. It was a night aching for a serving of Merlot, but most of the lineup was physically and emotionally disengaged.
Ultimately it was Brad Marchand, among the game’s premier left wingers, who got the lava lamp boiling by way of a brief scrap in the mud with New Jersey’s Jesper Bratt. In a Boston lineup dotted with kids, at least one of them — if not two or three — should have been hungry enough to take on the task before it ultimately fell to Marchand by default.
“When you’re a young player in the National Hockey League, you are given an opportunity to play here,” Cassidy said at night’s end, his frustration muted slightly by the Bruins’ rally for a 5-4 win in a shootout. “When things go a little bit awry, we cannot rely on Brad Marchand to bring us energy in terms of physicality. Or we should not have to, I guess … that’s where the [Jeremy] Lauzons, a [Connor] Clifton, a [Jakub] Zboril, a [Karson] Kuhlman, a [Zach] Senyshyn, a [Trent] Frederic, a [Anton] Blidh …you know, we need those guys to sort of turn the tide of the game with some physicality, some energy.”
It was a not-so-subtle call out by Cassidy, notice that it is time for some kids to grow up, answer the bell. Not a call to fight, but rather show some fight; some fire, some proof that they don’t want to be shipped back to AHL Providence.
“Most of all, I think it’s just the compete in you to get it done on the ice want to stay [in the NHL],’ Cassidy said Wednesday. “It falls on us as coaches to get them to understand what is required to play at this level, to get them to buy into that part of it.
“Most guys, after their second or third time through, they see it with their own eyes. And if they don’t by then, then that’s a red flag for us as coaches and as an organization that, you know what, maybe this guy doesn’t have the will to be a guy out of his job.”
Vladar to start with Rask out
Tuukka Rask remained off skates, which means Dan Vladar will get the call in net Thursday night with the Penguins on Causeway Street. Jaroslav Halak, the winner against the Devils, is the probable starter for Saturday’s matinee rematch with the Pens … Kuraly, mothballed in COVID-19 protocol for nearly two weeks, participated in the full workout, as did Kevan Miller (knee soreness). Cassidy said Miller definitely won’t be in the mix for Thursday night, as Kuraly needs to build back his skating strength and endurance. He might be available for Saturday … Jake DeBrusk, the lone Bruin still listed as a COVID “unavailable,” was smiling and appeared in good spirits when he reported in Wednesday for daily testing. It’s possible, said Cassidy, that DeBrusk will be able to return to on-ice workouts Thursday or Friday.Friday will mark two weeks since DeBrusk exited all daily team-related activities after testing COVID-positive during a road trip in Buffalo.
Ex-Bruin Guerin named Olympic exec
USA Hockey named ex-Bruin forward Bill Guerin assistant general manager of the men’s Olympic team that will suit up next February in Beijing.
Guerin, who played in three Olympics (1998, 2002, 2006), was named top aid to GM Stan Bowman. Guerin, who grew up in Wilbraham, is in his second season as the Wild GM while Bowman is the long-time boss of the Blackhawks.
“I don’t anticipate anything in the near future on an announcement,” said Bowman, asked how soon the US would reveal its coaching staff for Beijing. “I think what I’ll say is we’re looking for a coach with some NHL experience, so it’s still a wide candidate pool when you put that criteria on. But we’re going to have NHL players there, so we’re looking for a coach with NHL experience. Beyond that, I don’t have too much to add.” Cassidy, who grew up in Ottawa and became a US citizen late last year, said recently that he’d be very interested in an Olympic coaching position, be it for Canada or the US.
The NHL has not made public its decision whether to shut down the league and allow players to participate in the Games. It’s highly likely NHLers will participate, but negotiations between Beijing officials, the IIHF, and the NHL remain ongoing.