Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy can see Jakub Zboril building confidence as the 24-year-old defenseman spends more time on the ice.
He can also see plays Zboril may not realize are available to him.
At one point in the second period of the Bruins’ 5-2 win over the Flyers on Saturday, Zboril joined the rush through the neutral zone, got open in the seam, went to the net, realized more bodies were headed there, and looked for the exit ramp to keep things clear.
Cassidy would have preferred Zboril stayed in the mix.
“That, to me, is a play I want to see him involved in the rush there, be an option,” Cassidy said. “When you don’t get it, just be mindful of the urgency of getting out. You never know. That’s where we need to be mindful of those things, but he had the confidence to go up, he was in the right spot, just make sure you’re recovering out of there.”
Zboril was back on the third pairing with Mike Reilly in a 4-0 loss to the Flames on Sunday night at TD Garden after playing just under 16 minutes against New Jersey and more than 17 minutes against Montreal and Philadelphia over the past week.
Zboril has played four straight games, pushing Connor Clifton out of the rotation, after dressing once in the Bruins’ first 11. He landed two shots on goal and three hits against Calgary.
As Zboril’s confidence grows, so does Cassidy’s confidence in him.
“Better compete level is usually when I notice that he’s dialed in,” Cassidy said. “A little more urgency on his one-on-one battles. You don’t lose your hockey sense, right, or your ability to see plays. You lose confidence to make them and when to make them. If you don’t play for a while, you lose your kind of edge, which we certainly expect with some guys that are in and out.
“I just find he’s more competitive as a person in his corner battles, net-front battles, urgency to get back on pucks, all the little things you’re trying to do to make you a good pro. Every time you go over the boards, there’s no easy shifts and then you hope over time that they make some things happen, whoever their strength is.”
Zboril had the primary assist on David Pastrnak’s third-period goal Saturday night. It was his second assist of the season.
“He’s made a few plays through the neutral zone to help us in transition,” Cassidy said. “So that’s where he’s at right now. He has some of Reilly’s flavor and a little bit of [Matt Grzelcyk] as well, so there’s some competition there. You lose a bit of Cliffy’s bite, but that is what it is. We’re asking the whole group to bring that now.”
Cassidy said Zboril’s strength — pushing the pick in transition — is something the Bruins need.
“There’s a lot of good in his game right now,” Cassisdy said. ,
Blidh making an impression
Cassidy was pleased to see the fourth line of Anton Blidh, Tomas Nosek, and Curtis Lazar get the Bruins on the board in the first period against Philadelphia.
But he was more impressed with how they scored.
“Textbook all around for them,” Cassidy said. “They’re not going to score a lot of tic-tac-toe, off-the-rush goals, but to me that’s a tic-tac-toe forecheck. Tailor made, it’ll be on any video you’d [see] anywhere teaching young kids. Go in with a good angle, second guy find the puck, third guy be available.
With Trent Frederic nursing an upper-body injury, Blidh has filled in more than capably. But Cassidy wasn’t ready to say Blidh has a permanent spot in the lineup.
“I wouldn’t say a grip,” Cassidy said. “I think Blidh’s doing his job. the first goal was a great goal for that line. That makes a coach happy to see them score — get through the neutral zone, put the puck in a good spot when you don’t have numbers.
“Freddy, we’ve invested a lot of time in, brings a little different flavor to the game. But at the end of the day, Anton can only control when he’s in the lineup and he’s doing a good job with it.”
Cassidy sees some things he Frederic could take from Blidh’s game.
“The motor,” Cassidy said. “Freddy’s got to get skating. There’s times he gets maybe static when he’s got to be ready to move and make the quick decision. One thing about Anton, he knows that he’s getting it deep most of the time.
“They’re not a line rush ... Anton realizes that it’s not his game right now and I think Freddy still has some of that in him where he’s looking to make a play when it’s not there and by that time the ability to get on the forecheck may have closed down.”
Blidh had a shot on goal and four hits Sunday night.
Vladar gets the start
Cassidy had nothing but praise for former Bruins goalie Dan Vladar, who made 27 saves to earn the shutout in his first return to Boston since being traded to Calgary in July for a 2022 third-round draft pick.
Vladar was the Bruins third-round pick in 2015. In five games last season, he went 2-2-1 with a .886 save percentage and a 3.40 goals-against average.
“I’m happy it’s going well for him,” Cassidy said. “He was a good Bruin, worked hard, had a couple of tough injuries there that limited his time in Providence probably more than anything.”
In four games with the Flames this season, he’s 3-0-1/.933/1.96 while playing behind veteran Jacob Markstrom.
“He’s a good pro, he was well liked in the room, he’s got some talent,” Cassidy said. “I think he’s in a good spot behind a guy like Markstrom that plays a lot so he can kind of learn his craft at the NHL level without being forced to be the guy every night. I think that helps.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.