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Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins are making some good impressions

Bruce Cassidy has gone 9-3 since taking charge Feb. 7john tlumacki/globe staff/Boston Globe

Some facts, impressions, and 200-by-85-foot meanderings after watching the Bruins’ 12-game resurgence the last month under new coach Bruce Cassidy.

■   Hockey, like all sports, is best played with the best players. But little has changed in the Black-and-Gold talent ranks since Cassidy took over Feb. 7. It was a 26-23-6 team (.527) under Claude Julien, now 9-3-0 (.750) under Cassidy.

Even if the truth is somewhere in the middle (.639), it’s achingly evident that Julien’s message and method had gone stale. Some will say the players tuned him out. I don’t buy it. I think all sides — players, coach(es), and management — suffered from institutional memory and embedded expectations (i.e. stale).


It was a change that should have been made two years ago when ownership decided it was time for general manager Peter Chiarelli to hit the bricks.

■   Cassidy has created competition for roster spots that didn’t exist under Julien. He had Matt Beleskey, a veteran, and Peter Cehlarik, a rookie, sitting in the press box Wednesday, along with defensemen John-Michael Liles, another vet, and Joe Morrow, classification yet to be determined.

A little bit of job insecurity goes a very long way. Cassidy’s mantra: “Play well enough so I don’t have to take you out.” Hardly novel, but again . . . expectations. It hasn’t been this sweetly unsettled here in a while.

■   Colin Miller is a high-speed river skater, something to behold in full flight. Ditto for Ryan Spooner (now concussed). Yes, they make boo-boos, sometimes big, open-wound boo-boos. But if Cassidy keeps extending them some rope, one or both could bring a puck-lugging dimension to the power play that we haven’t seen here in decades.

Cassidy can’t afford to let them crash and burn too often, but he also has to see how some riverboat gambling from the back end might pay off.


■   In back-to-back games (Ottawa, Detroit), in a total of 32 minutes ice time, David Backes took all of two shot attempts, and neither one landed on net. Not nearly good enough.

For his size (6-3) and age (32), Backes isn’t going to add a step at this stage of his career, and that’s an impediment on a team with a new coach preaching readiness, quick jump, and speed.

Thus far, in year No. 1 of his five-year deal, Backes has scored a tweed-jacket-and-pipe “Gentleman’s C.” He is not outright hurting the team, but he needs to be more of the player who turned in a 1-2—3 line the night of Cassidy’s debut, and not the guy who has been 1-5—6 in the other 11 games.

■   No, I never saw Brad Marchand as a first-line, point-per game player. Two reasons: 1. I underappreciated his overall skill package beyond his quick-snap release and endearing irascibility; 2. I didn’t think he’d be able to control his quick-snap temperament (odd how personality comes through in a man’s game, no?) and channel it into such consistent offense.

The Li’l Ball o’ Hate is having himself a Hart Trophy-worthy second half (including 15-10—25 over his last 17 games). I said it, Hart Trophy-worthy. And now I’ll give myself a face-wash.

■   There is so much Jean Ratelle in Patrice Bergeron, in manner and grace and playing intelligence, that I am convinced now that they in fact didn’t break and throw away Gentleman Jean’s mold. They just flung it to Quebec City, and we were fortunate enough that the Nordiques were already in Denver by Bergeron’s draft year.


■   OK, roll your eyes, but I can’t get enough of this stat: Through 12 games under Cassidy, the Bruins have amassed a gigunda advantage in lead time: 455:33 to 103:04.

Sure, it will revert to the mean, I suppose, but no one in the league comes close to that kind of ratio. It’s a 3-2 league, so yeah, getting the lead is a big deal. Not even the Falcons could mess up that kind of lead time. Oh, wait . . .

■   Cassidy would be wise to find 20 or 30 seconds here or there on the power play for Zdeno Chara. Pride goes a long way. Not for everyone, but especially for the team captain, who’ll turn 40 in about 10 days.

■   I keep thinking GM Don Sweeney has a roster addition (college kid or junior player) he is just aching to play here down the stretch. And again, with a coach eager to keep his roster on alert with competition for jobs, that could get interesting. We really haven’t seen that here in the Hub of Hockey since Torey Krug’s arrival as a free agent out of Michigan State in the spring of 2012.

■   Say what you will about the contracts for Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, but they’ve delivered on every penny of their combined $5.25 million this season as second- and third-line D-men. Earnest. Solid. Tough. Dependable. No one’s idea of give-and-go backliners. But if that was your idea about either, then you weren’t paying attention.


■   In bits and pieces, Anton Khudobin speaks in Russian to David Pastrnak, a Czech, and Cehlarik, a Slovak.

“They don’t speak it, but they know what I am saying,” said Khudobin. “A guy like Z [Slovak-born Chara], he understands, because he grew up having to learn Russian in school. But not the younger guys.”

So then how do Pastrnak and Cehlarik know what Khudobin is saying in Russian?

“It’s hockey,” he said. “Trust me. They get it.”

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.