‘We’re lucky’: Bruce Cassidy lauds team captains for setting professional tone in locker room
Reports of Charlie McAvoy’s tardiness were news to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who said Monday he was very surprised when he learned of the second-year blue liner’s admissions.
In a Globe story, McAvoy acknowledged he was late twice this season, to a special teams meeting and when boarding the team bus after a game. He said senior team leadership (Brad Marchand, in particular) set him straight on the responsibilities of being a pro. Team president Cam Neely said most of the team’s minor transgressions are handled inside the dressing room.
“We’re lucky,” Cassidy said. “Z [Zdeno Chara], Bergy [Patrice Bergeron], they’re detail-oriented guys. Go down the list. Tuukka [Rask] is here at 9 o’clock, going over stuff with Goalie Bob [Essensa]. We’re fortunate we have seasoned pros they can learn from. But I don’t know of Charlie ever being late on my watch, honestly.
“The only beef I ever had with him is starting practice a little quicker. Like a lot of young guys, they’re used to practicing for an hour and a half. Hey, we’re out here for 35 minutes. Let’s go right away. Talked to him once or twice about it last year, not even this year.”
Tardiness was never an issue for Brandon Carlo, but the Bruins wanted to see a little more toughness. The return of Chara from a knee injury has helped him discover a bit of meanness, but credit Carlo for using his 6-foot-5-inch, 212-pound frame lately to shove players around before and after the whistle.
“I’ve tried to be that way a little more,” Carlo said, noting that the coaching staff asked him earlier in the season to show a bit more snarl. “I don’t want to back down from anybody. I want to let them know it’s not going to be a fun night in front of the net. I don’t by any means think I’m a very intimidating guy, but I’d rather make it uncomfortable for those guys.”
As he gets stronger, Carlo, 22, will find it easier to use his frame to patrol the dirty areas. He’s never going to shake his gloves and have the opponent skate away, as teammate Kevan Miller did in offering Calgary forward Michael Frolik a go in Thursday’s game. Even though his offense hasn’t come (1-2—3 in 33 games), Carlo’s pace and skating are “better” of late, and he’s joining the rush, Cassidy said.
“His game is growing,” the coach said. “He’s consistent, too, lately, with puck plays. He’s clean. I probably just jinxed him for tomorrow. He’s been a lot cleaner in every aspect of his game.
“You’re going to get matchups against good skill players,” Cassidy said. “The more they know you’re playing for keeps every night — being a little bit edgier — the tougher it’s going to be for them. I don’t think he’ll ever turn into Kevan Miller, where there’s a switch that goes off. Certain players have that. If he can build it into his game by going through his checklist before the game, it’ll help him.”
Straightening out the lines
Cassidy, who noted he’s “still trying to find a spot” for David Backes, plans for the immediate future to keep him on the right side of center David Krejci and left wing Jake DeBrusk. That trio — and the College Line of Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Danton Heinen — could play together for the rest of the homestand (which ends Thursday vs. Washington). For now, he won’t break up the Patrice Bergeron-led top line. And he has no reason to touch the energetic fourth line of Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari. After four wins in a row, it might be time to let things cook.
“We’re getting production from the whole group right now,” Marchand said. “When you look at our fourth line, they’ve been our best line the last few weeks. When you have that throughout the whole lineup, it makes us tough to play against. Having essentially our whole team back, we’re finally getting a really good look at our group. We’ve always had that depth, but with guys out consistently, it’s been tough to keep it steady. It’s great to have everyone back now, and we’re kind of rolling from that.”
Rask on a roll
Rask, working on his longest personal win streak of the season, will heed the call against the Wild. The goaltender, 3-0-0 in his last three starts, has stopped 93 of 98 shots (.949) over that time, looking calm and square to shooters. It is his longest unbeaten streak since he went 10-0-1 beginning last Feb. 26. He was also 17-0-2 from last Dec. 7 to Feb. 6. Rask (now 11-8-2, 2.55, .917) is still looking for his first clean sheet of the season. He has never finished a full year as a starter with fewer than three.
A Wild season in Minnesota
Minnesota, which played its Game No. 41 on Monday in Montreal, started Devan Dubnyk in net against the Habs and plans to give Alex Stalock the start in Boston. The Wild’s date at TD Garden will be their sixth road game in an eight-game span . . . The Wild look like an average team, given their record (20-17-3 as of Monday) and even goal differential (79 for, 79 against) at 5 on 5. Five of their last seven games have been one-goal results . . . It has been a season of swings for Bruce Boudreau’s bunch. They were 11-4-2 on Veterans Day, then lost 13 of their next 21 (7-13-1). They started their four-game road trip with two straight wins, hoping to improve from 10th in the Western Conference . . . A strength: The Wild’s penalty kill (84.7 percent) ranks third in the NHL. They have scored five shorthanded goals (T-5th). The Bruins’ power play has allowed nine shorties, more than any team in the league . . . Minnesota ranks 10th in goals against (2.83) and ninth on the power play (22.4 percent).