The Duck Boats were polished and full of Patriots for a champions tour through the city on a Tuesday two years ago when the Bruins sent Claude Julien packing and promoted Bruce Cassidy to bench boss.
“Nervous, yes, always a little bit,” said Cassidy, reflecting on how he felt the day he took charge of the Original Six franchise. “But, personally, for me, throughout different challenges, I don’t usually get nervous. It’s almost a fear of failure — you want to make sure you make your family proud and yourself proud of the job you can do. It’s being on edge more than nerves.”
Tuesday night, with the Islanders on Causeway Street, Cassidy will coach his 162nd game for the Black and Gold. His 164th, closing out the equivalent of two seasons, will be Saturday against the Kings.
Now 52 games into the 2018-19 season, Cassidy has a 96-45-20 (.658) record, a slightly better mark than his predecessor. Julien, now the Montreal coach, went 94-48-22 across his first two years.
Cassidy, 53, figures he’s learned a few things over the course of the last 24 months, including how to make the media part of his messaging to the dressing room.
Exhibit A: The overtime loss to the Flyers last Thursday, after which Cassidy called out his defensemen, first and foremost team captain Zdeno Chara.
“I didn’t like what was happening the last four or five games, in terms of letting games get away,” Cassidy said. “I think most coaches will tell you they don’t want to beat themselves. It’s kind of a reflection on the coach if that happens a lot — you are not instilling the right focus, discipline.
“So that was something we did through [the media] the other day — and to the players directly. So you’re learning how to balance that, when to use your resources to get what you want.”
The Bruins were scuffling along at 26-23-6, on target to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, when Cassidy took over. They rattled off four consecutive wins upon his arrival and went 18-8-1 the rest of the way, then faced the Senators in the first round.
“Was it two years?” Cassidy said. “There was a snowstorm, remember that? They were going to cancel the game. I do remember that. The hockey gods were looking down on me, because we had a good run that week and kind of got it going.”
Cassidy no doubt will send Patrice Bergeron out for the opening faceoff Tuesday, in what will be the classy pivot’s 1,000th game.
What will Bergy be thinking as he heads out for the drop?
“To win it,” he said, with a widening grin. “That’s about it. So it’s going to be the same thing, if I’m starting.”
Asked for a little more insight, given the gravitas of 1,000 games, he added: “We’ll see. It’s one of those things that you never know until you’re in that moment. But hopefully I’m going to be focused on the game and doing the job in front of me — to try to win the faceoff.”
Next men up
Chara (926), David Krejci (821), and Brad Marchand (653) are the next three players in the pipeline approaching 1,000 games in a Bruins uniform. Chara, with more than 500 games played with the Islanders and Senators before arriving here in July 2006, has played a total 1,456 NHL games . . . Had he remained healthy, Marc Savard also would be approaching 1,000 games with the Spoked B on his chest. Now 41, Savard arrived here with Chara as an unrestricted free agent. Lingering concussion issues forced the slick pivot to retire after 807 NHL games . . . Krejci, set up with a velvety Torey Krug dish for the lone (and winning) goal in D.C. Sunday, now stands 11-30—41 for the season . . . David Pastrnak is on pace for a career-high 98 points, which would be an 18-point improvement over his standing personal best of last season . . . Tuukka Rask, now with the most wins (253) in franchise history after his 1-0 shutout of the Capitals Sunday, will start against the Islanders. Jaro Halak will get the call the next night against the Rangers in Manhattan. They also will split the weekend matinees here against Los Angeles and Colorado, with Cassidy noting that Rask probably would get the LA start.