Bruce Cassidy dotes on his two children on par with every loving dad out there.
But he also has a baby that’s acting up and perplexing him. In addition to his responsibilities as Bruins head coach, Cassidy handles the power play (with help from assistant coach Jay Pandolfo), making it his figurative third child.
“It’s what I did as a player. It’s probably one of the few things I did well, so I had to try to make my living that way, and I enjoyed it,” Cassidy said Saturday morning. “I was good at it. I see the ice, saw it as a player, so I like that part of the coaching.”
During the regular season (third at 25.9 percent) and even since the start of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs (7-for-16), Cassidy’s baby has been a high-achiever. But unlike actual kids, there’s no unconditional love here. The power play, especially in the postseason, is a “what have you done for me lately?” proposition. And in the Bruins’ 3-2 double-overtime loss to Columbus in the Eastern Conference second round Saturday, it let Cassidy down despite a respectable 1-for-4 showing.
“Just looking at different parts of the game where you could make a difference, and that was one, especially in a tight-checking game when neither generated a lot of offense 5-on-5,” Cassidy said Sunday while his players took a day off to prepare for the resumption of this 1-1 best-of-7 series. “So that’s when you got to make hay [on the power play]. They did on theirs, we didn’t on ours. Yeah, we got a goal that helped us. And the number looks good, so you’re 25 percent. But in the big picture, No. 1 unit [didn’t] generate much either game [1 or 2] on it. So we want to make sure we put it back.”
Now is the time for Cassidy’s parenting instincts to kick in guide this power play down the right path. The Bruins are 1-for-8 against the Blue Jackets (no slouch on the PK considering they tied Tampa Bay for best percentage during the regular season) but also went 2-for-5 combined in Game 5 and 6 of the seven-game first-round win over Toronto before not earning a power play in Game 7.
Defenseman Torey Krug, one of the Bruins’ main nurturers of power-play success, has faith the power play’s pops will devise the proper plan over the two days before Game 3 on Tuesday. He called Cassidy “the best power play coach I’ve ever had” and then explained why.
“I just think he gives so many cues,” Krug said. “When there’s something going on on the ice, it’s a cue to us to move the puck to a certain area and try to make a play from there. So he’s great at recognizing that and putting it in our heads and allowing us to go out there and execute.”
Boston’s two power-play goals in Game 6 at Toronto were the product of work ethic, with Patrice Bergeron winning a faceoff and kicking the puck to Marchand for a quick shot. And then Torey Krug scoring a long rebound of a David Pastrnak shot. Cassidy’s new plan may not require much technical work as it might need a little more elbow crease from the power-play participants.
“They have guys that are working hard and they get paid to be penalty killers, and we have guys that get paid to score goals and be on the power play,” Krug said. “So we have one extra guy on the ice than they do, just go to work and we’ve got to execute. I think we’re pretty close. We’ve got to make one more good pass and then we’ll break them down so it’s just about getting some guys going and we’ll go from there.”
Cassidy is considering some personnel shuffling between his two units. The obvious switch would be taking slumping David Pastrnak off the first unit and putting David Krejci in that spot on the left side, if Krejci is healthy enough to take one-timers. A switch of net-front guys Marcus Johansson and Jake DeBrusk could be in order, but Johansson has been the Bruins first unit’s best zone-entry guy.
Considering the Blue Jackets’ penalty-killing prowess, it would behoove the Bruins to get more done 5-on-5. If that’s just not possible because of the matchup between these two teams and Sergei Bobrovsky’s impenetrability in the Columbus crease, then the Bruins have to win the battle of the power plays. They lost that showdown 2-1 in Game 2.
If things don’t pick up production-wise the Bruins and their power play might be calling the Blue Jackets their daddy.
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