BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Bruins are ahead of schedule.
They entered the season with limited expectations, after losing in the first round of the playoffs last spring following a two-year absence from postseason action. With Bruce Cassidy entering his first full season as the Bruins’ head coach, and with a roster featuring a number of young players up and down the lineup, the Bruins were expected to once again be a lower-end playoff team as they built back toward respectability.
Fast-forward to mid-February, and the Bruins are just one point behind Tampa Bay for the NHL lead in points. And the Bruins are there despite having played two fewer games than the Lightning.
It’s been an incredible run, and on Thursday at Warrior Ice Arena, Cassidy admitted that going back to the summer even he did not expect the Bruins to be in this position.
“I’m an optimist, but no, I didn’t think we’d be here right now. That’s the simplest answer,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy did say that he hoped to be in this position and that he and the team worked hard to get there. But he was honest about how he expected the season to go, and how he hopes it continues to go.
“Now that we’re here, we’re going to try to keep staying here and keep playing better, keep winning every game. That’s always your hope,” Cassidy said. “It’s a good position to be in.”
Cassidy has been a major reason why the Bruins have sustained their current run. From sitting Tuukka Rask for an extended period in late November, to tinkering with his lines when needed, to pushing the young players to perform, Cassidy has performed just as well behind the bench as his players have on the ice.
Most recently, Cassidy slid David Pastrnak off the top line and replaced him with David Backes in Tuesday night’s game against the Flames. Patrice Bergeron ended up scoring twice in the third period, first to break a 2-2 tie and then to add a much-needed insurance goal. Backes assisted on the latter.
“Stroke of genius, huh?” Cassidy joked about his move after the win.
The coach was mocking himself a bit, as a coach can only do so much. But with the Bruins holding a 35-12-8 record and an NHL-best plus-52 goal differential, there’s no denying that Cassidy is as big a reason as any that the Bruins have exceeded the coach’s expectations through the season’s first 55 games.