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.

Comments (2)
  1. The Bruins went into last postseason, tearing up the league after Cassidy took over. A team that had been in shackles offensively had suddenly discovered they had some offensive talent. Loads of it.

    Unfortunately. they also came into the postseason after losing most of their defensive group, including Krug, underrated as his is when it comes to his importance to this team.

    Of course, elements like DeBrusk and Spooner suddenly giving the team a pretty good second line. And Heinen Backus and Nash suddenly creating a kickass 3rd line, and the emergence of the 4th line were a surprise to everyone. Who could have seen any of this coming?

    Still…and maybe I’m an optimist (I’m definitely not), I spent the offseason telling all my friends the Bruins were going to challenge for the Cup. I think I may have been joking…a bit.

    Still…there was Pasta coming into his own. McAvoy’s arrival changing the dynamic of the backend, and ensuring longevity to an ageing Chara. I had a hunch, I guess.

    I’ve never been much of a Rask fan. But there you go. Rask has stood on his head for months now, and Khudobin …who could have predicted that?

    But at the heart of it all was Cassidy’s changing the very nature of this team, to a defensive squad bent on reacting and defending, to a well rounded group that initiates as much as it defends, challenges more than it responds to challenges, and has been MUCH the better for it.

  2. Hey… Cassidy… those same players can cost you your job, just like Coach Julien. Don’t let it go to your head.

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