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Thursday, February 9, 2017

In Cassidy's Debut as B's Head Coach, Boston Turns In 1 of Their Better Performances of the Season

Results like tonight are one of the many reasons that the Bruins (27-23-6) have made their fans pull their hair out in frustration over the last few years. Claude Julien was fired on Tuesday and tonight, Bruce Cassidy had his first game in charge at TD Garden vs. San Jose (33-18-4). Naturally against one of the best teams in the NHL, the B's put together a nearly complete effort from start to finish as they won 6-3. It makes you wonder if Julien could even watch it somewhere or has he already moved on?

Regardless, if the Bruins want to sneak into the playoffs this spring, they'll need this type of balanced scoring (5 different goal-scorers) and lethal power play (2 for 3) combined with more aggressive play by their defensemen (Zdeno Chara was out sick which actually didn't hinder them for this game at least) and solid work from Tuukka Rask (23 saves). Cassidy's first order of tangible business was to shake up the lines so David Backes (1 goal, 2 assists) was the lucky guy who got bumped up to the first line with Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 3 assists) and Brad Marchand (empty-netter, assist). Backes had been in a deep slump but he looked like a new player as he scored on a one-timer just 52 seconds into the contest. Torey Krug and David Krejci had the assists on his 12th goal of the season.

Former Bruins No. 1 overall pick Joe Thornton tied it at 7:51 with a top-shelf snipe (his 1st non-empty netter goal of the season), assisted by Tomas Hertl. Boston didn't hang their heads though as Patrice Bergeron put in a rebound from Backes and Brandon Carlo at 15:52 for a 2-1 lead on his 14th goal of the season. The Sharks were called for too many men on the ice and the Bruins made them pay as David Pastrnak (2 goals) hammered in a one-timer from Bergeron (6-game point-streak) for a 3-1 lead at 17:31.

Martin Jones (9 saves, 3 goals allowed) was pulled after the first period and something called Aaron Dell came in for San Jose. Former UMass defenseman Justin Braun cut it to 3-2 at 1:08 of the second period as his shot from the point deflected in off Carlo for his third goal of the season. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau assisted on his third goal of the season (and 100th NHL point). Once again, the B's didn't seemed fazed as Tim Schaller also broke a long goal-less slump with a key goal at 13:04 from Riley Nash and Dominic Moore. Schaller's seventh goal of the season was his first in over a month (last one was January 8 at Carolina).

San Jose took a late tripping penalty in the second period and Pastrnak put the game out of reach after some beautiful passing by Bergeron and Marchand. His 24th goal of the season temporarily gave him the team-lead at 19:11. Not much happened in the third period: your boy Timo Meier scored in garbage time for the Sharks and Marchand (6-game point streak) got his empty-netter to tie Pastrnak with 24 goals.

This was an easy game for the Bruins to get up for, they simply had to show that they had some pride left. Now the question is if they can sustain it on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) vs. Vancouver (24-24-6) and on Sunday night (7:30, NBC Sports) vs. Montreal (30-17-8). I'd love to see Rask get a break against the Canucks since he certainly could use it and that appears to be one of the only logical games left that backup goaltender Anton Khudobin possibly could win. We shall see. Cassidy has to feel some sense relief for getting that first win out of the way, now we can start to judge what the team really has after they come off of the emotion that was guaranteed to surround this night.

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