Bruins Aiming for Better Start in Game 3
Cassidy hoping for some adjustments as series shifts to Bostonby Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com
BOSTON - With some 18 hours to digest his team's Game 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Bruce Cassidy spoke with reporters via a conference call late Tuesday afternoon and touched on a number of topics, including where the Bruins can most improve as the second-round series shifts to Boston, tied 1-1.
Here's a rundown of some highlights from Cassidy's chat with the media:
Starting fast: Cassidy has not been pleased with the Bruins' starts over the series' first two games. Boston has relied heavily on Tuukka Rask to keep them in both contests in the early going, a trend the B's bench boss would like to alter ahead of Wednesday night's Game 3.
"Just the fact that you're home, you tend to start better," said Cassidy. "I don't know why that is…it just is. Probably the crowd - everyone has a little more juice. We expect we'll have ours behind us, so hopefully we're up and running right from the puck drop.
"It crept into our team here a little bit later in the year where we had the ability to come back, so I don't think we had as much urgency at the start of the game. We have to make sure that that is not a habit. I thought [Game 2] was clearly a problem. We didn't have a shot, I don't think, for [the first 14] minutes. Not only that, we didn't have a whole lot of O-zone time.
"At the end of the day, it hasn't hurt us. We've been able to bounce back. We always talk about the positives, and that's something we will address again. But we do need to be mindful of how we're going to play the first five minutes."
Off the mark: Boston has also struggled mightily at the face-off dot in the series, winning just 45.9% of its draws. The Bruins, normally stout in the circle, are thus losing valuable possession time to a Tampa team that thrives with the puck on its sticks.
"If we have to do it with help from the wingers to start with the puck," said Cassidy, "I think that will then lead to the next adjustment where we've got to start establishing our forecheck more, which hopefully will lead to more O-zone time, which hopefully will lead to pucks towards the net and anxiety for them around the net. We just haven't had enough of that."
At the same time, the Bruins have also had to deal with the league's crackdown on face-off violations. Patrice Bergeron has been of particular focus for the linesman, having been tossed from the dot on over a dozen occasions through two games.
"I was told in the Toronto series that the issue early on in the series that was brought up by the opposition was they didn't feel the center icemen were stopping, coming to a stop before the puck was dropped," Cassidy said when asked if he has been given an explanation of the face-off violations.
"That is what the linesmen sort of were instructing both sides I presume. From there I haven't heard anything else. Obviously, we've got to do a better job whatever the case is, whether we're in or we're kicked out, to start winning our share of pucks. I think that has shown up probably in the shot total, shot attempts…hopefully we can get that squared away going forward tomorrow."
Video: Bruce Cassidy speaks to media after Game 2 loss
Hold on tight: Perhaps the B's biggest area of concern has been their carelessness with the puck. Boston has committed 23 turnovers in the series' first two games, compared to the Lightning's 13. Two of Tampa's four goals in Game 2 came directly off of Bruins' giveaways.
"We've just got to manage it better," said Cassidy. "It's got to be an individual decision where they say, 'Hey, you know, I've got to make the right play here.' Risk-reward, we talk about it all the time. If you're going to make a play with a certain level of risk where there could be a turnover, there has to be a reward, and usually that means some level of odd-man rush or a scoring chance.
"Between the blue lines last night, we weren't good enough a couple times in our own end. I think the players understand that. It doesn't matter what team you're playing in the National Hockey League, if you don't manage the puck, eventually you will pay the price."
Shutting them down: On the positive side - the Bruins did come home with a series split, after all - Boston, for the most part, shut down the Bolts' top line of J.T. Miller, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov. None of them have registered a point in the series, thanks to strong work from Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy, as well as the B's third and fourth lines.
"They've done a real good job," said Cassidy. "Zee did a great job with [Auston] Matthews [in the first round]. It's what he does. He's a shutdown defenseman that can, obviously, give you some offense, and he's done a good job and takes a lot of pride in it. I think that's the biggest reason.
"There's no magic formula about following them around or any particular structure, other than Zee and Charlie have done a good job of not getting caught up ice, not giving them odd-man rushes for the most part.
"They're not an easy matchup, and hopefully we can continue to do it, because when you do keep those guys off the board, they get frustrated. It's normal, it's human nature, so we've got to see if we can continue that pattern."
McAvoy magic: After an up-and-down first round against Toronto as he got back up to speed following a late-season knee injury, Charlie McAvoy appears to be finding his game. The 20-year-old blue liner has been skating more freely, which was clear when he surged through the slot and joined the rush in Game 2 to pot his first career postseason goal.
"He can do it. He has the ability to get up the ice," said Cassidy. "He has a good nose for when to stick his nose in there and be part of the rush. He's a pass first guy generally. Made a great play moving up ice to [Danton] Heinen last night to spring him and [David] Backes on a quick two-on-one. Those are the plays we're used to seeing from Charlie.
"We like the fact that the last two games he's more assertive in his overall game and that's the kind of Charlie that we know, so good for him."
Video: BOS@TBL, Gm2: McAvoy finishes superb passing play
Early puck drop: The NHL announced that puck drop for Sunday's Game 5 in Tampa will be at 3 p.m. ET and air on NBC.