PROVIDENCE, RI — Despite their two victories last weekend, Providence Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy wasn't taking anything for granted on Wednesday in the Dunkin' Donuts Center as the Rhode Island-based Black & Gold prepared for this weekend's docket.
Cassidy's whistle and voice could be heard echoing throughout the empty arena as the AHL Bruins were put through a long workout, punctuated with hockey lessons and plenty of few shouts.
"You don’t want to be hard on them to point that they’re losing confidence, and they’re not enjoying themselves, but we’re trying to build a competitive toughness in every one of these players," said Cassidy after the session. "Be hard on the puck, be hard at the puck, because I think it’s tough to get out of the American Hockey League if you’re not able to do that.
"The guys that seem to get out of this league are very tenacious, and we want to build that into every one of our players, whether they’re a skill guy or a grinder, and I think it starts in practice."
A large part of Cassidy's task in Providence is related to the development of the Boston Bruins youngest prospects. As such, there is plenty of advice to dispense to players who have often been the best skater on their respective amateur and junior clubs as they climbed hockey's ladder.
"Specifically with the young guys, they have to understand that they don’t play maybe 20-25 minutes like they did in juniors or college," explained Cassidy. "So, they have to be battle-ready when the puck drops.
"It’s always a big issue for guys coming out, and the guys that grasp it quicker are always going to develop a little bit faster."
Thankfully, it didn't take long for many of his P-Bruins to see the light last week, when they rebounded from a slow start to even their record on the season at 2-2.
Jordan Caron's hat trick sufficed against the Manchester Monarchs on Friday, while Craig Cunningham, Garnet Exelby and Max Sauve potted goals to clip the Springfield Falcons on Saturday as Niklas Svedberg earned both victories in goal.
"He’s back there and he’s battling every minute for you," said Cassidy of the B's goaltending prospect. "We were able to score some goals for him that was the other thing. As a goaltender, you need to produce offense for him to get wins, and we were able to do that better last weekend than the previous weekend."
"I think our whole team was sluggish the first night [of the season]…and we’ve seemed to pick it up after that," added Cassidy. "That’s good to see."
But the P-Bruins will see Springfield again on Friday and then travel to Hartford to take on the Connecticut Whale on Saturday, and Cassidy knows that a bad bounce could shake the momentum garnered by his club.
"They were hot when we went in [to Springfield], and we got a couple of breaks early. They got on the board early, and they missed kind a tap-in rebound that jumped over a stick," said the Providence bench boss of last Saturday's win. "From there, we were pretty good.
"I thought we really pushed the pace in the second half of the game, and were physical with them. We’ll have to continue that this weekend, because they have some marquee players in that lineup that can finish on you if you’re not careful.
"Connecticut I haven’t seen a lot of," explained Cassidy. "I know they’re off to a bit of a tough start. They’re scoring some goals, but they’re giving up a lot of goals.
"Hopefully, both games work out for us."