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Stanley Cup Final

Cassidy key to power-play success for Bruins in Cup Final

Coach's ability to adjust against Blues has helped spark man advantage

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- It's time for coach Bruce Cassidy and the Boston Bruins power play to go back to the video room.

The Bruins don't have to scrap everything after their 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday. But they need to make some adjustments with the best-of-7 series tied heading into Game 5 at TD Garden on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

That happens to be one of Cassidy's strengths, particularly with the power play.

 

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"His knowledge for the game, his X's and O's, is second to none," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "So I'm glad we have him on our side."

Most teams have an assistant coach run the power play. Cassidy is one of the few coaches in the NHL who do it. It's a part of the job he enjoys, and he excels at it. 

The Bruins have the top-ranked power play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, clicking at 34.8 percent (23-for-66), and it has been a weapon at times in in the Cup Final. Boston is 6-for-16 (37.5 percent) with the man-advantage against St. Louis, including 4-for-4 in a 7-2 victory in Game 3.

But the Blues tightened up their penalty kill in Game 4 and held the Bruins to one shot on goal and no goals on their two power-play opportunities. That ended the Bruins' run of scoring at least one power-play goal in seven straight games.

Now it's the Bruins turn to respond to the Blues' adjustments.

"We had a couple good looks off the rush and they led to clears for St. Louis," Cassidy said Tuesday. "And we've always encouraged our guys, if you get a good look you take the first available best shot if it's there, as opposed to looking for a perfect shot. … But at the end of the day we didn't do enough offensively."

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The Bruins felt similarly after going 2-for-10 on the power play in the first two games of the Cup Final with each of the goals coming off zone-entry/rush plays. They used the two-day break before Game 3 to review video and work in practice on taking advantage of whatever openings the Blues were giving them.

Seeing that the Blues were concentrating on taking away their plays down low, the Bruins switched their approach to run the power play more through Krug, who plays the point in their 1-3-1 alignment. In Game 3, Boston scored four power-play goals on four shots with Krug getting the primary assist on three and scoring the other.

"I think once you get a couple of games under your belt and we've had a lot of reps, Bruce does a great job of giving us cues that if this player does this, this is the option we're going to have and the opportunity we're going to have to score a goal," Krug said.

The importance of the Bruins power play has been magnified in the Cup Final because they've struggled at times at even strength. Of Boston's 15 goals in the series, six have come 5-on-5. St. Louis has scored nine of its 11 goals in the series 5-on-5.

The Bruins top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has yet to produce a 5-on-5 goal in the series, but Bergeron and Pastrnak have each scored on the power play. Bergeron leads the playoffs with seven power-play goals.

"One of the ways you get going offensively is to finish your chances and get going on the power play," Cassidy said. "We talked about that. Most skilled guys, if they feel the puck on the power play, things start to happen. It bleeds into 5-on-5."

When things aren't going well on the power play, Cassidy usually goes to Krug first to ask what he's seeing from the point. A former defenseman who played 36 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks over six seasons from 1983-90, Cassidy can relate well with Krug, but he also values the opinions of the forwards on the power play.

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On the first unit, the Bruins have Pastrnak in the left circle, Bergeron in the slot, Marchand on the right half wall and Jake DeBrusk at the front of the net for screens, deflections and rebounds.

"In between games, we'll have discussions with them," Cassidy said. "They tend to see a lot of it themselves, and they'll want to go back and say, 'Can we take a look at that?' We provide the information, (but) a lot of the ideas come from the players."

That exchange of ideas and the players' skill has combined to make the Bruins power play one of the best in the League. They ranked third in the NHL during the regular season with a 25.9 percent conversion rate but have been even better during the playoffs when Cassidy, his staff and the players can dissect an opponent's penalty kill and exploit its weaknesses over a long series.

The Bruins were 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) on the power play in playoffs last season. This postseason, they are on pace to join the 1980-81 New York Islanders (37.8 percent) as the only teams to finish a playoff year with a power-play efficiency of at least 30 percent (minimum 45 opportunities).

"We go over video all the time and what we need to work on and little things we can look at and plays that we need to be aware of or how they play and how to go against that," said forward Charlie Coyle, who plays on the second power-play unit. "[Cassidy's] a great guy to work with. Coaches can yell and get mad and all this. There's a time and a place for that. There's also a time and a place where you talk things over and he's really good at that."

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