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Bruins believe bright future ahead

Success under coach Bruce Cassidy, youthful additions, prized prospects combine for optimism in Boston

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins' six-game defeat to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference First Round did little to diminish the excitement owner Jeremy Jacobs has about the strides the Bruins took this season, when they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014.

"I think we had a successful season because of what evolved, the changing of the guard ... in our coaching ranks and I think our leadership showed itself very well," Jacobs said at TD Garden on Tuesday. "I think hope springs eternal. ... I think the direction is good and I think we did a tremendous job once we had [coach Bruce Cassidy] in place. So I'm happy with where we are and I'm happy looking at the next generation of players coming into this organization."

The Bruins were 26-23-6 when they fired coach Claude Julien and replaced him with Cassidy on Feb. 7. Boston then went 18-8-1 and secured a postseason berth.

Boston benefited from the emergence of several young players; forward David Pastrnak, 19, set career-highs with 34 goals and 70 points, rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo, 20, played all 82 games on Boston's top defense pair, and rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy, 19, played the first six games of his NHL career in the playoffs and filled in for an injured Carlo on the top pair.

Each is expected to supplement the Bruins core, led by defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci, and goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Bruins also have several prospects who could push for spots on the roster as soon as next season, including goaltender Malcolm Subban, 23, forward Danton Heinen, 21, defenseman Jakub Zboril, 20, and center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, 20.

Video: Chatting with Joe Haggerty about the Bruins' outlook

"This is a learning experience and a process," Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said. "But the future is bright. Given how ... the farm system that has been replenished, the kids that are ready or almost ready to play for the Boston Bruins, I feel [general manager Don Sweeney] has done an excellent job."

Bruins president Cam Neely mentioned a left-shot defenseman and a top-nine left wing as potential offseason targets for Boston.

"Well, I think we can't expect that we're going to get better and no one else is," Neely said. "So we recognize what some of the other teams have for younger players and prospects and what Toronto, for example, has done this year. So we have to take a hard look at our roster and see if we can add, it doesn't have to necessarily be a veteran player, but a younger player with some experience, not just throwing in players that have no NHL experience."

The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011. The elder Jacobs, who has owned the Bruins for 42 seasons, hopes he'll still be in his current position when Boston wins its next Cup.

"This is a wonderful property that my whole family has enjoyed and it should be preserved for the next generation. I'm hopeful that that's the way it goes," he said. "It's obviously out of my hands at some point. But I think the next couple of years is predictable for me. Beyond that, I don't know."

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