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Stanley Cup Final

Cassidy, Berube meet in Cup Final on second chances with Bruins, Blues

Neither coach lasted two full seasons in first NHL job

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Bruce Cassidy wasn't sure he'd ever get another opportunity to coach in the NHL.

The road back for the Boston Bruins coach was a bit longer than his opponent in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final -- St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube -- but each has received a second chance and made the most of it.

Now they will square off in this best-of-7 series, beginning with Game 1 at TD Garden on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). Either the Bruins or Blues will be the third consecutive Stanley Cup champion with a coach in his second NHL job, joining Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017) and Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals (2018).

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blues series coverage]

 

"It happens a lot," Cassidy said during Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Sunday. "Usually you learn from your first experience. It's a tough business, it's a results-oriented business and if you're not hitting the ground running and ready that first time, you learn some things so the next time you are completely prepared for all the elements and I think that's what happened with me.

"It probably happened to a lot of guys in this league, (including) Craig and you can go right on down the line."

Neither Cassidy nor Berube lasted two full seasons in their first NHL coaching jobs. The 54-year-old Cassidy was 37 when he became Capitals coach in 2002. Washington went 39-29-6 with eight ties to finish second in the Southeast Division in 2002-03 but blew a 2-0 series lead and lost in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He was fired 28 games into the 2003-04 season after an 8-18-1 (with one tie) start.

Video: Cassidy and Sweeney speak at Media Day

Cassidy acknowledged that he struggled with communicating and relating with NHL players during his time in Washington. A defenseman who was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (No. 18 pick) of the 1983 NHL Draft, Cassidy played 36 games with the Blackhawks over six seasons from 1983-84 to 1989-90.

He had not coached in the NHL before being hired by the Capitals.

"I was a younger guy, really no NHL acumen," Cassidy said. "I played a few games up in Chicago here or there, so that was a learning experience for me how that world works. This time, I was a lot better prepared for it."

Cassidy had to be patient. He spent eight seasons with the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, including the last five as coach, before joining Boston's staff as an assistant in 2016-17. Cassidy replaced Claude Julien as coach on Feb. 7, 2017 and guided the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

This season, the Bruins went and finished second in the Eastern Conference with 107 points.

"You learn in 15 years," Cassidy said. "If you want to get back, you've got to do things differently, take what you did well, learn what you didn't do well. Part of that was how I communicated my message. I've learned to be better with it. Players are more receptive to it now than they were then, so shame on me. But that's the way it goes."

Berube, who played in the Cup Final with the Capitals in 1998, also cited communication as his biggest area of improvement from his first NHL coaching job with the Philadelphia Flyers. Unlike Cassidy, the 53-year-old had extensive NHL experience, playing 1,054 games over 17 seasons with the Flyers, Capitals, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders before retiring in 2004.

After working his way up with Philadelphia, beginning as an assistant in the AHL in 2004-05, Berube replaced Peter Laviolette as Flyers coach three games into the 2013-14 season. Philadelphia went 42-27-10 under Berube and qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Video: Berube, Armstrong on Blues' development in Cup run

Berube was let go after the Flyers went 33-31-18 and missed the playoffs in 2014-15.

"With today's player, it's really important to have good communication skills with them and to just be up front with them, up front and honest," Berube said. "Maybe my first time around, I didn't probably communicate good enough with players at times."

Berube started over by coaching the Blues' AHL team in Chicago in 2016-17 and was promoted to the NHL as an associate under Mike Yeo in 2017-18. Berube was named interim coach when Yeo was fired on Nov. 19.

St. Louis went 38-19-6 under Berube during the regular season to qualify for the playoffs after being last in the NHL standings on Jan. 3 and are in the Cup Final for the first time since 1970. Although Berube's interim tag remains, general manager Doug Armstrong said on May 10 that he is the only candidate to coach the Blues next season.

"He just got us to believe; believe in one another, believe that we're a good hockey team," said Blues center Brayden Schenn, who also played for Berube in Philadelphia. "He took down the standing board in the (locker) room and just worried about one game at a time, and that's really all it was."

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