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Bruce Cassidy savors debut as Bruins coach

Lifelong Boston fan enjoys win against Sharks but ready for work

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Bruce Cassidy took a moment for himself Thursday, a moment to look up, to drink in the history and the tradition and the place he suddenly found himself.

Two days earlier, Cassidy woke up an assistant to Claude Julien, helping guide the team he had rooted for growing up, as a defenseman wearing black and gold skates, idolizing Bobby Orr.

Now, that team was his. He was coach of the Boston Bruins.

He allowed himself that moment.

"When I went out to the bench, the first thing I did was look up at the banners, the Stanley Cup championship banners," Cassidy said after the Bruins defeated the San Jose Sharks 6-3 at TD Garden. "I've been a lifelong Boston Bruins fan … I've had an attachment to the Bruins my whole life. So it's a great honor for me to just stand up there and be in charge."

It only got better from there.

It took 52 seconds for the Bruins to assert themselves. Fifty-two seconds for the Bruins to start the scoring. Fifty-two seconds for David Backes, who has been hard on himself in his less-than-optimal introduction to Boston, to score for the 12th time this season, his first with the Bruins.

Fifty-two seconds for Cassidy to introduce himself to a TD Garden half full of hardy souls who braved a blizzard to get there.

And though the Sharks came back to tie the score at 7:51 of the first period on a Joe Thornton goal, the Bruins kept pushing. Patrice Bergeron scored at 15:52. David Pastrnak scored at 17:31 on the power play. After Justin Braun cut the lead to one at 1:08 of the second, the Bruins kept pushing. Tim Schaller scored at 13:04. Pastrnak scored again on the power play at 19:11.

Video: SJS@BOS: Pastrnak buries his second PPG

The Bruins scored six goals and ended the night with two points, having slipped ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

There was a list of things that Cassidy saw as positives from the game: getting pucks to the dirty areas offensively, resiliency after the Sharks scored, and re-establishment of urgency at home, where the Bruins have struggled this season.

There was the power play and Backes and Pastrnak. There was secondary scoring.

There was the win.

The Bruins have had two practices and played one game so far under Cassidy since Julien was fired Tuesday. Cassidy has been able to switch around the lines, able to install a few adjustments to the style of play and system, but the Bruins have not had extended exposure to him as their coach.

Fortunately for the Bruins, they don't really anticipate things being all that different under Cassidy.

"It's definitely still early," Bergeron said. "It's all new. There's still some adjustments to be made. His system is somewhat similar. He's been in the organization for nine years, so a lot of things that he's doing is similar to what Claude has taught us over the years. He wants to push the pace a little bit more, be a little bit more up-tempo. I thought tonight was a good example of that. We've got to keep doing it.

"But obviously it's still early. So we still have some things to learn. It's obviously a process."

He wasn't the only one preaching caution.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," defenseman Torey Krug said. "It's one game. It's about sticking with the process and obviously we've tweaked some things and guys responded well. At the same time, it's one game, so we have to continue to do our jobs and do it well and do it to the best of our capabilities, and we'll end up winning a lot of hockey games."

But even with that caution, for the Bruins, it was good to start out this way, good to return to a celebration at the end of the night, instead of the all-too-frequent disappointment.

Before the game, Cassidy admitted to not being nervous exactly, but to being curious. What would the Bruins look like under his tutelage? What would the team become? Would anything change in his first game as coach?

He got his answer, even if that answer is incomplete. One game does not fix all that the Bruins need to fix. But it was a win, and a good one, and it bought Cassidy time to exhale.

"It's been a busy two or three days, so I'll tell you this: I'm going to sleep well tonight," Cassidy said. "But tomorrow's a new day. We'll get back to work and see if we can build on this one. But yeah, who doesn't enjoy a win?"

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