By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Even for those curmudgeons like myself who closely follow – and offer sometimes salty opinions – about the NHL franchise that calls Causeway Street home, there frankly hasn’t been a lot to bitch about head coach Bruce Cassidy’s crew start to this season.
Off to a 20-3-6 start to the 2019-20 campaign – after falling 60 minutes short of winning it all last spring – the roster that has relatively remained the same since being runner-ups to the Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Final last June at TD Garden has responded better than anyone could have hoped for.
Nevertheless, for those of us who like to pick nits, there are two things that could be described as areas of concern for the B’s who have started the first two-plus months of the season hotter a pistol.
The first – and without a doubt far and away is the biggest threat to them getting redemption for their near-miss a short five months ago – is the health of Patrice Bergeron.
The most complete player in the game finished last year clearly hobbled by a chronic groin injury – one that delayed his start to training camp this fall and has sidelined him twice before Christmas – and even though he had a Platelet Enriched Plasma (PLP) injection that is designed to help the body heal itself instead of undergoing a surgical procedure, it remains an ongoing issue and without some sort of divine intervention, will continue to be an issue going forward.
It is mind-boggling that the Bruins brass would not just sit the future Hall of Famer – or encourage him to have surgery immediately – so he is at his optimum health when the NHL’s second season begins in April.
The second – and a distant second – is the complacency that has crept into Cassidy’s club’s game given the 15 point lead that they have established in the Atlantic Division, which was considered by many to be perhaps the toughest to win in the East entering the season.
When asked about it following his squad’s overtime loss – one in which the Black and Gold looked almost disinterested in through the first two periods – Cassidy was classicly candid, although he didn’t agree with the term.
“We’ve been addressing that for a month now, to be honest with you. When we do video, we’re talking about cleaning up our game. I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again tonight – we’re not at 60 minutes,” said the B’s bench boss.
“Complacency? I would say no. Lack of urgency some nights? I would say yes. We’re not pushing as hard as we need to to get to our level. Is that because of where we are, is that because of last year, is that because we feel like we’re a good enough team that we can flip a switch? Probably bits and pieces of all those things, I’m not going to deny it. Our job is to make sure we don’t get complacent.”
It can be easily argued that one of the biggest assets that have made Cassidy as successful as he has become in his second stint in the league as a head coach is his above-mentioned candor. And while he is not a guy that throws his players under the bus to back his agenda, he doesn’t sugarcoat his assessments of his team’s play either.
The fact is for a club of the Bruins caliber the dog days of the NHL’s regular season have begun. Barring any unforeseen catastrophe, the roster that general manager Don Sweeney has craftily constructed and his head coach has masterly manipulated will likely only need a slight tweak at the trade deadline in February to have a realistic expectation to once again be playing meaningful games next June.
Between now and then the biggest challenge the guy his players call Butch will likely be keeping the “C-word” from creeping too deep into his team’s game.