Bruins’ Bruce Cassidy Explains What Goes Into Making Deep Playoff Run

What factors allow teams to perform well in the Stanley Cup playoffs?


Jun 3, 2021

The Bruins have been to the playoffs in each of Bruce Cassidy’s five seasons behind Boston’s bench, advancing past the first round on four occasions and reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.

It’s fair to say, even though a ring has eluded him to this point, he’s qualified to discuss postseason hockey and identify what makes a legitimate championship contender stand out from the pack.

So, what exactly are those separating factors?

“The first thing that always sticks out to me is your best players that can excel at this time of the year be your best players.,” the Bruins head coach told reporters Thursday morning during a video conference. “It’s talked about all the time. You expect those guys to, I don’t want to say carry the team because that’s inaccurate, but play to their level. And then usually what happens along the way, if you’re gonna go the whole way, is there’s a couple of guys that step up and maybe go outside of what they typically are capable of doing, usually offensively. Over the years, you hear those stories. Different guys, you could probably pick one every year that sorta outperforms his regular-season numbers.”

The Bruins, who defeated the Washington Capitals in the first round to set up a second-round date with the New York Islanders, certainly have the top-level talent to succeed in the postseason. One must look no further than the “perfection line,” comprised of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

But not every Stanley Cup run comes down to pure talent, or even secondary scoring. A collective buy-in from across the roster can go a long way toward making a team a tough out come playoff time.

“In general, I think it’s your team’s willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team — what team can get to their level, stay at their level,” Cassidy said. “How do you do that? Well, some of it is guys are willing to block shots when it’s their turn. Take a lesser role, if that’s what’s required a certain night — by that, I mean play lesser minutes. Be asked to check as opposed to maybe they’re used to a more productive (scoring) role. There’s different things that go into it.

“So to me, it’s always the makeup of the players’ willingness to do what’s right for the crest and not the name on the back. And then I think it comes down to there’s always a little bit of fortune involved — luck, injuries, do you get a call at the right time. There’s some puck bounces that go your way, obviously, when you look back, and a lot of those are overtime situations. So there’s always a little bit of that that goes into it, but typically it’s the best team at the end because it’s such a long tournament — two months — you can’t get away with being lucky for long stretches. Maybe a game or two, but at the end of the day, it’s the team that does all those things that typically ends up on top.”

Oftentimes, it’s not until a team hoists Lord Stanley that we can look back and say definitively that it checked the boxes for what constitutes a champion. So, we probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves right now when talking about any team, including the Bruins, whose series with the Islanders is tied at one game apiece.

But there definitely seem to be some commonalities amongst Stanley Cup winners. And so far, the Bruins haven’t done anything to suggest they can’t be the last team standing this summer.

Puck drop for Bruins-Islanders Game 3 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday night. You can catch a full hour of pregame and postgame coverage on NESN.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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