Bruce Cassidy is walking into a job where his predecessors made the Western Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final in their first seasons.
No pressure there.
Luckily for the Golden Knights, their new coach’s resume suggests he might be up to the task. Pete DeBoer, the team’s last coach, had a 98-50-12 record (.650 points percentage) that was good for eighth-best in the NHL in that span. Cassidy never had a points percentage below .652 in his six seasons with the Boston Bruins.
The new boss will have to work quickly to learn how he can deliver the same results with a new organization. Based on Cassidy’s Bruins’ tenure, here are three areas he’ll likely have an impact on:
1. Defensive structure
The Knights were hardly porous defensively under DeBoer. They gave up 2.66 goals per game during his tenure — the sixth-fewest in the NHL — and won the 2021 Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed.
But Cassidy’s Boston teams weren’t just good defensively — they were elite. No club gave up fewer goals from when he took over the Bruins to when he was fired. The worst Boston finished in goals allowed during his five full seasons was fourth. The team won the 2020 Jennings Trophy behind goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
“When I think of the Boston Bruins, I think they’re going to defend hard,” Bally Sports Midwest and Turner Sports analyst Darren Pang said.
The underlying numbers back up the results. The Bruins allowed the fewest scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five last season, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
The Knights gave up the 18th- and 19th-fewest, respectively. Injuries didn’t help, but the team has a lot of room to improve to make life easier on its goaltenders.
2. Special teams
The Bruins were never below average on either special-team unit under Cassidy.
Their worst power-play ranking was 15th this season, and the lowest they finished on the penalty kill was 16th in 2018-19. Far more often they were near the top of the NHL.
Boston’s power play was in the top 10 four times under Cassidy and in the top four three times. He was helped by personnel — his weapons included sniper David Pastrnak, playmakers Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and quarterbacks Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy — but the production was consistent.
The story is largely the same on the penalty kill, with four top-10 finishes and three in the top three. Boston never had a negative special-teams goal differential under Cassidy. The Knights were minus-five last season because of their 25th-ranked power play and 21st-ranked penalty kill. But the talent is in place to be better.
“Going forward obviously if we keep this group, we have what it takes (to be successful),” left wing Max Pacioretty said May 3.
3. Goaltender usage
Cassidy started Rask, the 2014 Vezina Trophy winner, 53 times in his first full season in Boston in 2017-18.
Rask, or any of the other six goaltenders that played for the Bruins the past five years, never got that many games again. Cassidy spread out the workload among his netminders to keep them fresh. Rask started 45 games the next season, and Halak got the other 37.
Even when Rask played only four games this season after undergoing hip surgery, Cassidy split the remaining 78 starts equally between free-agent signing Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman. Both appeared in the playoffs, too.
“I felt good throughout the stretch (run),” Swayman said during the Bruins’ locker cleanout day. “I’m really thankful that the injuries stayed away.”
That could mean an easier workload for goaltender Robin Lehner, who started 44 of the 59 games he was available for last season. It also might mean goaltender Logan Thompson, 10-5-3 with a .914 save percentage as a rookie, has a chance at an increased role.
Contact Ben Gotz at email@example.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.