Bruce Cassidy was candid when discussing the task in front of the Bruins on Sunday evening.
No longer the punching bag of the Atlantic Division, the Sabres stand as one of the top surprises in the NHL this season — and a big part of their resurgence lies in the play of their franchise center, Jack Eichel.
The North Chelmsford native will always be linked to the player picked just ahead of him in the 2015 NHL Draft in Connor McDavid. But in Cassidy’s eyes, the strategy when it comes to accounting for both star pivots doesn’t tend to differ too much.
“McDavid’s just fast. Eichel doesn’t look as fast, yet he’s going by everybody like [Mitch] Marner if that makes any sense," Cassidy explained pregame. "And you do have to make sure that you pick him up early, and if not, then you’ve got to find his wingers. When those guys find a little separation, you can’t have the whole team chase them.
“Then you’ve got to start saying, ‘Okay, where’s he going to move the puck to? … If it’s not going on net, it’s going to one of his guys going to the net, so let’s make sure we account for those guys, and I think when we’ve played McDavid well, we’ve done that. We’ve given him some shots from the outside, maybe cuts in, that’s kind of on the D, but at the end of the day if we took away, like [Leon] Draisaitl, [Milan] Lucic – whoever he’s playing with – then we could limit the damage. And that’s kind of the attack I think with Eichel."
Well, such strategy quickly fell to the wayside Sunday at TD Garden.
During a matchup in which Boston led in attempts (67-40), shots on goal (37-27) and overall scoring chances (32-16), pure talent overruled any positive statline in favor of the B’s.